How will the new GCSE grading system affect students?
This is the last GCSE results day when grades awarded will all be in the form of letters. From next year in English and Maths the new numerical system will be applied and the year following will see most other subjects fall in line.
It will be confusing for a while. What worries me, however, is that the highest grade – a nine – will be awarded to fewer candidates than currently achieve an A*. It concerns me because I fear students who currently see an A* as the holy grail of achievement will view anything less than a nine as a failure. This is not going to help young adolescents’ mental health and almost certainly adds pressure to achieve to already anxious young people.
My message is that they should not worry too much. Some of the brightest and most intelligent students I have taught have failed to achieve an A* at GCSE but still gained places at top universities. The GCSE examination system, depending on subject, requires candidates at times to “hoop jump” and does not always allow for longer answers or true brilliance.
Future employers or university admissions will not discriminates against those who do not have a clutch of grade nines and perhaps will see the value in slightly lower grades combined with other achievements.
I have to confess that I see no benefit in adding this extra layer to highlight the very most able in any examination cohort. GCSEs show a level of attainment with a “one size fits all” as its fundamental flaw. There is no easy solution to the creation of an examination system that allows the most intelligent to show their academic worth whilst enabling others to show a level of ability to pursue the next stage of their education without feeling undervalued. Perhaps it is time we stopped putting so much emphasis on pure academic achievement and recognised and respected other talents and skills that lead to employment and fulfilment.
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