Students await GCSE results today

GCSE students in England will be first to get marks under ‘tougher’ new 1-9 grading system today with just 200 predicted to get clean sweep of top marks – while Wales and N Ireland pupils get traditional A*-G

  • Headteachers fear new system sends ‘demoralising message’ to students likely to score lower results
  • Comments come as 16-year-olds across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive GCSE scores
  • Last year 20% of UK GCSE entries scored at least an A (or a 7) – while 66% scored at least a C (or a 4)
  • GCSEs have been toughened up and traditional A*-G grades scrapped and replaced with a 9-1 system
  • ** Do you have a GCSE story or photos to share today? Please email: [email protected] ** 
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Grade boundaries are up in English language and maths GCSEs this year – suggesting the so-called ‘tougher’ exams are getting easier, it emerged this morning as 16-year-olds prepare to get their results.

Pupils required 84% (201/240) to get a top level 9 grade in maths this year, compared to 79% (189/240) in 2017. And in English language, students needed 80% (128/160) for a 9 grade this year, or 77% (123/160) a year ago.

Grade boundaries are only set by senior examiners and assessment experts once all papers are marked, so they can find out how difficult students found the paper compared to previous years and take this into account.

So, a higher mark required for a 9 suggests pupils are finding the papers easier this year. But English literature saw the opposite happen, with students needing 135/160 (84%) for a 9 this year, compared to 141/160 (88%) last year.

As teenagers wait for GCSE results to be released at 9.30am, headteachers have raised concerns that the new grading system sends a ‘demoralising message’ to students who are likely to score lower results in their exams. 


Two pupils react as they open their results this morning in Coventry live on Sky News

A ‘better way’ needs to be found of recognising the achievement of teenagers who score lower than a 4 – equivalent to a C under the old system – in the new, tougher, GCSE courses, school leaders said.

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The comments come as 16-year-olds across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their GCSE results.

What are the GCSE grade boundaries this year?

Under sweeping GCSE reforms in England, traditional A* to G grades have been replaced with a 9 to 1 system, with 9 the highest mark.

In general, a grade 7-9 is roughly equivalent to A-A* under the old system, while a grade 4 and above is roughly equivalent to a C and above.

Grade boundaries are set by exam boards after marking has taken place, to take account of how demanding the papers were.

Here are the grade boundaries for some of the main subjects in the higher tier papers this year. Under exam board Edexcel (subject, grade 4 score, grade 7 score):

  • Mathematics, 20.8%, 57.9%
  • Biology, 26.5%, 56.9%
  • Chemistry, 26%, 56%
  • English language, 46.9%, 69.4%
  • English literature, 41.9%, 68%
  • Physics, 25.5%, 57.5%
  • French, 33.2%, 57.1%
  • German, 28.9%, 55.7%
  • Spanish, 30.7%, 57.1%

Last year, one in five (20 per cent) UK GCSE entries scored at least an A – or a 7 under the new system – while two thirds (66.3 per cent) scored at least C – equivalent to a 4 under the new system.

Under the biggest shake-up of exams in England for a generation, GCSEs have been toughened up, and traditional A*-G grades scrapped and replaced with a 9-1 system, with 9 the highest grade.

Because the courses are so much harder now, scores were expected to drop significantly. However, this will be masked following Ofqual’s demand for the proportions of high grades to match those of last year.

Chris McGovern, from the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘This is fraud. They are telling students they are good even if they are getting low marks. It is effectively a certificate in incompetence. It is unacceptable. 

‘It is a deliberate attempt to cover up the true marks. Ultimately we need the truth, and we need transparency. If we are to raise standards to the same level as those of other high-performing countries we cannot be fixing the grades like this.’

According to research by Cambridge Assessment, as few as 200 students could score a clean sweep of 9s in all of their GCSEs this year.

Ahead of results day, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it had concerns about pupils performing at the lower end of the grading scale.

