New GCSE Grades: Explained

Many employers are asking us about the new GCSE grading system that is being introduced from summer 2017. Here are the important points:

  1. GCSEs in England are being reformed and will be graded with a new scale from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade.
  2. New GCSE content will be more challenging.
  3. Fewer grade 9s will be awarded than A*s.
  4. English language, English literature and maths will be the first to be graded from 9 to 1 in 2017.
  5. Another 20 subjects will have 9 to 1 grading in 2018, with most others following in 2019. During this transition, students will receive a mixture of letter and number grades.
  6. The new grades are being brought in to signal that GCSEs have been reformed and to better differentiate between students of different abilities.
  7. 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.

It is important to note that in the first few years each new GCSE subject is introduced, 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 (70%) and the same proportion will get a grade 7 (A) or above (16%). This will see an end to rising pass rates which had been seen by some as an indication exams were getting easier.

The way schools are rated is changing also with a bigger emphasis being placed on English and Maths and also how the pupils have improved from Key Stage 2. This may result in schools dedicating more curriculum time to English and Maths and those with poorer performing primary school feeders being ranked as ‘better’ than those with outstanding feeder schools.

Author Rebecca Tomlinson

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