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New 9-1 GCSE Grading System

24 Jan 2020

New 9-1 GCSE Grading System

By Mark Richards

There is bound to be some anxiety for parents as their children begin studying for the new 9-1 GCSE grading from September. Schools have at least had the opportunity to prepare with this for Maths and English.  Hopefully, many of the teething troubles will have been sorted.  However, it is when things go wrong that problems occur. Some common sense guidelines are definitely worth consideration to make the transition as easy as possible for students and their parents.


Make sure you understand the implications for your teaching.

There is a wealth of on-line guidance, including by AQA, as to how the new system will work for each subject.  This is probably a little bit of teaching egg sucking to grandmas, but teachers must make sure that they are aware of the implications for their own teaching.  It is also always worth checking out that they have interpreted guidance correctly – better to be certain now than waste time by having to re plan everything at the last minute.


Follow your school’s policies

ach school should have a proposal, or even a policy, for passing the information on to parents.  Most have probably already done this.  It is very important, when there is a new system in operation, to stick with the school’s instructions.  Not only does that provide protection for individual teachers, but also helps to stop confusion for parents if they are hearing half a dozen different ways of explanation.


Know your role

Do make sure that you understand fully your personal role in communicating any information to parents or students.  Again, your school will want information to be passed clearly and using a set procedure – it will probably not be happy for maverick behaviour as that creates uncertainty for parents.


Ensure that the students are fully in the picture

A lot of parental anxiety will stem from uncertainty on the parts of their children.  Right from day one, make any changes really clear.  This is especially true if your school’s policy (as it the case with most) is to start assessing using the number systems.  Students need to know exactly what a score means, and what it implies for the next level of their learning.


Have the information at your fingertips For most teachers, actually imparting the information of the changes to parents will already have been done by somebody else.  Although subject teachers will be reinforcing changes with their own students, it is going to mostly be individual queries that have to be dealt with.  Nothing inspires more confidence in parents than speaking to a teacher who has the answers ready to hand, who can explain them clearly and who follows up to check that the question has been fully answered.


Prepare for disappointed students and parents

Schools use many different ways of communicating attainment and progress information to their pupils and parents.  Depending on whether your school is changing, and what they are changing to and from, there is a potential problem out there.  Under the old primary school Sats, many schools would report levels to parents. This caused a concern that was hard to anticipate.  Firstly, progress immediately seemed slow as it took a long time to move from, say, a level 3 to a level 4.  Although expected progress from these points would mean two years was reasonable from an educator’s viewpoint, parents expected to see children move forward much more quickly. Secondly, for the new GCSE grading levels, the lower end suggests pupils are struggling.  Whilst we know that a level 4 for a Year 9 is encouraging, for many parents they expect to see their children at the top all the way along, not always grasping that this is not possible. Managing expectations, as with many aspects of education, is going to be a major factor in ensuring this is a smooth transition.




1- Are the new GCSE grades making it difficult for teachers to predict a student’s likely results?

2- Ofqual issues warning about higher tier GCSE grade boundaries

3- Are GCSEs no longer fit for purpose?

4- Can next year’s GCSEs and A levels 2021 really be fair?


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