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Exclusive: Most parents and students don't understand new numerical GCSE grades

Ofqual research reveals widespread confusion surrounding new 9 to 1 grade scale that will come into effect this summer

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Ofqual research reveals widespread confusion surrounding new 9 to 1 grade scale that will come into effect this summer

Research from Ofqual, the exams watchdog, reveals that more than two-thirds of students and parents do not understand the 9-1 grading scale that will replace the A*-G system at GCSE.

Meanwhile, more than four-fifths (84 per cent) of human resources (HR) professionals and more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of small-business owners remain clueless about the specific question of what a new grade 1 will be worth, research shared exclusively with TES shows.

The numbered grading system – which places 9 as the top grade and 1 as the lowest – will be used for the first time in the summer after students sit exams in the reformed English, English literature and maths GCSEs.

But Ofqual’s survey of 850 people – including heads, teachers, students, parents, employers and staff from further education colleges and universities – suggests that a lot of work still needs to be done to communicate how the system will work at key stage 4.

More than a third (36 per cent) of FE colleges and training providers do not understand the grading scale, and one in 10 secondary teachers is still confused by the reforms, the data shows.

The research shows that around three-fifths of parents with children in Year 10 and Year 11 – who will sit a mixture of reformed and unreformed GCSEs – do not know that 1 is the bottom grade.

Michael Turner, director general of the Joint Council for Qualifications, said that spreading the message would be a “huge task”.

The exam boards were working with the Department for Education, Ofqual, university admissions body Ucas and online forum the Student Room to do so, he added. “This work will be stepped up as we approach the exam series.”

Ofqual chief regulator Sally Collier said she did not want there to be “any surprises” this summer, adding: “It’s really important that we spread the word that GCSE grades are changing from letters to numbers, and explain why.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with the sector to ensure they understand what the changes will mean for them when they come into effect later this year.”

This is an edited article from the 13 January edition of  TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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