Art and Design GCSEs, BTecs results, grading and delays

The class of 2020 have received their GCSE results on time today. It is with disappointment however, that we learned only at 4.30pm yesterday (19 August) that Pearson, withdrew their results. This will result in many students needing to wait anxiously for their grades. GCSE results have arrived and after the Government's U-turn earlier this week, based on centre assessed grades (CAG). In this extraordinary year, we believe that this was the right decision. Our subject analysis shows that art and design teachers awarded marks fairly when compared to other subjects. 

We note that JCQ have reported on 31 subjects, and all subjects have increased on last year’s cumulative passes at grade 7.. For example, in England the proportion or GCSE entries receiving the highest three grades (level 7 and above) has risen from 21.9% last year to 27.6% in 2020 (an increase of 5.7+). 

For art and design the uplift from 2019 to 2020 for level 7, is from 22.8% to 29.6%(6.8+). Many subjects have a higher uplift than art and design. 

For example subjects showing an uplift of ten and over are:  

Biology by 10.7+

Classical Subjects by 10.6

Computing increased by 12

Drama by 13.2+

Economics 15.1+

German 10.4+

Engineering 15.1+

Performing and Expressive Arts 14.9+

Physical Education 12.2+

Music by 14.2+

Of note, there are 19 subjects that have a higher uplift than art and design (Data source:, Table 3, GCSE 16-yr-olds only)

In a difficult year, and under difficult circumstances we applaud our subject teachers for their fair art and design GCSE assessments.

Northern Ireland and Wales

Qualification Wales estimate have shared comparative grade uplifts as follows: ‘Our best estimate at this stage of revised 2020 GCSE results in Wales at cumulative A*-A is, 25.9%, compared to 18.4% in 2019.’ This is a 7.5+ rise (all subjects combined - See the Qualification Wales report here).

Northern Ireland: Grades A*-A were awarded to 37.1% of entries, up from just under a third of entries in 2019. Almost nine in every 10 (89.4%) entries were awarded A* to C grades, up from 82.2% in 2019.


GCSE numbers

Art and design continues to be popular subject, and for the third year in a row, we have seen an increase in completions. In 2019 in England, the total number of GCSEs awarded was 182,204; this year it has risen to 190,400. Compared to last year, this is an increase of 8,196 (5.1%). In context, numbers of GCSE completions over all have increased by 2.3% but many other subjects have seen a fall. For example, D&T has fallen by -1,031; Performing and Expressive Arts; Drama; Music Media, film and TV studies have all seen a fall in real terms. We are particularly disappointed that D&T has seen such a fall and we will continue to campaign for both art and design and D&T to be offered as part of a balanced curriculum in all schools. Members can download our paper regarding the distinctiveness of both subjects can be read here.


Pearson BTEC withdrawal of results across the UK

Pearson, the exam body responsible for awarding BTecs, announced yesterday, that they would not be releasing today final grades for any of their BTEC qualifications as planned. This means that around 500,000 students today are still waiting for BTEC results – some level 3 students have been waiting since the 13th August 2020.


Gender attainment and participation

This year, due to the last-minute changes in grading and assessment,JCQ have not published their tables (showing country and gender changes). We will report on changes and trends inattainment and participation as soon as the data becomes available.


Michele Gregson, NSEAD General Secretary said:

Students everywhere have experienced the most disrupted academic year in UK history. Ripped from the education system without warning or ceremony in March, they have experienced nothing but uncertainty ever since. So much of this could have been avoided; they have been let down,  by the system that is supposed to support them and safeguard their interests. - and none more so perhaps than those still awaiting BTEC and A level grades today. All those working in education had a duty to shield young people - to do everything in our power to minimise the impact of this terrible pandemic. 

Instead, sadly, we have seen indecision, and a shameful failure of priorities from the UK Government.  But today, Art and Design teachers can look their students in the eye and know that they put their student's interests first. Teachers can be proud of  the considered, rigorous assessments that honoured the potential of these young artists, based on professional judgement and sound understanding of the criteria. All subjects have seen an uplift in grades this year - inevitably as teachers predict what might be, if all goes well. Art and Design assessments uplift is higher than in some subjects, but much lower than the majority (despite implications to the contrary in some reports).

I want to congratulate all Art and Design students who have received a grade today. I hope that it reflects the hopes and ambitions that you have for the future. And I want to thank all of our members who worked so hard to make that happen.