Ofqual has revealed that the number of GCSEs that have been awarded in England grew by 2% in 2017 to reverse a downward trend.

In statistics published by the watchdog, they reveal that last year they handed out 4,983,980 GCSE certificates – that’s an increase from 2016’s figure of 4,894,330.

Ofqual says that the increase is down to schools reacting to league performance changes and GCSEs saw the only increase of all qualifications being awarded last year.

There’s been a fall in the number of pupils in secondary school which explains why the number of GCSEs being awarded has declined over recent years.

From the results, there’s been a notable rise in the number of English literature and language GCSEs.

Big drop in the number of AS level certificates

However, there’s been a big drop in the number of AS level certificates being awarded.

According to Ofqual, there has been a huge 43% drop to 580,440 in AS level certificates awarded last year from the previous year’s figure of 1,026,210.

The watchdog makes clear that this decrease in numbers was predicted after AS Levels were decoupled from A-levels and they now no longer count towards the final A-level grade.

Inevitably, this means there is less incentive for young people to take AS Levels.

The figures from Ofqual also highlight there’s been a 2% fall in the number of A-level certificates being awarded; they have fallen to 760,860 from the previous year’s figure of 775,480.

Main points from Ofqual’s exam report

The main points from Ofqual’s exam report – at a glance

  • 4 million certificates were awarded last year in GCSE, AS, A-level and vocational and other qualifications
  • Organisations that have the largest market shares for qualifications are

AQA 27%

Pearson 23%

OCR 10%

City and Guilds 7%

Other awarding organisations account for 33% of the market

  • The overall number of certificates has fallen by nearly 8% compared with the year before; this continues the trend that’s been noted over several years
  • AS Levels saw the biggest percentage drop for the number of certificates being issued, down by 43%
  • The number of vocational and other qualification certificates dropped by 10% with 6.1 million certificates being awarded.
  • 10% of vocational and other qualifications were technical qualifications
  • 4% of vocational and other qualifications were in applied general qualifications
  • 23,700 qualifications were available last year, a 2% fall on the previous year’s figure.


More information

The full report and statistics from Ofqual is available for downloading.