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Will new GCSE's bring a halt to Social Mobility?

(164 Posts)
BlueBelle123 Fri 30-Oct-15 22:09:01

This is something that I have been pondering - if the new grade 9 becomes the entry requirement for the top universities and competitive courses and if the vast majority are awarded to private school pupils then pupils at the local comp. are going to find it almost impossible to access these places. A lot of Ifs I know but it does make you think - or am I talking complete rubbish, love to hear what you think?

ReallyTired Fri 30-Oct-15 22:19:19

I think that the scrapping of tiered GCSEs, crappy and useless "vocational" alternatives will help social mobility no end. A more challenging curriculum will make people better educated.

My son is a guinea pig for the new GCSEs. I have to believe that even if he fails half his subjects there will be opportunities if he wants to later on in life. Going to a private school guarantees nothing. Qualifications aren't everything.

BlueBelle123 Fri 30-Oct-15 22:30:16

I totally agree that you can make a success of your life with or without qualifications - what I was specifically wondering whether the doors to Oxbridge, Medicine, Vetmed and the like which require the highest grades to gain access are now going to become almost impossible for the pupils of comprehensives to access due to the introduction of grade 9.

Hassled Fri 30-Oct-15 22:37:32

There are plenty of comprehensive kids who get their raft of As and A*s - why do you think that the new 9 (an A**, I think?) is beyond their reach? I sort of see what you're saying, but I think you're being unduly pessimistic. Not that I see much point in the changes.

BlueBelle123 Fri 30-Oct-15 22:57:24

But an A or low A* will not equate to the new grade 9 that is my point - I hope I am being unduly pessimistic as I think it will be a tragedy if access to such institutions and courses are put beyond the reach of comprehensive pupils

nightsky010 Sat 31-Oct-15 00:44:55

I think the net result MAY be that proportionally fewer Comp students end up with places. But then I imagine either universities will apply reverse discrimination to a greater extent, or the government will come up with some other barmy scheme to negate the effect.

nightsky010 Sat 31-Oct-15 00:49:51

Reallytired

Won't a more challenging curriculum do jack shit unless the quality of education improves too?

I do think long term it could be beneficial, just because if the UK is to be measured against international standards (new Grade 5 aligning with PISA) then there is less scope for grade inflation / manipulation. And the state system will not be allowed to continue to look this embarrassingly bad compared to the rest of the world.

ScentedJasmine Sat 31-Oct-15 08:00:33

My ds starting secondary next year.
A lot to learn!
By the time he does A levels [or not...] will it be A, B, C etc I wonder.
So with this GCSE numbering, is 8 an A and 4 a C and 9 an A*?
Guess I'd better google!
Do think university will hopefully not be the be all and end all in years to come and other options will become more and more respected.
Thinking in straight lines does not always equate with success or happiness as far as I can see.

Ricardian Sat 31-Oct-15 09:06:58

I totally agree that you can make a success of your life with or without qualifications - what I was specifically wondering whether the doors to Oxbridge, Medicine, Vetmed and the like which require the highest grades to gain access

There is no world in which levels of private education in universities increases. For a wide range of reasons, but not least that (a) Les Ebdon has big teeth and (b) TEF - all the usual caveats about if it happens and what it looks like, but let's work on the reasonable assumption that it will and it's going to be rough - is probably going to look at value-add. A university which get even further into "we only take students with particular qualifications and, whoops, there goes our access" would take a pounding from many directions.

ReallyTired Sat 31-Oct-15 09:12:02

"Won't a more challenging curriculum do jack shit unless the quality of education improves too?"

There are plenty of state school kids who are completely unchallenged by the existing national curriculum. State primaries have raised their game substantially in the past few years. When those primary school children get to secondary they will be ready for more challenging work. My six year old is miles ahead of where my son was at her age because she has had far better phonics teaching.

The quality of education will improve if research is used to decide educational policy rather than the whims of politicans.

VikingVolva Sat 31-Oct-15 09:32:56

In the post-war to the 70s when there was a similar numerical scale for O levels, there was also a breakthrough rise in the number of state educated pupils attending university.

Of course, there were grammar schools, or schools which had lately been grammars across the country then.

WildStallions Sat 31-Oct-15 10:05:32

I don't think so. I think top pupils, the kind Oxbridge etc are looking for, will still get 9s in the state system.

The whole point is that an A* didn't distinguish between the bright and the extremely bright. Not that the state system didn't have very bright pupils. That way more pupils got A*s than pupils who could go to Oxbridge.

Oxbridge already look at context (i.e. the avg GCSE grade at the school you went to) when deciding who to interview, so I would expect them to still do so. Which may mean that at some state schools you only need 8s not 9s to get an interview.

Ricardian Sat 31-Oct-15 11:38:37

The whole point is that an A* didn't distinguish between the bright and the extremely bright.

So what? Oxford admission uses a reasonable number of A and A* grades as a first-cut filter, but pays far more attention to aptitude tests, submitted work and (of course) interview. Cambridge admission doesn't even do that, using AS UMS as the main discriminant (quite what they're going to do going forward is something of a mystery). Russell Group admissions just want you to have some GCSEs, and might impose a slightly higher requirement on maths GCSE for maths-but-we-don't-demand-A-Level courses. The main factor, for everyone, is predicted A level grades (for offers) and actual A level grades (for actual admission).

There are some exceptions, but even then the "you have to have all A*" courses exist mostly in the imagination of parents: even things like medicine just want you to have a bunch of A or better.

MsMargaretHale Sat 31-Oct-15 14:35:22

I am a bit confused by this debate. DD has done a few early entry exams both GCSE and IGCSE. For all of these exams we got an overall grade and then the breakdown of marks in each section of the paper giving a total percentage. So presumably University admissions departments can already distinguish between the 100% A* and the 85% A* - or am I missing something?

