Today across the UK, around half a million pupils collected their GCSE results. A year ago the new grading by numbers systems was introduced for Maths, English language and English literature. This year a further 20 subjects have been graded with the new system with the remaining subjects moving to the new platform by 2020.
Apparently this is all part of a Government shake up to make GCSEs a bit harder which is reflected in the way they are graded. Quite how this works is anyones guess. The new marking is from 1 – 9 with 9 being the best compared to A-F where A or A* was the best mark.
Explaining the numbers
A 9 represents the best possible performance, and will be rarer, and more impressive, than a current A* grade. Meanwhile, an 8 is somewhere between an A* and an A, whilst 7 is worth the same as A grades. Similarly, a 6 is the same as a high B grade, whilst a 5 is somewhere between a B and a C, with a 4 equating to a current C grade. A 3 is slightly poorer than a current D, whilst a 2 is slightly worse than an E grade. 1, the worst possible grade, is below an F, whilst a U will still be awarded for papers which are not possible to grade.
Why do GCSE Grades need to change?
The government has made changes to GCSEs in order to make them tougher. The idea being that they’ll be taken more seriously by employers. Part of this change is a completely new grading system. Apparently this is to signal that there have been reforms to the exams, and to make it easier to differentiate between results. I suspect it was designed to combat recent results where everyone was getting an A and by adding in more options, you can really pick out the extremely bright pupils.
This year apparently only 700 pupils achieved a clean sheet of all 9s.
The shift to numbered grades also fits better with European exam results, with Germans – and most of Britain’s other global competitors – using numerical exam grades. I find this rather ironic given the current position with regards to Brexit where we are in fact trying to distance ourselves from our European friends!
The implication for employers
For the moment the reality of how these new grades are interpreted by the commercial world remains to be seen. I worry that there will be some who get the numbers muddled and assume a 1 is the top grade and a 9 the worst!
And before you ridicule this suggestion, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Education Secretary Damin Hinds this morning failed to explain the new grading system in an interview on LBC. The Cabinet minister, who only took over the Education brief in January, could only tell LBC’s Nick Ferrari that the new system is very complicated!
He was further mocked for pointing out that a grade 8 is the “midway point between 9 and 7”. Mr Hinds continued to confuse listeners by suggesting that grade 4 is comparable to the old ‘C’ but then added: “6 is not directly a B.” The interviewer joked: “If 6 is a B and 4 is a C then what the hell is 5?”. Mr Hinds replied: “We link these things at C to a 4 and an A to a 7 and in between those its arithmetic between those two grades, that’s how it’s done.”
I fear there will be some confusion for a few years to come before this is all accepted as the norm. Of course eventually no one will really remember the A-E system and it will all be fine. But it does beg the question, ‘What was the point?’. Personally I’d have thought if you just want more grade options then why not add a star to each letter. A* at the top then A then B* then B etc. That way you keep the current accepted notion of an A* being the best but you have more grade boundaries which are fairly obvious to work out.
But apparently I’m not yet the Prime Minister so that change will have to wait for a little longer!
If you collected your GCSE results today we hope that you got the results you wanted, and we wish you the best of luck trying to explain them to your employers in a few years time!