‘The Government’s intention is that the new system provides greater differentiation between grades,’ Malcolm Trobe, ASCL deputy general secretary said.

‘For example, it replaces A* and A with three grades, 7, 8 and 9.

More than two-thirds of teens are worried about the GCSE grading system

More than two-thirds of teenagers are concerned about the new GCSE grading system, according to a poll.

The survey also suggests nearly two-thirds do not feel the new system – which sees exams given a grade from 9-1 – will represent their grades as well as it should.

The findings of the poll, commissioned by the National Citizen Service, come on the day teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their GCSE results.

In total, 69 per cent of the 1,000 14 to 17-year-olds questioned, who are currently waiting for their GCSE results, said they are generally concerned about the new grading system.

And 65 per cent of those questioned feel the new system will not represent their grades fully.

The survey also found just 7 per cent expect to get a grade 4 – broadly equivalent to a C under the old system – in most of their subjects.

Around one in eight (12 per cent) think they will score mainly grade 5s, while just under a fifth (19 per cent) expect to achieve mostly grade 6s – making it the most common answer.

Some 18 per cent expect to get mostly 7s – broadly equivalent to an A grade, while just 4 per cent expect to get mainly 9s – the highest grade.

  • Censuswide questioned 1,000 14 to 17-year-olds waiting for their results between August 13-20.

‘Our concern, however, is over those pupils at the other end of the scale who are taking exams which are harder than their predecessors and who have been told by the Government that a grade 4 is a ‘standard pass’ and a grade 5 is a ‘strong pass’.

‘That is a very demoralising message to those who achieve grades 1, 2 and 3, and the new system does not work very well for them at all.

‘These young people have completed demanding programmes of study and we need to find a better way to credit their achievements.’

There have been suggestions in recent weeks that grade boundaries could be lower this year for new GCSEs compared with the old system.

Last year, when grades were awarded for the first time for new maths GCSE, students sitting the higher tier maths course – which is aimed at higher-achieving pupils – needed to score at least 18 per cent on average to secure a grade 4, while on average, 52 per cent was needed for a 7, and 79 per cent for a grade 9.

Exams regulator Ofqual has said it uses statistical processes to ensure that results are comparable year-on-year, and to ensure that students who are the first to take the new-style qualifications are not disadvantaged in any way.

ASCL said it is right that pupils should not be disadvantaged because they are ‘the first to take a set of new and more difficult examinations’.

The union also suggested that if grade boundaries need to be set very low on tiered GCSEs – such as maths – this is a sign that papers were so difficult that pupils were unable to answer many of the questions – which could increase stress and anxiety levels.

Mr Trobe said: ‘We are also concerned that if grade boundaries have to be set very low, this indicates that the exam is so difficult that many candidates have been unable to answer a significant proportion of the paper.


Pupils and teachers smile as GCSE results are opened at a school in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, on Good Morning Britain

‘This inevitably increases stress and anxiety and leaves them feeling that they have done poorly.


‘It is right that exam papers should be challenging but they should not be excessively difficult and exams should be designed with this in mind.’

Education Secretary Damian Hinds echoed Ofqual’s assurances that pupils who had taken the tougher new exams would not be at a ‘disadvantage’.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: ‘To make sure that pupils who take the new GCSEs are not at a disadvantage when compared to those who went before, the independent qualifications regulator Ofqual uses a statistical method called ‘comparable outcomes’.

‘This ensures that broadly the same proportion of pupils will pass, and reach the equivalent of an A grade as in previous years, assuming the ability profile of the pupils is the same.

‘But there is greater differentiation for higher-achieving pupils, with more grades above the ‘standard pass’ level of grade four. This means not as many pupils will get the very highest grade (nine) as previously got an A*.’

Changes – including some exams being favoured instead of coursework, plus a broader spread of topics on the curriculum – were aimed at bolstering the qualifications so the UK stands alongside top performing countries in the Far East. 

