New GCSE grades will be awarded for the first time today.
Under the biggest shake-up of exams for a generation, traditional A* to G grades are being gradually replaced with a 9 to 1 system, with 9 the highest mark.
English and maths – key GCSEs for all teenagers – are the first to move over, with other subjects following over the next two years.
The grading switch is part of wider reforms designed to make GCSEs more rigorous and challenging.
A grade 7 is broadly equivalent to an A under the old system, while a 4 is broadly equivalent to a C.
Ahead of the results, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) in the UK said reformed GCSEs would leave pupils sitting more exams within a six-week summer exams season, which was likely to put them under intense pressure.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton, said: “We have already had reports from members of increased stress and anxiety among pupils this year, and this will intensify next year.”
“We know from numerous reports that there is a rising tide of mental health issues among young people and we are concerned the new exams will make the situation worse.”
“The new GCSEs are more challenging, and there are more papers, and this is putting severe pressure on young people.”
“We support a robust qualification system, but it has to be balanced against the welfare of young people, and we are not sure the balance in the new system is correct.”
Sally Collier, chief regulator at the UK’s exam regulator Ofqual, said: “Today’s results reflect years of careful planning. We have used the same tried and tested principle of comparable outcomes, as in previous years, to ensure that this first cohort of students is not disadvantaged.”
“If a student receives a grade 7 today, they could have expected to have received a grade A last year. And if they get a grade 4, they could have expected to get a grade C in 2016.”
UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “A new grading system was needed to distinguish between the old and the new reformed GCSEs.”
“The new grading system also provides stretch for the highest performers by showing greater distinction between the top marks.”