COLUMN: New grading system put into action soon

As the 2016 exam season draws towards an end, we inevitably start to think ahead to those who will be sitting their exams in 2017. For current year ten students, this will be a significantly different prospect from that of their predecessors.

Why the change?

Back in 2012, the Government announced its intention to introduce a new curriculum for GCSEs. These changes are intended to provide young people in this country with the best chance to succeed and to compete with those in other countries in an increasingly global market. A sensible aim.

Ofqual, the body that regulates England’s National Curriculum Assessments, has used the opportunity to address issues with the current exam system and the widely reported impression that GCSEs have become easier. Whilst the majority of exam-weary 16 year olds would probably disagree, statistics over the years show that marks can tend to ‘bunch up’ around the higher grades.

What are the changes?

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Back in September 2015, all schools in the country started teaching the new curriculum for English language, English literature and mathematics. Other subjects are set to follow from this September.

The most visible change will be the new grading system. GCSE results for English language, English literature and mathematics will, from summer 2017, be graded between nine and one, replacing the traditional A* to G. A ‘C’ grade or above is currently what students strive for and, under the new system, a ‘four’ or above is likely to be what they seek. A grade ‘seven’ or above can be seen as an A or A*. Of these students, only the top 20 per cent will be awarded a grade ‘nine’, which is higher than the current A*, and will be quite an achievement.

What does this mean for students?

This summer is the last year of the ‘old’ system and results sheets will be populated only with letters (hopefully mainly A*-C). Next August 2017, students will receive their results as numbers under the new system for English language, English literature and mathematics - and letters for the remaining GCSE subjects.

It is worth noting that the new GCSEs and associated examinations are still evolving. It is not known how the national grading system may change in future. The key message to students, however, remains the same: work hard and try your best. No-one can ask more.

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