Understanding the new GCSE grading system will give you a headache

(09 February, 2017)

Starting this summer, GCSE grades A* to G will be phased out in favour of grades numbered from 9-1

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Understanding the new GCSE grading system will give you a headache, so your heart goes out to the boys and girls who have become part of this experiment.

Starting this summer, GCSE grades A* to G will be phased out in favour of grades numbered from nine to one.  Pupils taking GCSEs this year and next will have mixed portfolios for life, with say a maths grade at eight and an old French grade B.

In our article this week we have a Camberwell headteacher hitting out at the Government for failing to provide clear GCSE grade boundaries under the new system.

If teachers and students are confused, what hope is there for employers to understand it, let alone value it?

The Government have brought this change in to raise standards and to raise confidence in exam marking. But for that to happen it should –  like a good exam paper itself  – not be over-complicated and badly explained.

Yet this is what is happening, even according to exams regulator Ofqual, who found widespread confusion – with around 70 per cent of parents it surveyed admitting they did not understand the system.

This is on top school performance measurement also changing, with metrics that map the progress pupils make instead of the just the exam grades achieved. All of this might be right, certainly you can understand the reasoning behind the changes, but the implementation is far from logical.

Ofqual has promised to ensure that while the new GCSEs are harder ‘no more students will fail’, and pupils will ‘not be disadvantaged compared to those who took exams in 2016.

An extraordinary claim, which might go some way to explaining why a grade 9 will be harder to achieve than A*.  In that 9 will be so hard to get that it will be for the very top academic youngsters in the country.

So in all the confusion it is important that pupils are not put undue pressure from teachers and parents to achieve this rather elusive new 9 grade and concentrate on just understanding  the subject they are sitting, rather than the marking system.

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