R2. What is the trend over time for results?

Why this is important

  • The trend in results indicates how changes in the school environment and student intake might affect students’ attainment.
  • There has been much turbulence around exam standards in recent years, as the Department for Education and Ofqual seek to put an end to grade inflation by ‘toughening up’ examinations. This makes it hard to tell whether changes in your own school’s results are due to changes in the school’s own situation, without referring to changes over time at the national level.


Your school will have abundant data from RAISE Online and the Fischer Family Trust to enable it to benchmark and monitor results.  However, the following information may be useful. GCSE Charts 1 and 2 illustrate the grade breakdown at GCSE for science, maths and English in England and how this has changed over the past five years, with the data in Table 5.

  • There has been a slight decrease in the numbers of students achieving grade A*-A this year. However, in the years before that there was a slight increase.
  • The results for A*-C have been more steady, although there was a decrease in the number achieving a grade C in 2013.
  • Results achieved for biology, chemistry and physics are generally much better than maths, English and general science GCSEs. However, fewer candidates are entered for triple science.

GCSEs 2016

GCSEs 2016 2

Table 5: GCSE results in science and maths 2012-2016
Percentages of grades at GCSE across five years
Additional science9.459.710.863.
Further Additional science35.376.933.279.832.284.2----


A Level
A levels 2016 qfg
Chart 3 and Table 6 show the grade breakdown at A level for science, maths and English in England, and how this has changed over the past five years.

  • The number of students getting A*-A has decreased slightly over the past 5 years. Further maths has a very high percentage of A*-A (56-58%), maths is also high (41-45%) and the three sciences are lower, but still relatively high (27-35%).
  • This may be because more able students are entered into science and maths A levels – your school’s data should be interpreted in the light of what proportion of students are entered into the different exams.
  • It is beneficial for students to take maths and further maths A levels, even if they are not likely to achieve the highest grades. Maths A level opens doors for many employment opportunities and on average gives school leavers an increased salary24.
 Table 6: A level results in science and maths 2012 – 2016
Percentage of grades at A level across five years
Further Maths56.288.156.387.756.087.856.389.957.189.3

Ideas for improvement

  • School leaders will have whole-school improvement strategies designed to maximise exam performance across all subjects, and subject leaders will have their own strategies in place. These questions can act as a basis for a school self-assessment, and to help school leaders focus on areas of improvement.
  • As noted in the comments to R1, you may wish to consider whether your school has the right balance between teaching students the subjects which are most valuable to them and those in which they can achieve the highest grades.
Last updated August 2016

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