The lowdown on the new GCSE grading system

GCSEs in England have undergone sweeping changes as part of education reforms that began under the coalition government.

These changes are now being felt in schools and colleges across the country, with one of the biggest being a new grading system.

As teenagers prepare to receive their results this week, we explain the key change and what it means for students.

So, what is the new grading system?

  • Traditional A* to G grades have been replaced with a 9 to 1 system, with 9 the highest mark.
  • English and maths GCSEs – core subjects taken by all teenagers – were the first to move to the new system, with numerical grades awarded for these courses for the first time last summer.
  • This summer another 20 subjects will have the new grades awarded for the first time, including core academic courses such as the sciences, history, geography and modern foreign languages.
  • This change is only happening in England.

Why was the grading system changed?

  • The move is part of a wider reform of exams which has seen a complete overhaul of the content and structure of GCSEs.
  • Schools and colleges have been teaching these new GCSEs for the last two to three years, and it is only now that grades are starting to be awarded.
  • The new courses feature much less coursework than the old GCSE qualifications, and modular courses, which saw pupils sit papers throughout their studies, have been scrapped in favour of ‘linear’ GCSEs in which pupils take all of their exams at the end of the two-year course.
  • The new grading system is meant to clearly distinguish new courses from the old qualifications.

What does this mean for students?

  • This year, in the subjects that are being awarded new grades for the first time, it is expected that broadly the same proportion of students that would have got a C or above under the old system will get at least a 4.
  • In general, a grade 7-9 is roughly equivalent to A-A* under the old system, while a grade 4 and above is roughly equivalent to a C and above.
  • Fewer students will receive a grade 9 than would have received an A* under the old grading system. This is because part of the reason for introducing a new grading system was to allow more differentiation among the brightest students.
  • According to one estimate by Cambridge Assessment, as few as 200 candidates could get a clean sweep of grade 9s across all of their GCSEs this year.
  • It also means that this year, teenagers will get a mix of lettered and numbered grades, depending on the GCSEs they take.

Won’t this be confusing?

  • There have been concerns raised that the system may be confusing, for example to parents, or businesses presented with potential job candidates with different types of grades.
  • Different bodies, including England’s exams regulator Ofqual, have been publishing materials about the change and working to publicise the reforms.

What will this mean for pass rates and grade boundaries?

  • There has been much talk about how grade boundaries could be lower this year under the new GCSEs compared with the old system.
  • Grade boundaries are set by exam boards after marking has taken place in order to take account of how demanding the papers were.
  • Last year, when grades were awarded for the first time for the new maths GCSE, students sitting the higher tier maths GCSE exam, which is aimed at higher-achieving pupils, needed to score at least 18 per cent on average to secure a grade 4, while 52 per cent was the boundary for a 7 on average, and 79 per cent was the average required for a grade 9.
  • Some people raised concerns at the time that these boundaries were lower than under the old system, and there have been similar suggestions recently that the same thing will happen this year as more new GCSEs are awarded for the first time.
  • Ofqual has said that it uses statistical processes to ensure that results are comparable year-on-year, and to ensure that students who are the first to take the new-style qualifications are not disadvantaged in any way.

How have we got to this stage?

  • Education reforms in England began in 2011, led by then-education secretary Michael Gove. A review of the national curriculum was announced first, with the overhaul of GCSEs starting in 2013.
  • In 2014, Mr Gove said the new tougher GCSE courses ‘set higher expectations’, adding ‘they demand more from all students and specifically provide further challenge to those aiming to achieve top grades’.

He also said the results would be ‘fair to the young people who worked hard for their exams’, and added that the reform had come in response to employers complaining that the old GCSEs did not provide young people with the skills they needed.

Grades for new-style English and maths GCSEs were awarded for the first time last summer.

This year, 20 subjects will be awarded grades under the new system – with a 7 broadly equivalent to an A, and a 4 broadly equivalent to a C.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, predicted that overall pass-rates could drop slightly this year.

