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GCSE results: Government software 'cannot cope' with 9-1 grades

ESFA software used by colleges to process GCSE results has been 'churning out errors' caused by the switch to the new grading system

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ESFA software used by colleges to process GCSE results has been 'churning out errors' caused by the switch to the new grading system

The switch to the new 9-1 GCSE grading system has caused confusion for parents and employers alike, with the Institute for Directors warning that its members may view the new grades as “gibberish”.

But it has emerged that even the government’s own software has been stumped by the switch from lettered to numbered grades in this year's GCSE results.

Colleges have told Tes about problems with the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA) Funding Information System (FIS), the system providers use to validate and calculate individualised learner record (ILR) data. Tes understands that FIS has been unable to cope with the switch from A*-G grades to the new 9-1 system.

Lindsey Johnson, vice-principal for curriculum and quality at West Suffolk College, said that the FIS software had been “churning out errors” since yesterday.

She said: “We input the data into a database, run it through the government’s national FIS software, and it churns out an ILR that we can then import into our data software in order that I can analyse the data, to see the pass rate by age group, achievement rate by age group, proportions achieving at each grade, etc.

“The national software from the government is churning out errors because it cannot cope with a GCSE qualification that is graded from 9-1 as opposed to A*-G."

'A bit of a muddle'

Concerns have also been raised on the ESFA’s FE Connect forum. One user points out that "all our numerical outcome grades are deemed invalid by the FIS", while another claims that the "only solution so far is to convert the numerical grades to the equivalent A–C grades".

This year’s exam results were sent under embargo to schools and colleges yesterday to prepare for handing them out to students today.

“It’s all a bit of a muddle,” Ms Johnson added. “We can’t even work it out by hand easily because we’ve got 1,320 results [to process].”

A statement posted on the ESFA’s The Hub website this morning states: “We have identified an issue with the new GCSE grades being rejected in FIS, we are working on a resolution for this and anticipate this being available by lunchtime today.”

The results published this morning revealed that the proportion of students aged 17 and above who achieved a grade C in the final legacy GCSE maths exams has fallen sharply, although English grades have improved.

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