Call for 'urgent clarification' of new GCSE grades as teachers warn of pupils being entered for wrong exams

NASUWT delegates say they do not know where the goalposts are under new GCSEs

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Uncertainty about new-style GCSE grades means some pupils will be entered for the wrong maths papers this summer, a union conference has heard.

This year will be the first time pupils receive grades from 9 to 1, instead of A* to G, in English and maths, with other subjects following in subsequent years.

There have already been fears that employers do not understand the new system, and Sally Collier, the chief executive of the exams regulator Ofqual, has said that communicating the changes is a “big job”.

Now, delegates at the NASUWT conference have called for the government and Ofqual to give “urgent clarification” on the criteria for the new grading system for all subjects.

'I have felt under immense pressure'

Katherine Carlisle, a head of maths at a secondary school in Birmingham, said: “I have had to decide whether to enter each pupil for the higher tier or the foundation tier without any guidance. I have had to decide each pupil’s projected grade, again without any guidance.

“I have felt under immense pressure to make the right decision for each pupil, and undoubtedly I will have made the wrong decision for some of my pupils.

“I know how guilty I will feel in August when the results come through, and I can see the wrong decision I made.”

Candida Mellor, of North Tyneside, told delegates she had had to apologise to year 9 pupils who asked what grades they might get as they considered their GCSE options.

She said could not tell them whether they might get a grade 7 “because I don’t know what a grade 7 looks like”.

She added: “As a profession we are used to goalposts being moved, by Ofsted, by senior managers, and by government. This time, I don’t think the goalposts are even there.”

Schools are still held to account

Another teacher, Thomas Day, from Redcar and Cleveland, said one of his pupils received a reward from her mum after receiving grades 1 and 2 in her interim report, because she thought they were the highest.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: ‎"Nothing has changed with regard to schools being held to account for the proportion of children achieving a strong pass and we are working with Ofqual ‎to support teachers as we implement the new system."

Ofqual said it has talked to teachers over the past two years about the new grading system, and how grade boundaries will be set consistently with the current method.

It added that it had provided some analysis of how teachers were deciding how to enter pupils for maths qualifications.

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