‘I think the percentages getting the equivalent of an A and the equivalent of a C under the old regime are likely to go down a bit.’

Sally Collier, Ofqual chief regulator, said: ‘Today’s results are the second set for reformed GCSEs and the majority of awards this summer are for new 9 to 1 qualifications. Many years in the making, these new GCSEs are more challenging and will better prepare students for further study or employment.

‘Students picking up their results today can be confident they have achieved the grades their performance deserves. As in previous years, we have used the tried and tested principle of comparable outcomes to ensure standards are maintained. Senior examiners have reviewed papers to make sure the quality of work is appropriate to the grades awarded.

‘We know schools and students have been working hard to prepare for this year’s exams, and today’s results reflect that considerable effort. They should be congratulated on their achievements.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We have raised standards throughout the education system so that all young people are better prepared for the next stage of their education and the workplace.

‘However, the point of any grading system is to distinguish between different levels of attainment, and our new 9 to 1 system has been designed specifically to provide greater clarity for employers identifying pupils who have taken the new, more rigorous GCSEs.’

Meanwhile it was also suggested yesterday that confidence is a key factor in why girls do not take A-levels in subjects such as physics.

In addition, some young women may be put off by the idea of being one of the only female students in the class, according to a paper by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The influential think tank said that it is not the case that fewer girls study maths and physics at A-level because they are less well-prepared.

Data shows that achievement in the two subjects at GCSE level is similar for boys and girls, the paper says.

For example, among pupils who scored an A or A* in GCSE maths in 2010, 37 per cent of girls went on to take A-level maths, compared to 51 per cent of boys.

And among those who scored at least an A in GCSE physics, 13 per cent of girls studied for an A-level in the subject, compared to 39 per cent of their male classmates.

The IFS said it has conducted a pilot study, involving almost 300 girls who were predicted to achieve at least a new grade seven (equivalent to an A under the old grading system) in maths, physics or science GCSEs, to look why young women may or may not choose a subject.

It found that the gender gap in take-up of maths and physics is not because girls do not find the subjects interesting, or because they do not understand or value the prospects offered by a career in Stem (science, technology engineering and maths)

‘Confidence seems to be a big part of the issue, particularly when it comes to physics,’ the IFS said.

‘We found that, despite their high predicted grades, about half of the girls in our sample agreed or strongly agreed with the statements ‘I often worry that it will be difficult for me in physics classes’ or ‘I worry I will get poor grades in physics’. The figures were about half that for maths.’

It adds: ‘Perhaps more challenging from a policy perspective is the fact that being one of the only girls in a physics class at school or university, or indeed in a Stem job, seems to be a major factor putting off some girls.

‘Two thirds of the girls we surveyed viewed Stem jobs as male dominated, and a similar proportion of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that ‘these girls don’t want to/feel discouraged from pursuing Stem subjects at A-level because many of their female peers do not’.’

** Do you have a GCSE story or photos to share today? Please email: [email protected] ** 

A-levels, vocational qualifications or apprenticeships? What to do now GCSE results day is finally here

It’s GCSE results day and you have your grades – so what’s the next step?

Many teenagers will have their plans already fixed, with college or sixth-form places, or alternative training lined up. For others, be your grades good or bad, there will still be decisions to be made.

A great many school leavers will be moving on to study for A-levels. But it may be that you don’t want to follow the path of A-levels and then university.

In this case, there are plenty of alternative options, such as vocational and technical qualifications and apprenticeships. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with study, meaning you get paid as you learn.

There are different levels of apprenticeship; for example, intermediate is equivalent to a GCSE, and advanced is equivalent to an A-level.

According to the gov.uk website – which gives information to students in England on finding an apprenticeship – you can apply for one of these training schemes while you’re still at school.

To start an apprenticeship, it says, you have to be at least 16 by the end of the summer holidays, living in England, and not in full-time education. There are different organisations dealing with apprenticeships in Scotland and Wales.

