Changes in the GCSE grading system | Portsmouth High School

Changes in the GCSE grading system

Many of you are aware that GCSEs will move to a 1-9 numerical scale and away from the current A*-G grading system. At Portsmouth High School this will not affect all our subjects as the majority are IGCSE and some will stay with the current provision at least for the time being.

I thought it worth me explaining why we would hang onto something that at some point will become redundant. There is no guarantee that the new system will stay in its new form without some adjustment and it seems sensible to watch and see what will happen after the first awards are made. It will mean some of our pupils will have a mixed bag of results –some graded numerically and some using the current system.

One of the reasons to stay with the A* grade for as long as we can is quite simply students have a better chance of gaining an A* than a grade 9. Ofqual —the exams regulator—has spelled out what effect the shift will have for those highest-performing pupils at GCSE. For example, in geography currently on average 10.6% of examinees are awarded an A* but it is predicted only 5.9% will gain a grade 9. Similarly in mathematics the slip will be from currently 8.8% obtaining an A* to 3.7% grade 9. Overall all subjects will move from 8.4% currently being awarded an A* to 5.1% a grade 9.

We need to make sure our pupils are aware of this change and to accept that some of those who would have gained an A* will not necessarily gain a grade 9. GCSEs are allegedly going to be harder and certainly specimen specifications indicate greater content with a deeper level of understanding and analysis required. Taking this into account many will not achieve the highest grade. Media reports claim students are under enormous pressure to achieve the top grade and their expectations are at times unrealistic and this stretching of the grades will perhaps induce more anxiety and stress.

Pupils need to work hard but not to the degree that it adversely affects their well-being. It is laudable that they are ambitious and wish to do well but it is also important that teachers and parents emphasise the need to have a healthy lifestyle. Gaining a grade 6 should not be seen as a failure or indeed any grade if it is the best that can be achieved and especially so if studying for examinations is balanced with a range of extra-curricular activities.