What do the 2019 exam results mean for relocating families?

What can the most recent school results tell us about the education options employers and relocation professionals can provide to relocating families – be it a domestic move in the UK or internationally?

Autumn 2019 issue of Relocate magazine
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine 
– the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.Millions of students in the UK have now received their 2019 exam results. For globally mobile families, moving their children to a new school with a different education system in a new country can be a daunting experience, while relocating within the UK can be equally challenging.With the new academic year beginning in September and many schools holding open days in autumn, now is the time for employers and relocation professionals to plan ahead and urge relocating parents to think about which school and qualification is the right fit for their child. The aim? To ensure their child gets the best support and education possible–and to reduce the period of uncertainty for the whole family.Key factors to consider for relocating older children are where they can get the best education and whether they want to study for UK-based exams or look for a school that provides internationally- recognised qualifications.In the UK, many of this year’s exams have come under intense scrutiny, due to claims that some reformed subjects are too difficult and are causing pupils to suffer from mental health problems. However, this year’s results have shown that pupils have risen to the occasion and many have achieved the top grades.

The first year of fully reformed GCSEs

Over the past five years, there have been comprehensive changes to the GCSE exams and how they are marked. This cohort of pupils was the first where almost all subjects have been reformed.This year, the GCSE pass rate (67.3 per cent) and percentage of top grades achieved (20 per cent) have increased slightly in 2019, despite concerns about the levels of difficulty of the new exams and the change in grading systems.Girls are leading the charge in GCSE performance. They outperformed boys in several subjects, including Biology and Chemistry, as well as English Language and English Literature. 2019 saw a significant rise in female entries in Computing, in which girls continue to outperform boys. Boys managed to achieve more top grades in both Mathematics and Physics than girls, but the fairer sex is closing the performance gap.Overall, there was an increase in entries in the sciences and Maths. This could be due to STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – being firmly on the agenda. The National Audit Office has estimated that around £990 million has been spent on improving STEM skills for teaching staff and pupils between 2007 and 2017.As predicted, Modern Foreign Languages saw a healthy increase in uptake this year, with entries increasing overall by three per cent. French remains the most popular language and Spanish increased by 7.5 per cent; this increase in popularity was also reflected in the A Level results (below).
Relocate Global UK Guide 2019/20 cover
Learn more about UK and international education in the Relocate Global Guide to Education & Schools in the UK 2019/20 and Guide to International Education & Schools 2018/19 which are both packed with expert tips and information for those relocating and the professionals supporting them. Read the articles online or access your free digital copies hereFor co-branded or bespoke editions for your employees, contact Fiona Murchie on +44 (0)1892 891334 or email fiona@relocatemagazine.com

UK schools: GCSE results

  • Box Hill School in Surrey, UK had an 81 per cent pass rate of grades 9 – 4, which is significantly ahead of the national average. A fifth of all grades were at 9 -7 and 87 per cent of all grades in Maths and English Language were 9 - 4, both well ahead of the national figures. 

  • Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, Scotland achieved a 93 per cent pass rate for its GCSE, IGCSE and National 5 results, with 57 per cent of pupils at grades 9/8/7. 

  • Pupils at The Oratory School in Reading, UK achieved 23 per cent of grades in the 9-8 category, 37 per cent at 9-7, and 78 per cent at grade 4 or higher, all significantly higher than the national average. A record eight per cent of all grades were grade 9. 

Read more about GCSE results.