If an apprenticeship is not for you, but you still want to take more vocational qualifications than A-levels, there are other courses out there to choose from – such as Btecs or City & Guilds qualifications.

Kirstie Donnelly, managing director at City & Guilds and ILM, said: ‘We need to ensure that students, parents and teachers are aware of the variety and different routes available to enter further education and employment.

‘Whilst the traditional academic path through A-levels and onto university is right for many, it certainly shouldn’t be seen as the only option available.’

She adds: ‘Recent research carried out by City & Guilds found that UK businesses face a severe – and growing – shortage of skilled talent, which is only set to be exacerbated by Brexit.

‘At this time, it’s more important than ever that the next generation of our workforce is aware of the full range of technical, as well as academic, options open to them, which will pave their way into successful employment within some of the UK’s leading industries, from engineering, to hospitality to construction.

‘Technical training routes provide young people with invaluable on-the-job experience and core skills development – both specific to their chosen industry and for the wider world of work – as well as apprenticeships, which offer the opportunity to earn and learn.’

Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said: ‘There are many options post-16: A-levels, a vocational or technical qualification or an apprenticeship.

‘I would recommend going into your local further education college, staff there will be able to give you advice on your options with the grades that you have achieved.’

If you are disappointed with your grades, results day is likely to bring concern and worry. At this stage, the widely accepted advice is to stay calm, not panic, and think through your options.

Are your grades below what you need to take your planned next step? If you have not scored at least a 4 in your English or maths GCSE, you will have to retake them.

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says students should speak to their teachers if they are concerned about their results, and stay in touch to ensure they get advice and support.

‘Where it’s problematic is where youngsters shoot off,’ he says. ‘They come in, they’re disappointed with their results and they disappear.

‘The advice always is that they ensure they are in communication with someone in their school or college so that we know exactly what is happening.’

Staff will be on hand to give appropriate advice to students, Mr Trobe says.

Could YOU pass GCSE maths and science? As the nation’s 16-year-olds await their results these are the questions they had to tackle

Here are 10 questions from the AQA maths papers – unlike in the real thing, there are no marks for showing your working here. 

1. Which of these shapes has the most sides?

  • Hexagon
  • Octagon
  • Rhombus 
  • Trapezium

2. Nadia has £5 to buy pencils and rulers.

Prices:

  • Pencils – 8p each
  • Rulers – 30p each

She says. ‘I will buy 15 pencils. Then I will buy as many rulers as possible.With my change I will buy more pencils.’ How many pencils and how many rulers does she buy?

3. What is 3/2 as a decimal?

  • 1.05
  • 1.1
  • 1.5
  • 3.2

4. An exam has two papers. Anil scores

  • 33 out of 60 on paper 1, and
  • 75 out of 100 on paper 2

Work out his percentage score for the exam.

5. There are 720 boys and 700 girls in a school. The probability that a boy chosen at random studies French is 2/3. The probability that a girl chosen at random studies French is 3/5

(a) Work out the number of students in the school who study French.

(b) Work out the probability that a student chosen at random from the whole school does not study French.

6. 3/5 of a number is 162. Work out the number.

7. Solve the simultaneous equations.

  • 2x + y = 18
  • x – y = 6


8. PRT and QRS are similar triangles. (See diagram – not drawn accurately). Which of these is equivalent to QR/PR ? 

  • RS/ST
  • QS/PT
  • PT/QS
  • RT/RS

9. To make one cheese sandwich, Gina uses one bread roll and two cheese slices.

  • Pack of 15 bread rolls: £1.88
  • Pack of 20 cheese slices: £2.15
  • She is going to buy enough packs to have exactly twice as many cheese slices as bread rolls.
  • Make more than 100 cheese sandwiches.

Work out the least amount she can spend.


10. See graph. The graph shows the depth of water in a harbour for 12 hours.

  • d is the depth of water in the harbour in metres
  • t is the number of hours after 9 am

(a) For how many of the 12 hours is the depth more than 5 metres?

