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Ofqual ramps up publicity amid 'confusion' over numerical GCSE grades

Exams regulator launches TV adverts and online content in response to research showing that many people don't understand the new 9-1 grading scale

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Exams regulator launches TV adverts and online content in response to research showing that many people don't understand the new 9-1 grading scale

Ofqual chief regulator Sally Collier hopes to "dispel some myths" around the new grading system for reformed GCSEs through a ramped-up publicity drive.

The exams regulator has launched television adverts, along with specific Facebook and LinkedIn pages, to provide greater clarification on the changes to GCSE grades in England. 

The new 9-1 grading scale, which will replace the A*-G system at GCSE, will be used for the first time in the summer after students sit exams in the new English, English literature and maths GCSEs.

Earlier this year, Ofqual research, shared exclusively with TES, revealed that more than two-thirds of students and parents did not understand the 9-1 grading scale.

It also found that that more than four-fifths (84 per cent) of human resources (HR) professionals and more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of small-business owners remained clueless about what a new grade 1 will be worth. 

Speaking to TES today, Ms Collier admitted there was "still a lot to do" but said her organisation's immediate focus would be to ensure there was clarity among secondary heads, teachers and students approaching exams, as well as those setting entry requirements or job requirements.

She refused to say whether students should be expected to get a grade 5 – which will equate to the top third of the marks for a current C and the bottom third of the marks for a current B grade – or a grade 4.  

"We have been very clear in not talking about grade 5. We have set out the scale and have set out that the same proportion of students will get a 4 and above as a C and above," Ms Collier said.

'Dispelling some myths' about GCSE grades

She added: "Our role is to set out the changes to ensure that people understand what they are, why they have come in, what it means, and to dispel some myths."

For example, many still believe that 1 is the highest grade and 9 is the lowest grade when it is, in fact, the other way around . 

But the Ofqual boss doesn't think the confusion will be dispelled immediately, as recent research found that only 26 per cent of SME owners knew that current GCSEs were graded A* to G – despite changing decades ago. 

She said: "I think we need to avoid setting ourselves targets that are completely unrealistic in terms of businesses, for example."

And Ms Collier said the campaign would need the support of others in education. She said: "We are just one player in this system. We are the regulator but there are many stakeholders in this system with louder voices than us.

"We expect others to be able to pick this [material] up, use it, feedback queries and, if we need to improve and change, we can. We are only a small piece."



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