Ricardian Sat 31-Oct-15 14:45:37

or am I missing something?

Universities don't ask for or get UMS. Cambridge ask for AS UMS, and there are anecdotal claims that it's worth slipping notable AS UMS into references for Oxford, but otherwise, no-one sees AS UMS and no-one sees GCSE UMS. That's because (see above) they don't care.

GCSE results have become the great shibboleth, both politically and amongst aspirational parents. They don't matter, directly. They matter indirectly because GCSEs are, up to a point, predictors of A2. But the belief that there is a heaven for those with 12 A* and the fiery pit for those with 9 A is just bollocks: no university would regard there as being a hard line between those two applicants.

TalkinPease Sat 31-Oct-15 15:22:23

if the new grade 9 becomes the entry requirement for the top universities and competitive courses and if the vast majority are awarded to private school pupils then pupils at the local comp

What makes you think that state school pupils (93% of the cohort) will not be capable of getting top grades?

Are all non fee paying pupils in Comp counties magically thick?

In which case, how did two kids in DDs year get the hat in further maths?

TalkinPease Sat 31-Oct-15 15:24:39

ricardian
Universities don't ask for or get UMS
I just checked with DD whose UCAS form went in a few weeks ago.
Universities can and do request full UMS.

MissMillament Sat 31-Oct-15 15:27:03

I teach in a fully comprehensive school with a broad social mix. I expect many of my bright and wonderful Y10 pupils to get a grade 9 in their exam next year. They are focused and working hard and I have every faith in their ability to do it.

yeOldeTrout Sat 31-Oct-15 15:57:31

The whole point is that an A* didn't distinguish between the bright and the extremely bright.

Who needed to know the difference?

I mean, back to OP's questions, are there more kids in the country who will only get 9s than there are spaces at university for them (presuming they want to go to Uni at all). If there are more spaces than all-9s kids, then the all-9s kids can't take all the top spaces.

I think?

disquisitiones Sat 31-Oct-15 16:19:31

Universities can and do request AS UMS. Students can and do include UMS on UCAS forms, although I agree that the vast majority of universities don't care.

Cambridge admission doesn't even do that, using AS UMS as the main discriminant (quite what they're going to do going forward is something of a mystery).

Switch to a system like Oxford's, i.e. entrance tests/exams before interview.

let's work on the reasonable assumption that it will and it's going to be rough - is probably going to look at value-add.

But in reality the aim of the TEF is likely to be to pick out the usual suspects as the top places, so it is unlikely that value added is going to be the predominant criterion. TEF results will determine whether universities can raise fees and there's no way that the criteria will be set to exclude Oxbridge etc from being in that group.

Switching from A*s to 9s at GCSE won't particularly help with selection at the "top" universities, because many students are late developers and only come into their own with A levels. Currently Oxford and Cambridge apply some filters based on GCSE and AS grades but still interview far more students than they have places. The cutoffs in the new system will just be set so approximately the same number are interviewed, with approximately the same (or "better" i.e. more diverse) demographics than now. I don't think the new grading system will make much difference, one way or the other.

Ricardian Sat 31-Oct-15 16:25:16

Universities can and do request AS UMS. Students can and do include UMS on UCAS forms, although I agree that the vast majority of universities don't care.

As I didn't make clear, I was mainly referring to GCSE UMS, which so far as I am aware no university requests, and contrasting it with AS UMS, which a few do.

Ricardian Sat 31-Oct-15 16:26:16

I don't think the new grading system will make much difference, one way or the other.

Agreed.

MrsUltra Sun 01-Nov-15 10:22:32

Depressing assumption that education is just about the grades you get, and getting them as easily as possible.
Lots of hardworking and 'bright' pupils are bored and unchallenged, because fulfilling the formula to get an A* is not that hard for them. But highest they can get is an A*. So if they are in a school where the teachers gratefully accept those kids will get an A* they will not be stretched - why bother - the school can only count an A* so they just teah tot eh test and no more. Sometimes they will get them doing more subjects, hence those state schools that trumpet kids with 15 A*s - completely meaningless for the DC (but great for school's league tables). If there will now be something else to aim for, those DC will hopefully be less likely to be short-changed, as the schools will have to up their game for them.
At my DC indie school, where all the pupils are high achieving, they don't go pot-hunting for ever more numbers of A* GCSE, or do them early to get more in the bag, because they recognise that learning is they vital thing, so the DC do more in depth than they would ever need jut to get an A*, because that is more educational than just a bunch of qualifications.

LooseAtTheSeams Sun 01-Nov-15 10:51:29

No, I don't think the grading system at GCSE will make much difference. However, I have a friend whose daughter just started at Cambridge from a comprehensive and their view was that getting into Oxbridge was an extra A level in its own right! I'm sure parents at private schools feel the same way but they may also have selected their school on its ability to negotiate that system. Admissions tutors are pretty canny about GCSEs and schools, but they have a whole raft of criteria that aspiring applicants need to know about when they apply. And, of course, bright students have to actually apply in the first place - and that depends very much on how much encouragement and knowledge is available to them from schools and parents.

tiggytape Sun 01-Nov-15 11:28:20

Grade 9 will equate to roughly the top 3% of all candidates.
It won't be an absolute requirement for university - certainly not strings of grade 9's anyway because there wouldn't be enough students meeting that criteria to fill all available places if that were the case.

And universities adapt. Just as many moon ago in my day it was perfectly possible to get to a top university with some B grades and before that it was possible to get to them with C's and even lower grades (on the basis that grade A's were far too rare to be an absolute requirement), so the new requirements will reflect the number of people getting each grade not the grade itself. If grade 7, 8 and 9 cover the top 20% of students then they will carry a similar value to grades A and A* now.

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