(b) By how much does the depth change between 12 noon and 4pm? 

The questions are taken from the AQA GCSE Mathematics examinations papers for June 2017. The first five are taken from three Foundation papers, while the final five are taken from three Higher papers. Answers are below.

Now, test yourself in GCSE science with these questions from this year’s OCR GCSE biology, physics and chemistry papers.

1. Which is a chemical defence of plants?

  • A) Antimicrobial substances
  • B) Cell walls
  • C) Leaf cuticles
  • D) Thorns

2. Which is the most effective treatment for HIV?

  • A) Antibiotics
  • B) Antigens
  • C) Antiseptics
  • D) Antivirals

3. Why is the process of meiosis important in making gametes?

  • A)The cells produced are diploid.
  • B) The cells produced are genetically identical.
  • C)The cells produced are much smaller in size.
  • D) The cells produced have half the number of chromosomes.

4. What is a genome?

  • A) A description of the number of chromosomes in an organism.
  • B) All the proteins that one organism can produce.
  • C) A store of seeds to preserve genetic variation.
  • D) The entire genetic material of an organism.

5. Which statement is true for a reversible reaction when it is at dynamic equilibrium?

  • A) The concentration of the products is increasing.
  • B) The rate of the backward reaction is greater than the rate of the forward reaction.
  • C) The rate of the forward reaction is equal to the rate of the backward reaction.
  • D) The rate of the forward reaction is greater than the rate of the backward reaction.

6. Which one of the following is an advantage of phytoextraction?

  • A) A high concentration of a metal can be obtained from a low grade ore.
  • B) Bacteria are used to dissolve metals instead of chemical solutions.
  • C) Better crops of plants are harvested.
  • D) Phytoextraction is a quick process and is not affected by poor weather.

7. Group 1 elements get more reactive down the group. Which statement explains why?

  • A)  The outer electron is closer to the nucleus and lost more easily.
  • B)  The outer electron is further from the nucleus and lost more easily.
  • C) There is less shielding from the inner electrons.
  • D) There is more attraction between the nucleus and the outer electron down the group.

8. An alpha particle collides with an atom to produce a positive ion. What happens to the atom for it to become a positive ion?

  • A) It loses an electron from inside the nucleus.
  • B) It loses an electron from outside the nucleus.
  • C) It loses a neutron from inside the nucleus.
  • D) It loses a proton from outside the nucleus.

9. A car accelerates from 0 to 60 mph (miles per hour) in about nine seconds. Use the relationship: 1 m/s = 2.24 mph. Estimate the acceleration for this car in m/s2.

  • A) 1 m/s2
  • B) 3 m/s2
  • C) 7 m/s2
  • D) 15 m/s2


10. Look at the diagram of white light as it passes through a prism. (See diagram). A spectrum of colours is seen. It ranges from red to violet. Why does the violet light refract more than the red light?

  • A) Violet light changes frequency more than red light.
  • B) Violet light has the largest change in speed.
  • C) Violet light has the smallest change in speed.
  • D) Violet light increases its speed in the glass prism. 

MATHS ANSWERS 

1. Octagon

2. 17 pencils, 12 rulers

3. 1.5

4. 67.5 or 68

5. (a) 900 (b) 520/1420 or 26/71

6. 270

7. x = 8 and y = 2

8. QS/PT

9. 40.84

10. (a) 8 (b) 3 (or -3)

 

  

SCIENCE ANSWERS 

1. A Antimicrobial substances

2. D Antivirals

3. D The cells produced have half the number of chromosomes.

4. D The entire genetic material of an organism.

5. C The rate of the forward reaction is equal to the rate of the backward reaction.

6. A A high concentration of a metal can be obtained from a low grade ore.

7. B The outer electron is further from the nucleus and lost more easily.

8. B It loses an electron from outside the nucleus.

9. B 3 m/s2

10. B Violet light has the largest change in speed.

‘Pretending to cry, so my parents don’t get too mad’: Anxious GCSE students complain of sleepless night and fret over opening their exam results today 

BY LARA KEAY FOR MAILONLINE 

Teenagers across Britain struggled to sleep last night as they tossed and turned worrying about their GCSE exam results out today.

