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Welcome clarity provided on reformed GCSE grading system

The Education Secretary Justine Greening has provided clarity around the terminology for the new GCSE grading scale, in a letter to the Education Select Committee.

In it, the Education Secretary confirms that rather than reporting on the "standard pass", the Government  will distinguish between a grade 4 as a "standard pass" and a grade 5 as a "strong pass."

The letter confirms that the Government will continue to publish not just the "standard pass" (grade 4 and above) but also the "strong pass" (at grade 5 and above) in school performance tables, with achievement at grade 5 being one of the benchmarks used to measure the performance of schools. School performance will continue to be judged on the range of headline progress, attainment and destination measures in performance tables. The main accountability measure that determines the floor and coasting standard for school performance will continue to be Progress 8, which is not affected by where the threshold measures are set. 

Under the new system, a grade 4 and above will be equivalent to a C and above. This will remain the level that pupils must achieve in order not to be required to continue studying English and maths post 16.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, says "any change in education brings about challenge, and the moves from awarding GCSEs from A* to G to 1 to 9 is a good example of this. The reforms require school leaders, teachers, parents, pupils and Ofsted themselves to get to grips with what these changes mean.

"The announcement today from Justine Greening provides welcome clarity. Confirming that the government will define a grade 4 as a standard pass is helpful. Previously this was pegged at a 5. The grade 4 is a more accurate measure and something we have been pressing for. This is better for pupils, and for schools and the accountability system that measures them."

James Bowen, director of middle leaders' union NAHT Edge, says "confirmation that a grade 4 is equivalent to the old style 'standard' pass of a C or above is welcome. With any new change, it is important to be clear about how this relates to the system we already have in place.

"A grade 4 more accurately reflects what school leaders know is a standard pass mark. The announcement today is a positive step forward to embedding the new system."

The first of the new GCSEs – in English and maths – will be awarded this August, with further subjects to follow over the next three years.

The full response from Justine Greening can be found here

Ofqual and the DfE have also produced a pack of slides with information that teachers can use to communicate with students and parents on the changes that are happening to GCSEs, AS and A levels, and school and college performance measures.

First published 07 February 2018