GCSE attainment over time

Date 1 September 2017
Date updated 8 October 2017

GCSE attainment over time

What does this chart show?

The proportion of students lacking 5+ A* – C GCSEs at the end of Key Stage 4 (age 16) in London and England has changed over the decade from 2005/06 through 2015/16. 

Educational attainment across England has improved markedly over the past decade. This graph shows that educational attainment improved more in London (particularly Inner London) than in England as a whole between 2005/06 and 2012/13. Over the past three years, improvements in educational attainment in both London and England as a whole appear to have stalled. 

In 2015/16, 39% of pupils in Outer London did not attain this level and 40% in Inner London did not. The proportion not attaining this level in England as a whole was significantly higher – 47%.

A decade ago, GCSE attainment in Inner London was worse than in England as a whole. However, GCSE attainment in Inner London improved more quickly than England as a whole in the mid-2000s, and Inner London attainment surpassed England-wide attainment in 2009/10. Since then, the attainment gap between both Inner and Outer London and England as a whole has grown.

However, Inner London schools are currently facing real terms budget reductions, as well as uncertainty around how a new Schools National Funding Formula may affect their funding in the future. Any significant funding reductions may jeopardise the attainment gains of the past decade. 

After the upward turn in 2013/14 due to methodological changes, the rates of pupils not achieving five A* – C GCSE grades (or equivalent) including English and maths stabilised at a higher rate than the years before 2013/14, but still far below the rates of a decade before.* The upturn in 2013/14 was steeper in England than London, suggesting that pupils in London were less likely to be completing qualifications that were disregarded under the new methodology. 

*  This graph uses data from Department for Education. The methodology behind the data for this chart changed in 2013/14: two major reforms were implemented which affect the calculation of Key stage 4 performance measures data: 1) Professor Alison Wolf’s Review of Vocational Education recommendations which: restrict the qualifications counted; prevent any qualification from counting as larger than one GCSE; and cap the number of non-GCSEs included in performance measures at two per pupil, and 2) an early entry policy to only count a pupil’s first attempt at a qualification, in subjects counted in the English Baccalaureate. Data before and after 2013/14 is not directly comparable (thus data after 2013/14 is shown as a dotted line).