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Are the new grades at GCSE an improvement really?

(11 Posts)
RageAgainstTheVendingMachine Fri 28-Jun-19 13:28:05

Sorry, I know most of you are at work but will ask anyway:
I am old so took exams in 87, the last year to do O-levels when A* wasn't a thing, although I took two GCSEs that year in the crossover.
Am currently in Germany where
1 Excellent
2 Very good
3 Satisfactory
4 Sufficient
5 Lacking
6 Unsatisfactory
Similar to an A-F system or the old O levels really as 6 = F (fail)
Getting 2 x5 also fails you
You really want 3s as the lowest grade but can get through on 4s
You really hope for 1s and 2s but it is hard to get a 1 point grade average, especially in Bavaria and even more so at A-level.
Nonetheless as a system it's easy to understand.

The UK system up to 2016/7 was still easy for me to understand - although I know you weren't meant to consider a grade a fail, most would have viewed A* - C as passes with a minimum C in maths/english needed.

So...questions please for those in the know:

The grades 9-1, which I read were brought in to combat the lack of Stem Skills in the UK (How?) and to allow employers to see who really excelled (Why? Were they throwing out A* like confetti before? I've been abroad), I admit to being flummoxed by.
Why the need for such differentiation?
How has it been for you as teachers?
If any of you do exam marking, how hard is it now (particularly for essays)?
Crudely then
9 A** mythical unicorn status?
8 A*
7 A
6 B
5 C+ strong pass
4 C minimum for maths and English
3 D
2 E
1 F

How many students are getting 9s or 8s?
Do employers see the subtleties and think 4s - 7s are okay?
What happens to the poor sods on 1s-3s, what can they access?
Did you think an overhaul was needed?
Are A-levels still the same?

Thanks in advance flowers

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RageAgainstTheVendingMachine Fri 28-Jun-19 20:59:20


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BelindasGleeTeam Fri 28-Jun-19 21:02:30

The German system is so different to ours. It definitely has its merits, not least the business and vocational focus and value placed on these things.

Taught a kid last year who got 10 grade 9's. She's definitely not a unicorn. She's bright, driven and works like a Trojan. Deserves every bit of her success, good on her.

RageAgainstTheVendingMachine Fri 28-Jun-19 21:04:57

What percentage of kids get 9s - is it documented anywhere for national stats per exam board? Cheers cake brew

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RageAgainstTheVendingMachine Fri 28-Jun-19 21:07:52

In your classes for example (only if you don't mind sharing) what was your grade distribution and was your class top/middle/lower or mixed ability?

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noblegiraffe Fri 28-Jun-19 21:11:19

Percentage getting a 9 varies by subject. 2% for English Lang, 2.9% for maths, 37.7% for classical subjects

Reforming the grades instantly became pointless the minute they pegged the proportions of students getting a 4+ to the old C+ and the old A+ to a 7+.

I don’t think unis yet differentiate between grade 8 and 9. Employers and colleges are still a bit baffled by it all.

noblegiraffe Fri 28-Jun-19 21:13:34

What adding the 9 has done is dented the confidence of pupils getting a 7. Equivalent to an A, so very good, but now being 2 off the top grade instead of 1 makes it feel of less value.

This (along with the GCSEs being harder) has badly affected take-up of maths A-level, and I think English too.

Namenic Fri 28-Jun-19 21:32:17

Realistically does it matter for gcses being that differentiated - because if a student would like to study a subject at uni they would do a level?

I can see the point in a levels being differentiated - for uni entry or apprenticeship or work. However this is messed up because they have got rid of as levels - which unis could then base their offers on (now they only have gcses and a level predictions).

Perhaps looking into whether exams have got easier over time might have been helpful (ie maybe done studies using a cohort taking exams of various different years). But I guess for gcses absolute rather than relative performance is more important (because more academic people would tend to take a levels after).

Also, to reform the curriculum at a time of austerity was not a good idea.

Pipandmum Fri 28-Jun-19 21:38:58

Forget about the messing with the marking system - I think they should scrap the exams all together. Do normal marking for a wide tangle of subjects as in other years. Also think A levels are far too restrictive and forced children at 15 to make life changing decisions. A wide range of courses with some electives if there are particular areas of interest.

Chocolate35 Fri 28-Jun-19 21:44:55

My DD’s school accepted a 4 in English & Maths last year as the equivalent of a C and therefore a “good pass”. This year they’ve moved it to a 5 so anyone wanting to do A-levels needs 5 in the core subjects. The idea of numbers is intended to be as it is for university; you need x amount of points in order to gain entry onto your chosen course. Previously higher achievers are now technically lower than before and have that unnecessary feeling of not quite good enough. Exams are much harder and schools are starting GCSE curriculum from Year 9 to cram everything in. Difficult time for Education.

RageAgainstTheVendingMachine Fri 28-Jun-19 22:25:52

Thank you.
Sorry, I got engrossed in the Sports Day thread.
My DD will be years off this thank God (I am returning from Germany) but is an average student - I would have thought Bs and Cs - but 6s and 5s don't seem as high as the letters system even if that isn't the case and just in my head.
What adding the 9 has done is dented the confidence of pupils getting a 7. Equivalent to an A, so very good, but now being 2 off the top grade instead of 1 makes it feel of less value.
Yes - this.

So how does this new ranking aid with improving STEM skills/take up? What am I missing?

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