GCSE grades rise by 9% as BTEC results are pulled at the 11th hour

Photograph: Jacob King/PA

GCSE pass rates for England's pupils have risen dramatically despite the most disrupted academic year in UK history.

A government/Ofqual U-turn earlier this week saw results reached by an algorithm being replaced by those issued by teachers.

The proportion of students achieving one of the three highest marks – grades 7 and above – reached 27.6%; 5.7 percentage points higher than the 2019 exam cycle.

Data shows 78.8% of papers were rated grade 4 or above. It was 69.9% in 2019.

The exams season has been marred by chaos, with policy changes leading to grades being altered at the 11th hour.

Hundreds of thousands students are still waiting for their final grades after the exam board told schools and colleges not to release the results to pupils on Thursday.

Geoff Barton, head of the head teachers' union ASCL, said students and teachers should be congratulated.

"These have been extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and this generation of young people has suffered a degree of uncertainty and disruption that is without precedent.

"They lost out on the normal rites of passage of leaving school, and on the chance to show what they could do in a set of exams."

Boris Johnson has also congratulated GCSE students.

He said: "I know the last few months have been tough and this isn’t how you imagined you would be finishing Year 11, but you can be proud of how you helped to keep the virus under control.

"You have literally saved lives through staying at home and keeping distance from others. Thank you for protecting yourselves, your families and your communities this year. And once again – congratulations and well done."

In Wales, first estimates from the watchdog Qualifications Wales show almost 26% of pupils have received A* and A grades, compared to 18.4% in 2019.

And 74.5% received A*-C grades, compared to 62.8% in 2019.

Meanwhile almost all pupils - 99.6% - received passes at A*-G grades, compared to 97.2% last year.

According to a report, GCSEs rose by 2.3% this year and many subjects saw increased participation.