The level of confusion over the new GCSE grading system has been revealed after a survey highlighted that one in four employers believe the worst GCSE grade is the best one.

The findings underline the degree of confusion with 8% of universities also believing that the GCSE Grade 1 was the top grade.

In addition, 16% of parents also believe this.

However, just 64% of employers could correctly state that a GCSE Grade 9 is actually the best grade.

The survey was carried out on behalf of all in question employers, parents, universities and teachers.

New GCSE system

The new GCSE system was created by the former education secretary Michael Gove in a bid to counter GCSE grade inflation.

This has been done by splitting the top grades of A and A* into the new grades of 7, 8, 9.

The head of skills’ policy at the Institute of Directors, Seamus Nevin, said: “If an employer is time poor they can be quite keen to get through lots of CVs and if they have a CV they do not understand then they may simply opt for one that they do understand.”

A similar survey carried out last year found that 62% of those questioned felt that GCSEs are well understood, which is down from 2016’s figure of 70%.

Numbered GCSE grading system

The new numbered GCSE grading system will be introduced next year when all GCSEs will be switched across to it.

The grading system was used last year for three exams including English literature, English language and maths. This year it will be used for more subjects including physics, history, geography and drama.

The survey has also highlighted a fall in student confidence in GCSEs and also A levels.

Fewer young people believe that GCSE standards have been maintained over the past year with numbers agreeing that they have falling from 46% to 35%.

Worrying statistic from the Ofqual survey

However, one worrying statistic from the Ofqual survey is that it’s not just employers who do not understand the new grades, some teachers do not also.

Researchers found that 6% teachers believe that a Grade 1 was the highest grade though 100% of headteachers who were questioned knew the correct answer.

Ofqual’s deputy chief regulator, Michelle Meadows, said: “As reforms bed in, we recognise a need for continuing to engage with stakeholders.”


More information

Further information and details about the results in ‘Perceptions of qualifications in England’ can be found at the website.