Summer 2017 will be the first time the new grading systems for GCSEs will be used in England. Students will now receive a grade from 1-9 instead of A*-G in English language, English literature and maths, with all other subjects following suit in 2018 and 2019.
Why are GCSE grades in England being changed?
The new GCSE grading scheme is part of the new curriculum introduced by former Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2014. Also part of this education overhaul is including less coursework in GCSEs than in previous years with almost all subjects now dependent on exam performance.
Instead of being awarded an A*, nine will become the highest mark a student can achieve with one now being the lowest grade on the scale and U still an option to signify an ungraded mark. This year and next students will receive a mixture of grades from both the old grading system and the new numerical one and it won’t be until the summer of 2019 that all subjects will be following the new system.
The numerical grading system will be used on most other subjects including biology, chemistry, physics, French, Spanish, religious education, geography, computer science, music and history from the summer of 2018. From the summer of 2019 subjects such as psychology, ancient history, ICT, business and media studies will also follow in being graded in the numerical system.
According to Educational Secretary Justine Greening grade four will be seen as a “standard pass” and a grade five as a “strong pass”. Chief regulator Sally Collier says students who get a nine will have “performed exceptionally.”
When it comes to the school performance tables, the government will publish grade four and above as ‘standard passes’ and also grade five and above which they have categorised as ‘strong passes’.
Students taking these new GCSEs will have less of a chance of receiving a grade 9 than they would have done an A* in previous years. The government has cited that part of the reason for reforming the qualifications was to ensure they will better differentiate between students of different abilities and this means the courses will be a lot more challenging.
On a scale, grade 5 is in the top third of the marks for the grade C and the bottom third of the marks for the grade B. The consequence of this is that it will be of greater demand to students than what is the present grade C.
When it comes to maths, the new GCSE is tiered with grades 4 and 5 available in both. According to Ofqual the same proportion of teenagers will broadly get a grade four and above as those getting a grade C or above. It has also said that a formula will be used which means about 20% of all grades at seven or above will get the grade nine.
Although broad comparisons between the two graded systems are being cited by the government the Chief Regulator Glenys Stacy has cautioned about any simplistic descriptions of comparing the two systems directly. She has emphasised that a very important difference between the grades is that the read across is at the bottom of each grade which means broadly the same proportion of students will get a grade 4 and above and who currently get a C and above.
In addition to this she added that where grade 5 is on the grading scale will place it above a current grade C and broadly in line with the best available evidence which tells us the average performance of 16 year olds in high performing countries.
Does this mean the first cohort to sit the new exams will be disadvantaged?
Ofqual is insistent that these students won’t be disadvantaged and that it would expect a similar amount of students to receive a four and above in the new grading system compared to those who achieved a grade C and above in 2016 examinations.
Glenys Stacey said:
“We are being quite clear that the approach in that first year will draw heavily on statistical evidence to make sure that there are clear ‘anchor points’ from the old system to the new. This will make sure that the year group of students are not disadvantaged, or advantaged, because of the introduction of the new qualifications, and will provide some certainty about what to expect at this time of significant change.”
Good to Know…
- These changes are ONLY happening in England. Wales and Northern Ireland are not introducing the new 9 to 1 grading scale as part of their changes to GCSEs
- The first new exams for GSE Maths and English will be in summer 2017 with GCSE Science exams starting in summer 2018
- There is no Foundation Level in the new English GCSEs – students of all abilities will take the same exams
- There are fewer course options in the new science GCSEs. Most students will either take the new Combined Science course (worth two GCSEs) or three separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics.
Here are some sources about the new grading system which we hope you find helpful:
- Grade descriptors for GCSEs graded 9 to 1 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/grade-descriptors-for-gcses-graded-9-to-1
- Setting Standards for New GCSEs in 2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/setting-standards-for-new-gcses-in-2017
- AQA’s video on the new grading system http://www.aqa.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/policy/gcse-and-a-level-changes/9-1
- Association of School & College Leaders Q&A for parents https://www.ascl.org.uk/utilities/document-summary.html?id=69F56F50-EB1B-4E8B-BEE6C8F67A32C9A9 and for students https://www.ascl.org.uk/utilities/document-summary.html?id=484425BC-135F-4C6A-9EE1F51A0C7C50B1