The national figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) also show that the gender gap has narrowed slightly this summer, with 73.1 per cent of girls' entries awarded at least a C grade, compared to 64.7 per cent of boys'.This is a gap of 8.4 percentage points, compared to 8.8 percentage points last summer.

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He said: "Schools have been working very hard on this for a very long time and one of the things that schools have become very good at is very closely monitoring the progress of every single student.

"You go into a headteacher's office now and you would almost invariably see an enormous spreadsheet on the wall with every single pupil in there and all their subjects and all their progress.

They will be saying ' why is this boy who has been doing very well at the earlier stages not achieving? ' "Things like the pupil premium and the evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation looking into best practice have helped schools to identify effective strategies to bring the pupils on." He said the system is now in favour of boys to outpace girls.

Mr Lightman said: "Girls did better at coursework, which was more suited to the way girls work.

The top marks in English can be partly explained as a result of pupils switching to the IGCSE, which allows for wider subjectivity in the marking and it allows some weaker students to get higher grades.

The number of pupils sitting mathematics also saw a rise with the percentage of those getting an A* increasing 0.7 percentage points to 6.1 and those getting an A* to A grade rising 1.3 percentage points to 16.5 per cent.• Live coverage of GCSE results day • GCSE exam changes explained Separately, the numbers of pupils sitting other modern languages has increased from 31,865 last year to 33,043 this year.They would spend much more time at home working on coursework than boys who tend to rush it.Research has shown that girls perform better at controlled assessment and boys perform better at exams.He added: "We are looking for a trend that narrows all kinds of gaps, including boys and girls." The top grades for English with the proportion of A*s awarded dropped by 0.5 percentage points to 3.1 per cent.However, A* to A grades rose 0.3 percentage points to 14.6 per cent and A* to C rose 3.7 percentage points to 65.4 per cent.