GCSE results 2023: grades in England broken down by county - where did students perform best and worst?

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Ofqual’s breakdown of GCSE results by county has highlighted a growing north-south divide in England

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across England received their GCSE results yesterday (24 August), and a breakdown of grades by county has revealed a growing north-south divide.

More than a fifth (21.9%) of grades achieved in England this year were 7s, 8s, or 9s, but this number varies depending on which region you look at - according to data released by exams regulator Ofqual. In Surrey for example, 30.8% of grades were the top ones - which contrasts considerably with the 15.8% of 7, 8, and 9 grades in Staffordshire.

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Differences also arose in the “standard pass rate” across the country - which is scored at a 4 under the new system, the equivalent to a C under the old system. Across England, 68.8% of grades were passes, but this drops to 61.9% if you live in Merseyside, or rises to 76.5% if you live in Hertfordshire.

There are some exceptions to the trends - with the southernly situated county of the Isle of Wight recording the lowest results by all parameters for 2023 - but the home counties in the South consistently see the highest percentages of both top grades and standard passes.

The Labour Party has slammed these regional attainment gaps as evidence that the Conservative Party’s ‘Levelling Up’ promises are “dead and buried”. Bridget Phillipson, shadow education secretary, said: “Young people who have worked so hard are being let down by a government that has no interest in shrinking attainment gaps or raising education standards.

“The schools minister has confirmed that Conservatives’ promises to level up education are dead and buried,” Phillipson added, before taking aim at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who she claimed “seems to have more interest in supporting American private colleges than schools in this country.”

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NationalWorld has broken down the differences recorded in Ofqual’s ‘map of outcomes’ for 2023 GCSEs, looking at the percentage of grades in each county which were scored at 4 and above, 7 and above, and 9 - the highest grade.

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across England received their GCSE results yesterday (24 August), and a breakdown of grades by county has revealed a growing north-south divide. Credit: Mark Hall / NationalWorldHundreds of thousands of teenagers across England received their GCSE results yesterday (24 August), and a breakdown of grades by county has revealed a growing north-south divide. Credit: Mark Hall / NationalWorld
Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across England received their GCSE results yesterday (24 August), and a breakdown of grades by county has revealed a growing north-south divide. Credit: Mark Hall / NationalWorld | Mark Hall / NationalWorld

Grades 4 and above

In England, the proportion of GCSEs marked at 4 and above stands at 68.8% for 2023 - down from 73.9% in 2022 but up from 67.9% in 2019. However, the pass rate was much lower in the North, with counties such as Merseyside and South Yorkshire falling behind the average, while Buckinghamshire and Berkshire pulled ahead.

Here is a full breakdown of the percentage of grades at 4 and above in each county in England:

  • Isle of Wight 56.6%
  • Merseyside 61.9%
  • South Yorkshire 62.9%
  • Staffordshire 63.1%
  • West Midlands 63.2%
  • Bedfordshire 63.9%
  • East Riding of Yorkshire 64.3%
  • Cornwall 65.2%
  • Nottinghamshire 65.3%
  • Northamptonshire 65.4%
  • Lincolnshire 65.6%
  • West Yorkshire 65.6%
  • Norfolk 66.0%
  • Derbyshire 66.0%
  • Lancashire 66.0%
  • Tyne and Wear 66.2%
  • Greater Manchester 66.3%
  • Northumberland 66.6%
  • Herefordshire 67.0%
  • Shropshire 67.0%
  • Cumbria 67.1%
  • Suffolk 67.3%
  • Durham 67.5%
  • Worcestershire 67.7%
  • Essex 67.8%
  • Hampshire 67.9%
  • Leicestershire 68.2%
  • Devon 68.6%
  • Cheshire 68.7%
  • North Yorkshire 69.5%
  • Kent 69.5%
  • Somerset 69.7%
  • Wiltshire 69.9%
  • West Sussex 69.9%
  • County of Bristol 70.1%
  • East Sussex 70.4%
  • Cambridgeshire 71.8%
  • Warwickshire 71.9%
  • Dorset 72.3%
  • Greater London 73.2%
  • Gloucestershire 73.6%
  • Oxfordshire 73.8%
  • Berkshire 73.8%
  • Buckinghamshire 74.3%
  • Hertfordshire 76.5%
  • Surrey 77.9%
  • Rutland 80.7%

Grades 7 and above

A similar pattern follows for the percentage of grades scored at 7, 8, and 9, with Northern counties like Cumbria and the East Riding of Yorkshire falling towards the bottom of the list. However, there are also some Southern counties which fell below average - such as Cornwall - and the Isle of Wight came last once again.

