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New GCSE grades cause 'confusion' in colleges' entry requirements

Different approaches to the new GCSE grades are being taken by colleges across the country, surveys by Ucas and the Sixth Form Colleges Association suggest

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Different approaches to the new GCSE grades are being taken by colleges across the country, surveys by Ucas and the Sixth Form Colleges Association suggest

Post-16 providers are adopting a host of different entry criteria for the reformed GCSEs, new research suggests.

Because of the complexity of the new system, a number of different approaches are being taken by colleges and schools across the country, according to two surveys shared exclusively with Tes.

Under the new system – with grades from 9 (the top) to 1 – the number of students achieving a grade 4 will be “anchored” to the proportion obtaining a C in the legacy qualifications.

But grade 5 will be the benchmark for a “good” pass – and, in terms of difficulty, it will be on a par with a high C or low B. For the first two years, however, colleges will not be required to offer resits to students with a grade 4 in English or maths.

A survey of colleges and schools carried out by Ucas found that there was an almost even split, with 38 per cent opting for a minimum requirement of a grade 4, and 42 per cent for a grade 5.

Of the schools and colleges that took part in the Ucas survey, four out of 10 said they did not feel confident about identifying the standard a student was performing at under the numerical GCSE grading scale.

'A real hot topic in colleges'

Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said there was a “lack of clarity” around how providers should approach the new grading structure. “It’s a real hot topic in colleges at the moment,” she added. “I know of one college that had announced it was asking for a grade 5 in its prospectus but has now decided to go for a 4.

“There is a lack of clarity around grades 4 and 5, and what is a good pass. It’s confusing for all students, parents and young people.”

Separate research by the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) has also found a range of different entry requirements being introduced by colleges across the country.

According to a poll of 52 sixth-form colleges conducted last week by the SFCA, 52 per cent of institutions have set September’s entry requirement for English at a grade 4.

In maths, however, the proportion asking for a grade 4 drops to 39 per cent. More than half (57 per cent) are planning to alter the minimum maths grade requirement depending on the subjects an applicant wants to study.

SFCA chief executive Bill Watkin said the survey results suggested that a “majority” of colleges would accept a grade 4, adding: “This reinforces earlier evidence that colleges serve a diverse, non-selective community and often make great progress with students with lower prior attainment."

This is an edited article from the 24 March 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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