The proportion of A/A* pupils allowed to secure the new top GCSE grade could vary between subjects, Ofqual has announced.
As revealed in today's TES, the exams regulator has decided that just 20 per cent of candidates who would have previously achieved an A or A* grade will be given a grade 9 when reformed GCSEs in English, English literature and maths are first awarded in 2017.
But Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, said that the rule could be varied for new GCSEs in other subjects being introduced in later years.
“We are not at the moment committing to that 20 per cent rule for other subjects,” she said. “We want to give some more thought to that to make sure that that is as good an approach as possible or whether we need to take a slightly different approach for some exceptional subjects.”
Ofqual has said that the 9-1 numerical grading for the tougher new GCSEs will be anchored to the existing system for continuity.
But the new system is also the first time any kind of fixed percentage will be used in deciding how many students will be awarded a particular grade.
Heads leaders are opposed to varying the proportions of top students achieving a grade 9 between subjects.
But Ms Stacey said it was necessary as some subjects attract a more able cohort of pupils. For example, last year a third of candidates sitting GCSEs in classical subjects received an A* grade compared to just 3.3 per cent in English.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said: “There is no external justification for the percentage you have just chosen out of the air so why you would vary from one [subject] to another just to manage expectations?
“It seems to contradict what [Ofqual] have done elsewhere. They haven’t been shy about undermining expectations over the last year in C passes and that sort of thing.”
To read more about reforms to GCSEs, read this week's TES on your tablet or phone by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up in all good newsagents.