GCSE standard pass not enough to match top nations, says thinktank

The Guardian reports that Maths and English scores among 16-year-olds in England need to exceed the government’s “standard pass” mark in order to match the best educated countries overseas, a thinktank headed by the former education minister David Laws has said.

As hundreds of thousands of teenagers await their GCSE results, due on Thursday, a report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) urges the Department for Education to set its sights higher in order to catch up with the likes of Singapore and Canada.

According to the EPI’s calculations, 96,000 additional pupils out of around 500,000 would have to get top grades in maths and 60,000 low-performing pupils would need to achieve a good pass in order to move England into the top bracket of international performers.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said a 4 on the new scale will equate to a C under the old system, and defines 4 as a “standard pass” and 5 as a “strong pass” – meaning pupils with a 4 will not resit maths and English GCSEs as required by the government.

The EPI argues that 4 sets a standard too low to match the best international competitors including Ireland, Hong Kong and Finland in reading and Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan in maths.

“In certain subjects such as maths, England needs both to significantly raise the number of top performers and almost halve the number of low performers if it is to compete with the world’s best,” said Laws, who served as education minister in the coalition government until 2015.

“Our analysis suggests that the DfE is right to be refocusing our education system on students achieving the new ‘strong pass’ of a grade 5. The old C grade is not an adequate national aspiration if England wants to compete with top education nations.”

Read more GCSE standard pass not enough to match top nations, says thinktank

Please tell us your thoughts in commets or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

Are you a trainee teacher, NQT, teacher, headteacher, parent or  just someone who cares about education and has something to get off  your chest in a Schools Improvement Guest Post? Follow this link for more details at the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin (around 7am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link.

We now have a Facebook page - please click to like!


Include apprenticeships in school league tables, report urges
Scottish private schools face £5m business rate tax hike
Categories: Exams and Secondary.


  1. Susan C

    Lets look at Canada. Just for once let’s not look at China or Singapore as we cannot afford the level of private tuition the students receive in those countries. In Canada education is for education’s sake. And it’s valued. Also, Once you hit grade 10, you take responsibility for your progress. Fail English? Re-take it next semester. And since core subjects only run for each semester you have time to teach options. Cross curricular literacy, numeracy and IT and essential. This system eould mean a radical revamp of our system and let’s be honest; that won’t happen. It’s far easier to moan and highlight systems such as Singapore rather than bring about meaningful change.

Let us know what you think...