Today’s GCSE results for hundreds of thousands of teenagers across the country reveal a stark divide between the southeast and the rest of England, a divide which has been deepened by the pandemic.

This year’s cohort are the first in three years to take formal exams – a welcome step back towards post-lockdown normality.

And for many, the outcome was a relief: while the overall pass rate has fallen slightly since last year’s teacher-assessed grades, it is significantly higher compared to the last time students sat exams in 2019. The proportion of top grades followed this same pattern. This is likely due to the extra help – such as the inclusion of formulae sheets – given to pupils this year to make up for the huge disruption to their education over lockdown.