Andy Woolley, South West Regional Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said today: “Students and their teachers are to be congratulated on their GCSE achievements today. 

"Headlines on results day tend to focus on top grades and overall pass rates. It is important to recognise all achievements, however.

"Awards at all levels can represent a significant achievement for some learners, and can provide a foundation for further, lifelong learning.

“Congratulations are particularly due taking into account the chaotic and piecemeal changes made to GCSEs in England (but not Wales or Northern Ireland) in recent years, often at short notice.

"When even the awarding bodies and exams regulator describe the situation as ‘volatile’ there should be considerable concern, especially for the young people whose futures are at stake.

“Today’s headline national figures will also mask underlying issues which will only become clear over time.

"We must ensure that changes being made to our qualifications system do not unfairly disadvantage specific groups of students, including those with special educational needs or those from backgrounds of economic disadvantage.

"We must ensure we have a system which has high standards but which ensures all young people are able to develop and demonstrate their potential.

“The regulators and the Department for Education openly acknowledge that the ‘volatile’ nature of this year’s results means we need to be especially careful in making judgements about individual schools and colleges, teachers, school and college leaders and learners themselves when we compare this year’s results with those that were achieved in recent years.

"This underlines the flawed approach of rigid floor targets and forced academisation.

“Once again it is important to note that the results this year are based on work from reception classes to last year’s Year 11.

"Teachers build on each other year on year and collaborate during years.

"That is why the whole idea of performance related pay based on a snapshot of what happened this year is not appropriate for the teaching situation and potentially leads to less co-operation and collaboration of the type which this year’s success is built on.”