The UK’s schooling system has been in preparation for sweeping changes to its grading, examination and course methodologies. To keep in line with international standards, a more “rigorous” approach to education is being adopted by the Department for Education. The traditional *A-G grading system has been undergoing a staged replacement process with the new 9-1 system that was approved by England’s qualifications and standards body, Ofqual, in 2015.
Summer’s English and Maths results will be an important indicator to how well the contentious changes work, as these subjects were the first to undergo the revamp. Beyond the introduction of a new grading system, students and parents have also been preparing for more challenging course material for subjects such as English, Maths and History.
The widespread changes have been met with mixed responses from educators, parents and students alike, with some happy to see “long overdue” reforms being implemented, while others are not so easily convinced of their merits.
Are the new changes to the education system a cause for concern?
According to the Department for Education, the GCSE changes are designed to better identify areas in which students may require more attention. To this end, the mismatch in grade numbers (A-G has seven grades as opposed to nine in the 9-1 system) has been designed to score and measure students’ academic progress in more granular fashion.
For example, an achievement of 4 translates into a standard-C, which identifies the student as performing within the average median of a given subject. According to the official Ofqual website, “The government has announced that a grade 4 will be known as a ‘standard pass’. A grade 5 will be known as a ‘strong pass’ and will be equivalent to a high C and low B on the old grading system.“
This new grading mechanism is intended to help teachers focus on at-risk students who may fall behind in their grades as the school year progresses. However, there are fears that high and low-performing students will be overlooked as teachers work towards achieving the overall C-grade to meet KPIs set by governing bodies.
Also, fears that the new system will be too complex for teachers to assimilate – and parents to understand – are making many folks uncomfortable about how accurately learners will be measured. According to Schools Week editor and former teacher, Laura McInerney, “Calculating it is fiendishly complicated and the figures aren’t easy to interpret. Add to this the new “rigorous” exams, and the fluctuating grading system, and school performance measures will become incomparable from one year to the next – even for the most data-savvy.” Further, colleges and universities will need to adjust their assessments of applicants to match the new grading system to their own internal acceptance criteria.
Upcoming student results will be a good barometer for the new system
With English and Maths having been the first subjects to undergo the new grading and course material changes, parents and students are wondering if the new system will prove worthwhile in the end. And as the August achievement results loom, the outcomes of the new system will be closely scrutinised. Parents who may feel worried that they’ll have trouble understanding their children’s grades are urged to discuss any questions they may have about the new system with teachers and other stakeholders.
One of the more positively received aspects of the revamp is the Progress 8 system to be used to measure individual students’ progress from the end of primary school until the end of their secondary years. This scoring method allows schools to measure learners’ growth in the context of other pupils and design more personalised approaches to learning and other challenges.
We’re ready to help parents and students
At Boost Education, we’re as invested in your child’s education as you are. We’ve committed time and resources into making sure we understand the full spectrum of implications the GCSE changes will have on your child’s education. The Boost team of educators and centre managers are in continuous contact with headmasters, teachers and other stakeholders to understand the broader scope of the new grading, teaching and course material approaches. If you’d like to learn more about how the GCSE changes will affect your child’s learning path and how we can help you, contact one of our Boost Education centres today.