The proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C grade has fallen for the first time in the exam's history, official figures have revealed.
Around 600,000 teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their GCSE results today, with the results also showing drops in the percentage of English, maths and science GCSE entries achieving passes at A*-C.
The national figures reveal that 69.4% of all GCSE exams were given at least a C grade - down 0.4% on last summer. It is the first time the A*-C pass rate has fallen in the 24-year history of GCSEs.
There was also a fall in the proportion of GCSEs awarded the top grades, the data shows. Some 7.3% of entries were given an A*, down 0.5 percentage points on 2011, while 22.4% were handed at least an A grade, down 0.8 percentage points.
The statistics show a decrease in the proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C grade in the core subjects of English, maths and science.
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which publishes the national results, said there was a “dramatic” increase in entries for science GCSE - up 36.5% - and said that the fall in results at A*-C in this subject was partly due to a “more demanding standard” introduced this year, and a “significant” increase in entries by 15-year-olds.
Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills policy at manufacturers' organisation EEF, said that employers may be disappointed with the fall in pass rates but previous rises have not always translated into attainment levels seen by businesses.
He added: “Employers often find that school leavers lack the numeracy and literacy skills they require, as well as wider employability and communication skills. Manufacturers need to have greater confidence in examinations and want to see a move away from an education system based on league tables, together with a stronger focus on higher achievement levels in key subjects such as maths, english and sciences.
“Improvements in skills and attainment levels of our young people, who are the next generation of engineers and designers, are vital is we are to avoid falling behind our international competitors. This will be key in a world where our global competitiveness will increasingly depend on a highly skilled and productive workforce.”