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GCSE students have achieved a record-breaking set of results, with a surge in the number of top marks handed to them after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Just over a quarter of pupils (25.9%) were awarded grade 7 or higher, equivalent to an A or A* under the old system – up from 20.7% last summer.

Pass rates are also up across the board – with the amount of students getting grade 4 or above rising by 13% to 76% year-on-year.

Image: Over 600,000 pupils are receiving their GCSE marks today

And the number of those achieving the highest available mark – a grade 9 – surged by 40%.

Every single subject saw the numbers awarded a grade seven grow – with the biggest spikes recorded in engineering, economics and the performing arts.

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The smallest increases were in science double award, maths and English.

Half a million BTEC students who were expecting to get their grades on Thursday were told last night they will not be ready in time and may have to wait another week to receive them.

The whole results system has been dogged by confusion given the four UK governments initially relied on an algorithm to moderate the marks handed out by teachers to try and stop massive grade inflation.

But one by one, Scotland, then Northern Ireland, Wales and finally England decided to scrap the adjusted results and give students their so-called "centre assessed grades".

Parents and a student react after checking the GCSE results at Ark Academy, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Image: Every subject saw the numbers awarded a grade seven grow

Over 600,000 pupils are receiving their GCSE marks today, as they consider their next options including A-levels, apprenticeships or the new T-levels beginning this autumn.

There were scenes of joy in many schools as students celebrated the anxiety finally being over in a difficult year for schools given exams and most teaching were scrapped due to COVID-19.

A student checks his GCSE results at Crossley Heath Grammar School, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Halifax, Britain August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington
Image: Grades are based on teachers' predictions and were not moderated further

In Wales, the number of A and A* grades has risen to 25.9% – up from 18.4% – and the amount of people getting above a C rose to 74.5% from 62.8%.

And in Northern Ireland, 37.1% of students got an A or A*, up by by 5.7% compared to last year, with the proportion of those given above a C standing at 89.4% – up 7.6%.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted congratulations from his holiday in Scotland, saying: "I know the last few months have been tough and this isn't how you imagined you would be finishing year 11, but you can be proud of how you helped to keep the virus under control.

"You have literally saved lives through staying at home and keeping distance from others. Thank you for protecting yourselves, your families and your communities this year."

Students discuss their GCSE results at Ark Evelyn Grace Academy, London.
Image: Students discuss their GCSE results at Ark Evelyn Grace Academy, London

Earlier, schools minister Nick Gibb apologised to students caught up in the chaos of results changes.

"I want to say to those young people how sorry I am for the anxiety, the pain and the uncertainty that has been caused by what happened to the grading system," he told Sky News.

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