GCSEs: No comparison between old and new results

Comparing a school's GCSE results used to be a simple affair '“ you just looked at the A*-C pass rates for each year.

Friday, 25th August 2017, 6:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:25 pm

From now until 2020, things won’t be so easy. Students’ results papers will be a hotchpotch of letters and numbers thanks to a new grading system being phased in by the Department for Education.

This year’s crop of GCSE students knew there would be no A*s for them in maths, English literature or English language.

The subjects were the first to be reformed to the new system with grades from 9 to 1, 9 being the highest.

Information from the Schools, Students and Teachers network (SSAT) stated: “The new GCSEs cannot be easily compared to the old ones – while we’re able to draw some broad comparisons between the old and new grading systems, the new GCSEs are fundamentally different qualifications.”

So what does that mean? Well, Grade 9 is higher than an A* so the two cannot be compared, while Grade 4, which is a standard pass, cannot accurately be compared to a C because Grade 5, designated a ‘good pass’, is not as high as a B.

A B hovers somewhere between a Grade 5 and 6, while the top tier is now Grade 7-9 – and it takes something special to hit that top mark.

This year’s figures showed that only 3.2 per cent of English literature earned Grade 9, as well as 2.2 per cent in English language and 3.5 per cent in maths.

In addition, the new GCSEs are harder, with more rigorous content, as the government attempts to put our education system on a par with the best in the world.

Rather than focussing on course work and modular assessments, the new system sees a return to end-of-course exams.

Looking at the outcome of this year’s exams, West Sussex County Council said early reports showed that, where results could be compared, they were similar to last year’s. Nationally, there was a drop in the maths pass rate, from 71.4 per cent to 70.7 per cent, while the English literature pass rate fell 2.2 per cent to 72.4 per cent.

The changes prompted some Sussex headteachers to hold back on publishing their schools’ full results, choosing instead to concentrate on lauding the individual successes of the children.

In Crawley, no full results were released, while across the rest of the country the information published by schools was sketchy.

Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, in Horsham, said: “We can’t give anything meaningful because we haven’t got any meaningful statistics and the most important thing now is Progress 8, but until we get the statistics, we can’t measure it.

Progress 8 measures the progress made by pupils from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school.

Each child’s progress is measured across a selected set of eight subjects and then compared to children all over the country who achieved similar results in their Key Stage 2 SATs.

No matter how many A*s or Grade 9s a school receives, the Progress 8 is the one on which they are judged by the Department for Education.

The baseline requirement for Progress 8 is a score of -0.5. Any score of zero and above would show a school to be performing well.

A score below -0.5 would trigger an Ofsted inspection.

The scores are expected to be published around December.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said the fruits of the reforms would be “seen in the years to come”.

He added: “The government’s new gold-standard GCSEs in English and maths have been bench marked against the best in the world, raising academic standards for pupils.

“These reforms represent another step in our drive to raise standards, so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a global workplace.