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From A* - 9? What does this all mean?

The new GCSE grading system.

As parents, practitioners and students, we seem to be constantly having to get our head around the forever changing education system. The new grading system which saw the traditional A-G grade abolished and the introduction of 9 -1(with 9 been the highest) was introduced in 2017 for Maths and English and rolled out to other subject this year leaving many parents and young people confused!

So what does this mean?

According to the Department for Education (DfE) the new way of teaching and grading GCSEs is ‘more challenging’ and as quoted from the Independent newspaper article August 2017 “The government says it wants to match school standard to those of the strongest performing education systems in the world – such as Hong Kong and Shanghai.”

In essence the new grading system is supposed to allow higher education institutions and employers to really distinguish between the higher performing students and the lower achievers. Grade 9 is not the same as the old A* grade, it’s a new grade designed to recognise the very best performance. OfQual which regulates public examinations in England, have said that in every subject there will be fewer grade 9s awarded than A*s in the old GCSEs. The infographic below shows that there is no direct read across from the old to the new grades

The banding system is still not clear and nor are the implications for future entry in to higher and further education. Students as well as parents will be left making assumptions.

Having spoken to several secondary school teachers, it is clear that they too are still unclear about the new system, as they now have to use different marking bands to grade students. If the teachers have to get their head around it, imagine how the students feel?

Reassurance has been given by Ofqual to have continuity in the proportion of grades awarded stating that the exam boards would use statistics to counteract any dip in results caused by teachers being less familiar with the content and pupils having less support material. According to Ofqual, the new grade 7 will start at the same standard as the former A grade, meaning 9, 8 and 7 grades replace the old A* and A. The 9 is equivalent to the top half of A* awards, while an 8 encompasses the bottom portion of A* and the top part of an A, making comparisons with the old grades difficult.

The new GCSE grading system saw the decrease of those receiving the top grades in 2017. The Times Education Supplement (TES) reported in August 2017 “Results released this morning by exam boards show that the proportion of UK entries getting A*-C or 9-4 has also fallen from 66.9 to 66.3 per cent.” Let’s hope that there is an improvement in this year’s results as the young people become more familiar with the new implementations.

GCSE Grading table

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