Today is GCSE results day, and it’s also the first time students will receive the new grades from 9 to 1 in English Literature, English Language and Maths.
The reasoning behind this change was, according to the government, to have them "match standards in the strongest performing education systems elsewhere in the world.” These new exams have seen students studying different content, and are more challenging than the old, grade A* to G grades. Under these changes, modular exams have been removed, and all students will take an exam at the end of the two-year course.
The grading now runs from 9 to 1, with 1 being the highest and 4 acting as a "standard pass” - so the rough equivalent of a C grade. This will be the new minimum level that students need to attain in English and Maths - the first subjects to move over to this system. Those students who do not achieve a grade 4 in these subjects will need to continue studying them in their post-16 education.
What can be confusing about the new system is that it doesn’t match up exactly with the old A* to G grades. Now a grade 7 roughly equates to an A, and a 1 is roughly the same as a G grade. They have added more grades to the higher end of the spectrum; the government say this is "to recognise the very highest achievers.” Fewer students will achieve a grade 9 than would usually get an A* grade.
Although this only applies to English and Maths for 2017, over the next three years A* to G grades will be gradually phased out for all subjects and replaced with the new number grading system. The reasoning behind this is that it will help students to leave school better prepared either for work or further study. Officials say the wider range of grades will also allow higher achieving students to receive recognition for this achievement.
These changes to GCSE grading are only taking place in England. In Wales and Northern Ireland they are also reforming their GCSEs, but in a different way and they won’t be introducing the new numbered grading system.
Of course, students are still required to achieve a certain level of grades in order to go on to sixth form or college. Some will have particular grade boundaries for specific subjects, while others traditionally required that students achieve a certain number of GCSEs at C and above. This will now be changed to include the new gradings, with students being required to achieve a set number of GCSEs at either C or 4 and above.
Another new change is the age restriction in resits. If students need to resit an exam in Maths, English Literature or English Language, these will be available in November - but in order to take them, a student must have reached the age of 16 on or before August 31st.