Almost 40 per cent of 16-year-olds in Wigan failed to pass their English and maths GCSEs this year, according to the Department for Education.
But while three Rs success is just under the national average, the overall pass rate across eight subjects is in fact above it, borough schools chiefs point out.
Figures for the 2017-18 academic year show that 38 per cent of students didn’t reach the required passing grade in English and maths.
Those 1,218 students are now facing compulsory resits in June next year.
A total of 3,221 students took their GCSEs this year. Most of the exams are now graded on a 1 to 9 scale under the new system.
A pass grade, previously a C, is now a 4, with the top score of 9 reflecting the need for a grade higher than the previous A*.
The Government has defined a grade 5 as a “strong pass”, which would fall between a B and a C in the old system.
Girls were more successful than boys, with 68 per cent of girls achieving a grade 4 or above in English and maths compared with 56 per cent of boys.
The gap narrowed at grade 5 and above, with 43 per cent of girls getting a “strong pass” compared with 34 per cent of boys.
The Association of School and College Leaders, an education union, said that publishing how many pupils achieved a “strong pass” is “an extremely confusing message for young people, their parents and employers”.
General secretary Geoff Barton said: “The result is that many young people will have felt deflated and uncertain after taking this summer’s exams, despite having worked their hardest. It cannot be right that we have a system which leaves so many students feeling crushed, rather than proud.”
GCSE students in Wigan had overall attainment scores that were broadly the same as the scores of other students in the North West, and behind the national average.
Progress scores show that a typical GCSE student from the area did worse than other pupils in England who started secondary school with similar results at Key Stage 2.
Alan Lindsay, assistant director for education at Wigan Council, said: “Gaining appropriate qualifications including English and mathematics is a really important foundation for our young people across Wigan borough.
“That is why we are working together with school leaders across our primary and secondary system to support their priority developments, ensuring our young people have the support they need to help them towards finding lifelong employment.
“Overall as a borough we are slightly above the national average for Attainment 8 at Key Stage Four, which represents the pass results of pupils across eight key subjects including English and mathematics, which means more of our young people are achieving pass grades than is the average nationally.
“And under the new system of grading the number of children who achieved a grade 4-9 in English and mathematics (equivalent to A* to C under the old measures) is in line with the North West average.
“We are continuing to work with schools as we all adjust to the new methods of measuring and scoring exams. The changes being seen in Wigan borough replicate those across the country.”