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Across England as a whole, 21.9% of grades were scored at 7 or above. Here’s how that changes when the percentage of grades is broken down by county:

  • Isle of Wight 11.9%
  • Staffordshire 15.3%
  • Cumbria 16.2%
  • Cornwall 16.3%
  • East Riding of Yorkshire 16.5%
  • Herefordshire 16.7%
  • Norfolk 16.7%
  • South Yorkshire 16.7%
  • Merseyside 16.9%
  • Bedfordshire 17%
  • Northumberland 17.3%
  • Northamptonshire 17.3%
  • Derbyshire 17.4%
  • Lincolnshire 17.4%
  • Suffolk 18.1%
  • Durham 18.2%
  • Lancashire 18.2%
  • Tyne and Wear 18.3%
  • West Midlands 18.5%
  • Worcestershire 18.7%
  • Shropshire 18.8%
  • Nottinghamshire 18.9%
  • West Yorkshire 19.3%
  • Cheshire 19.6%
  • Leicestershire 19.6%
  • Wiltshire 19.7%
  • Somerset 19.7%
  • Hampshire 19.8%
  • Greater Manchester 20.3%
  • Devon 20.4%
  • West Sussex 20.9%
  • North Yorkshire 21.3%
  • Essex 21.3%
  • Dorset 21.5%
  • Kent 22.9%
  • East Sussex 23.3%
  • Gloucestershire 24.6%
  • Warwickshire 25.4%
  • County of Bristol 25.4%
  • Cambridgeshire 25.7%
  • Oxfordshire 27.1%
  • Greater London 28.4%
  • Hertfordshire 28.9%
  • Berkshire 28.7%
  • Rutland 29.2%
  • Buckinghamshire 30%
  • Surrey 30.8%

Grade 9

Finally, Ofqual has also taken a look at the percentage of grades scored at 9 - the highest grade. Across England, 4,115 grades awarded were a 9 - which equates to 5%. The county with the highest proportion of 9s was Buckinghamshire, at 8.4%, and Greater London came in the top five, at 7.4%. The county with the lowest proportion of 9s was the Isle of Wight, with 1.8%, followed by Staffordshire, at 2.7%.

But how did the rest of the counties do? Here’s the breakdown of the percentages of grades at 9 per county in England:

  • Isle of Wight 1.8%
  • Staffordshire 2.7%
  • East Riding of Yorkshire 3.0%
  • Herefordshire 3.1%
  • Bedfordshire 3.1%
  • Cumbria 3.1%
  • Durham 3.1%
  • Norfolk 3.1%
  • Cornwall 3.1%
  • Northumberland 3.2%
  • South Yorkshire 3.3%
  • Derbyshire 3.3%
  • Northamptonshire 3.4%
  • Merseyside 3.4%
  • Suffolk 3.4%
  • Lincolnshire 3.5%
  • Tyne and Wear 3.5%
  • Worcestershire 3.6%
  • Lancashire 3.6%
  • Wiltshire 3.8%
  • Shropshire 3.9%
  • West Yorkshire 3.9%
  • West Midlands 3.9%
  • Cheshire 4%
  • Somerset 4%
  • Leicestershire 4%
  • Nottinghamshire 4%
  • Hampshire 4.2%
  • Dorset 4.3%
  • Devon 4.4%
  • North Yorkshire 4.4%
  • Greater Manchester 4.5%
  • West Sussex 4.5%
  • Kent 5.1%
  • Essex 5.2%
  • East Sussex 5.8%
  • Gloucestershire 5.8%
  • Warwickshire 6.3%
  • County of Bristol 6.6%
  • Cambridgeshire 6.9%
  • Hertfordshire 6.9%
  • Oxfordshire 7%
  • Rutland 7.2%
  • Greater London 7.4%
  • Surrey 7.7%
  • Berkshire 8%
  • Buckinghamshire 8.4%

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