A levels: steady pass rates, but A grades hit rock bottom

As well as GCSEs, A Levels have undergone reforms – including AS Levels and A Levels being decoupled. It was predicted that boys 
would yet again beat girls in the number of top grades obtained for the third year running. However, this was not the case and girls have narrowly overtaken boys, with 25.5 per cent achieving the top grades, compared with 25.4 per cent of boys.The overall pass rate has remained the same since last year at 97.6 per cent for pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, the overall number of A grades achieved has fallen since 2018 and is now at its lowest level since 2007.It is not surprising that STEM subjects have seen an increase in uptake, considering the level of investment in encouraging pupils – particularly girls – to take these subjects. Clearly, the funding is working, as for the first time, the number of girls taking STEM has reached 50.3 per cent and has overtaken boys (49.6 per cent).Spanish (8,625 students) overtook French (8,355) for the first time, making it the most popular foreign language at A Level. This is an interesting comparison to the GCSE uptake, where French held onto its title, even with a 7.5 per cent increase in Spanish.Figures released by UCAS have revealed that 408,960 students have been accepted onto UK degree courses – a one per cent drop since 2018. UCAS has since added that 55,670 people have been accepted through Clearing in total so far this year.

International schools: A level results

  • The British School in the Netherlands achieved 30 per cent of all grades at A*/A and 54 per cent of all grades A*- B and its students have gained places at a variety of international universities including the University of Oxford, Durham University, Technische Universiteit Delft, and the University of British Columbia.
  • While the UK national average indicators for the highest grades have dropped this year, students from King’s College schools, based in Worcestershire and Madrid, Alicante and Murcia in Spain, have have surpassed those percentages, with 22.42 per cent achieved an A*, 44.26 per cent an A*-A and a pass rate of 97.5 per cent.
Read more about A level results.

IGCSEs and International A levels

IGCSEs are an internationally recognised qualification and are taken in more than 120 countries around the world. While they are no longer recognised in the UK government’s performance tables, as they are now seen as easier than the reformed GCSEs, they remain popular with independent schools.The number of entries for the 2019 Cambridge International AS & A Level qualifications has grown by seven per cent, while the number of entries for IGCSE has also risen by four percent. Globally, the most popular AS & A Level subjects are Maths, Physics and Chemistry, while the most popular IGCSEs are Maths, Physics and First Language English.Christine Özden, chief executive officer for Cambridge International, says, “This year... we have seen growth in entries across all of our qualifications. I am particularly pleased to see so many new schools joining us this year and now able to offer our wide variety of qualifications and syllabuses across the Cambridge Pathway to their students.”

International Schools – What do global mobility experts need to know?

IB Diploma sees a global increase

The IB is a broad, internationally recognised qualification that lends itself to continuing in higher education at universities around the world. It’s taught in 153 countries and, owing to its transferable curriculum, it is a popular choice for globally mobile families. This year, more than 169,000 students around the world celebrated receiving their IB diploma results and join more than 1.85 million graduates, which marks a two per cent increase on last year.Dr Siva Kumari, IB director general, explains the benefits of the IB, “Higher Education institutions and employers alike are telling us we need young people who can collaborate, communicate and think critically while creating new knowledge. Research suggests that an IB diploma prepares students with these skills.”

International schools: IB results

  • The ACS International trio of schools – Cobham, Egham and Hillingdon – all reported excellent results. Students at both Cobham (16 per cent) and Egham (more than one-third) were awarded 38 points or above, out of a maximum of45. Hillingdon achieved a 100 per cent pass rate, with an average score of31 points, while nine per cent of students were awarded 38 points or above.
  • The largest graduating class in the 28-year history of the Bavarian International School gAG (BIS) – which has campuses in Haimhausen and Munich City (Leopoldstrasse) – has earned an average of 34.3 points, which is well above the global average of 29.7. Dr Chrissie Sorenson, school director and executive board of BIS says, “Our philosophy is not primarily about grades, but about the overall development of each child and the individual approach to each character.” 

  • Sevenoaks School in Kent, UK also had its largest-ever cohort at 224 students, which is among the biggest of UK and global IB schools. Students achieved an average IB score of39.3 points; about 10 points above the world average.
  • Fifteen students achieved the maximum 45 points, with more than 50 per cent of the cohort achieving 40 points or more.
Learn more about IB results.

For more information, see our Education and Schools pages.

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