GCSE students receiving top grades on results day has reached a record high after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to Covid-19.

The government announced in January that students would not take national GCSE, AS and A-Level exams this summer, due to the impact of the pandemic on young people’s education.

Rather than more traditional methods, students will receive grades based on recommendations from their teachers with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds of thousands of youngsters have been given results determined by their teachers, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught during the pandemic.

Overall, 28.9% of UK GCSE entries were awarded one of the top grades this year, up by 2.7 percentage points on last year when 26.2% achieved the top grades, figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show.

Gap between boys and girls increases

Girls have pulled further ahead than boys amid the rise in top grades this year.

The gap between boys and girls achieving one of the top grades has risen from eight percentage points in 2020 to nine percentage points this year.

According to figures from Ofqual, the number of 16-year-old students in England who entered seven or more GCSEs and received a 9 – the highest grade under the numerical grading system – in all subjects has risen.

Some 3,606 students in England received straight 9s this summer, compared with 2,645 in 2020 and 837 in 2019.

Difficult year for students and staff

Rekha Shell-Macleod, head of school at CORE Education Trust’s City Academy in Birmingham, said it has been “a difficult year” for students and staff, but that pupils have “really risen to the challenge”.

Turning to the teacher-assessed grading system which this year replaced the normal system of exams, she said it was “a challenging process”.

“Our results haven’t been inflated – they are broadly in line with what they were and have been in previous years as well, which is reassuring,” she said.

“It just goes to show that everything we have done has been completely robust and, most importantly, it’s about the students – making sure that they get the results they deserve and are able to move on to the next place in their learning.”