Just over two-thirds of entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (66.9 per cent) were awarded A*-C - deemed by schools to be a “good” pass.
This was a 2.1 percentage point drop on the previous year, representing the biggest 12-month dip since GCSEs started in 1988.
There has also been debate about whether 17-year-olds who got Ds in English and maths should be made to resit GCSEs after thousands more did this this year.
However across much of the region it was a day of celebration yesterday as schools and local councils reported record or improved results and inspiring success stories.
In both Barnsley and East Riding students achieved the best ever GCSE grades - based on the number of pupils achieving five good (A*to C) grades including English and maths.
Barnsley Council said the proportion achieving this benchmark had risen to 55 per cent - up five per cent on last year while in the East Riding it rose from 56 per cent last year to 67 per cent in 2016. Elsewhere councillors in Hull, Leeds and York said grades had improved on last year. Sheffield Council said schools were on track to be similar and North Yorkshire said the performance of its schools placed the authority in the top 20 per cent of areas nationally.
Yorkshire has traditionally lagged behind most of the rest of the country for the proportion of pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths. Until now this has been the performance measure which schools and local authority areas are judged upon. But in this year’s GCSEs league tables schools will be assessed for the progress pupils make across eight subjects. The new Progress 8 figures for schools will be out in the Autumn.
Yesterday’s figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications, show that the gender gap increased by 0.5 per cent this summer, with 71.3 per cent of girls’ entries awarded at least a C grade, compared with 62.4 per cent of boys’.
But pupils across the region were celebrated outstanding successes. Among them were Kirsty Goodchild – who achieved 14 straight A* grades at Skipton Girls High. She said: “I am thrilled with my results and would like to thank my inspiring teachers and family for motivating me to work hard enough to achieve them.” At Ripon Grammar Maddie Charvill achieved 13A*s and Ben Pimley got 12 A*s. At Roundhay School in Leeds Catherine Thompson achieved 12 A*s while elsewhere in the city Sam Whitaker became Ralph Thoresby school’s most successful ever student with 10 A*s and another A.
At Sheffield Girls High Helena Anderson from Woodseats achieved 13A* grades.
For many students their exam marks not only represented academic success but their determination and strength in overcoming adversity.
Giggleswick School pupil Freddie Morse from Addingham Moorside, Ilkley, was rewarded with seven A*s among his nine GCSE’s having battled treatment for Leukaemia throughout his studies. This included a full year away from school to manage his chemotherapy, immunotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.
Freddie, who was at school to pick up his results yesterday said: “I am so pleased and I can’t quite believe it. What I’ve learned from this is to never say never, never give up. I’d like to thank every one of my teachers, all nine of them, who came out to my house to teach me when I couldn’t be at school. His mother Sarah, said: “We are so proud of Freddie and the School has been phenomenal.”
Elsewhere the Manor CE Academy, in York, praised pupils for combining hard work with volunteering. Joint head girls, Wanipa Ndhlovu and Jess Armes each gained 11 A*s and Lucy Phillips gained 10As*. Principal Brian Crosby said: “We have seen once again our young people developing academically and as fine young people. Wanipa was one of eight students who volunteered to be ambassadors for the Olympics in Rio and met the British athletes, while Jess and seven others volunteered to work in deprived areas of Malawi.”