The Government has been accused of interfering with the GCSE results which were announced today.
Voice: the union for education professionals, said "political interference has little to do with education and belittles the enormous efforts being made by students and their teachers to achieve everything that is being expected of them".
Senior Professional Officer for Education Ian Toone said:
"Threats by the Government to ‘contain’ the rising tide of so-called ‘grade inflation’, whereby pass rates increase year on year, have resulted in the introduction of more stringent syllabuses (particularly evident in science and English this year) as well as a heavier emphasis on terminal assessment (40% of assessments must now be taken at the end of the course, restricting the extent to which candidates can accumulate marks by sitting and resitting modules throughout the course) and tougher rules on the setting of grade boundaries.
"Ofqual, the independent regulator, has confirmed that these measures will conspire to at least flatten, if not lower, results in many schools, and it has assured schools that Ofsted has been advised to take account of this when they conduct inspections.
"However, this will come as cold comfort to those schools that are working extremely hard to show the necessary improvements which will either take them out of special measures or prevent them being placed in special measures, especially as, at the same time, these measures to curb grade inflation are being introduced."
Voice said that there has been a decline in the A*-C pass rate and the number of A*/A grades compared with last year, but no evidence that year’s candidates had genuinely reached a lower level of attainment or worked less hard than in 2011.
Mr Toone said:
"Ofsted has launched a more demanding inspection framework and Education Secretary Michael Gove has raised the bar on what is expected of schools by setting a new target whereby schools have to ensure that at least 40% of pupils achieve five A*-C grades in their GCSE results. Moreover, these five GCSEs must include English and mathematics, and the target is set to rise to 50% by 2015 and, eventually, to 80%.
"Another concern is the ever-widening gap in performance between girls and boys. Although the gap at the very top has remained constant, with girls outperforming boys by 2.7% at grade A* and by 6.7% at grades A-A*, the gap has widened at grade C and above, with girls now outperforming boys by 7.9%.
"This, too, may have been affected by government interference, as many schools, which had previously used vocational qualifications to engage and motivate boys who would otherwise have been disaffected, have had to switch to standard GCSE qualifications, as the Government has limited the number and type of vocational qualifications which can now be included in league tables."
Ofqual said there are various reason why results go up or down year-by-year.
“The proportion of English students achieving an A* - C grade this summer fell by 1.5%," a spokesman said.
"We are confident that standards have been maintained and that the grades awarded are right. The performance required to achieve each grade is the same as last year, differences in pass rates reflect differences in the group of students taking the exams.”