Pupils were faced with a gruelling new system this year introduced to make exams harder, grading them from 1 to 9 instead of A* to G. 

The politicians behind the new grading scheme have faced a fierce backlash from teachers and students, with some even claiming it has led to a rise in mental health issues among pupils. 

Social media was awash with memes as youngsters took to Twitter and Facebook overnight to share their anxiety, preparing for their ‘lives to end tomorrow’ when they ‘fail their exams’.

While most joked about getting bad results, some shared uplifting messages urging their peers not to define themselves by their grades alone. 

As pupils head hands-shaking to their schools and colleges to pick up their results, MailOnline takes a look at the most hilarious and heart-wrenching GCSE results day posts.   

























Anger over GCSE marking ‘cover-up’ as exam boards are told to set grade boundaries low to help students get top marks

BY ELEANOR HARDING FOR THE DAILY MAIL

One in five entries has been awarded a top grade in the new GCSEs after results were manipulated to make sure no one is ‘disadvantaged’ by the tougher content.

As hundreds of thousands of pupils travel to their schools today to pick up their results, regulators are being accused of ‘covering up the true marks’.

Watchdog Ofqual told exam boards to set grade boundaries low to make sure around 20 per cent of entries get at least a grade 7 – roughly the equivalent of the old A.

Around two thirds will get at least a 4 – which is aligned with the old C. In some courses, for example the higher tier maths paper for brighter pupils, entrants may be required to get only around half the marks to get a 7, or 17 per cent to get 4.

This year, GCSE students were the first to sit new exams in most mainstream subjects, with the courses containing much more challenging content.

The changes, pioneered by former education secretary Michael Gove, were aimed at raising standards following years of grade inflation and ‘dumbing down’ under Labour. Because the courses are so much harder now, scores were expected to drop significantly. However, this will be masked following Ofqual’s demand for the proportions of high grades to match those of last year.

Chris McGovern, from the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘This is fraud. They are telling students they are good even if they are getting low marks. It is effectively a certificate in incompetence. It is unacceptable. It is a deliberate attempt to cover up the true marks. Ultimately we need the truth, and we need transparency.

‘If we are to raise standards to the same level as those of other high-performing countries we cannot be fixing the grades like this.’

Last year, three qualifications were sat in their new harder format – English literature, English language and maths. This year, a further 20 subjects were added.

The grade boundaries for the new exams were provided to schools yesterday, but they will only be officially published today.

Despite the assurances from Ofqual that the majority of GCSE entries will get a 4, considered a ‘standard pass’, teachers were still complaining yesterday about how poor-performing students would not have their work credited.

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘Our concern… is over those pupils at the other end of the scale who are taking exams which are harder than their predecessors and who have been told by the Government that a grade 4 is a ‘standard pass’ and a grade 5 is a ‘strong pass’.

‘That is a very demoralising message to those who achieve grades 1, 2 and 3, and the new system does not work very well for them at all.

‘We need to find a better way to credit their achievements.’

The association’s misgivings appear to be shared by pupils, according to poll commissioned by the National Citizen Service.

It questioned 1,000 14 to 17-year-olds and found two thirds felt the new system would not represent their grades as well as it should.

The new exams will be graded 1 to 9, and will mean there is more differentiation at the top since grade 9 will be harder to get than the old A*.

Ofqual chief regulator Sally Collier said today’s results will reflect the ‘considerable effort’ of schools and pupils. ‘Students picking up their results today can be confident they have achieved the grades their performance deserves. We have used the tried and tested principle of comparable outcomes to ensure standards are maintained. Senior examiners have reviewed papers to make sure the quality of work is appropriate to the grades awarded.’

 

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