Michael Gove
The former education secretary Michael Gove introduced many education reforms Reuters

The overall GCSE pass rate has fallen for the second year in a row, with English results falling by the largest level in 20 years, amid Michael Gove's tougher exam regime.

But the official figures also showed that the proportion of students who were awarded A*-C grades rose by 0.7% from last summer, to 68.8%.

The Joint Council for Qualifications also revealed that there was a marginal decrease in the proportion of A* grades awarded in 2014 – dropping by 0.1% to 6.7%.

However, the exam body said that grades A*-A remained unchanged at 21.3%.

"There has been a significant amount of change to the system this year and although UK level figures are relatively stable we expect more schools and colleges to see volatility in their results," said Michael Turner, director general of the JCQ.

"The extent of this volatility will depend on how much change from their usual practices they experienced and how they adapted."

The body also revealed that the gender gap had widened at grade C and above this summer.

More than seven in ten (73.1%) girls' entries scored A*-C compared, but just more than six in ten (64.3%) of boys achieved the same results.

However, when it comes to the very top mark – A* – boys are catching up.

The JCQ said 5.2% of boys achieved the top grade this year against 8.1% of girls.

This means the gender gap has narrowed from 3% to 2.9%.

The JCQ also said that maths results improved on last year, with to 62.4%of students at least achieving a C grade – up 5% on last year.

However, the proportion of students achieving C or above fell in English by 2% to 61.7%.

The results come after the former education secretary introduced a raft of educational reforms designed to make the exam system more rigorous.

"David Cameron's unqualified teacher policy means that entry requirements into the teaching profession are amongst the lowest in the developed world," said Tristram Hunt MP, Labour's shadow education secretary.

"It is now the case that some of the pupils who have received their grades today may have higher qualifications than the teachers who will be teaching them at the start of the next school term.

"Every child deserves a highly trained, highly motivated, qualified teacher. That's how they secure a command of mathematics and the English language. That's how we ensure every child gets the best start in life."