EDUCATION MATTERS: Getting your head round GCSE changes

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A head of GCSE results day on Thursday, August 23, I thought I would help to demystify the changes to GCSE grading.

If you’re scratching your head trying to understand the changes to GCSE grading, then help is at hand.

Jonathan Lewis, service director for education at Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council EMN-180519-081630009

Jonathan Lewis, service director for education at Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council EMN-180519-081630009

The changes started last summer with English and Maths, and this year have been rolled out across 18 additional subjects.

Subjects are now given a grade from 9 (the highest) to 1 (the lowest grade). Whilst this number-based system may seem quite different, it has been designed so that there is a comparison with the previous A* to G grades.

The higher the number, the better the grade. So a grade 9 is the new A*, a grade 8 is a high grade A and a grade 7 is a low grade A and so on.

So, if set entry requirements for a course or a job was a standard pass (at least a grade C), then the equivalent now would be at least grade 4.

In the first year each new GCSE subject is introduced, broadly the same proportion of students will get a grade 4 or above as would have got a grade C or above in the old system.

Anything above a 5 will be considered a strong pass and is the new benchmark for the performance by the Department for Education.

So why the change? The changes to GCSE grades have been designed to keep pace with the changing demands of employers and universities.

GCSEs will be more challenging, and the new grading structure has more differentiation when it comes to higher grades compared to the old A* to G grades.

This will make it easier to distinguish between students of differing abilities and fewer grade 9s will be awarded than A*s.

The changes will be phased in over a number of years with all GCSEs graded on the 1-9 scale by the summer of 2020, so students getting their results this year will have a mix of numerical and alphabetical grades.

So is it fair for those taking the exams in the first few years?

It will take a few years for teachers and students to get used to the new GCSEs as there are fewer past exam papers for students to practise on and teachers won’t be as familiar with the new qualifications.

To adjust for this, exam boards will set grade boundaries so that a student who would have previously got a grade C or above would be expected to get a grade 4 or above in the new GCSEs.

So, while the content and assessment have changed, the grade boundaries will be designed so that students are not put at a disadvantage.

GCSE results in the newly graded subjects of English and Maths showed good progress in Peterborough from previous years with 68.4% of students achieving at least a grade 4 in English, the expected standard, compared to 70.3% for England. In maths, 60% of students achieved a grade 4 or above, whilst nationally the outcome was 64.6%.

I would like to wish all the GCSE students in Peterborough waiting for results day the best of luck.

Finally, as the school year draws to a close, I would also like to wish all pupils, teachers and staff a very happy summer holiday.

Well done to all involved

Pupils from Ken Stimpson Community School in Werrington have proved they’ve got it what it takes to make it big in the business world after coming third in a national competition.

Ten children from the school set up their company ‘Dynasty’ selling educational full-colour cartoon activity books for five to 11 year olds, just 10 months ago. They are pictured during a visit to the Discovery Primary School.

Last week, the children travelled to London to take part in the Young Enterprise Company of the Year national final, in which they scored a third place overall prize and won the Retail Excellence category.

A very big well done to everyone involved.

It’s also pleasing that we are ending the year on a positive note following the recent news that Highlees Primary School has received a ‘Good’ Ofsted report for the second time in three years.

Staying at a good grade is testament to the hard work of all our staff, teachers and children.