GCSE results announced amid confusion over new grading

As over five million students receive GCSE results, confusion over the new grading system for English language, English literature and maths is proving a headache for teachers, pupils and parents.

Pupils receive GCSE results amid confusion over new marks
As students across the world receive their GCSE exam results, pupils in England are left in confusion over the new numerical grading system.This is the first year that students in England have received results for three subjects – English language, English literature and mathematics – under a new grading scale of 9 to 1 rather than A*–G.The numerical system has drawn criticism, with the exam watchdog, Ofqual, warning that thousands of students are likely to receive the wrong grades, and the Institute of Directors describing it as ‘gibberish’.However, Nick Gibb, the School Standards Minister, said, “The government’s new gold-standard GCSEs in English and maths have been benchmarked against the best in the world, raising academic standards for pupils. These reforms represent another step in our drive to raise standards, so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a global workplace.“Already pupils and teachers are rising to the challenge, with more than 50,000 top 9 grades awarded across the new GCSEs and more than two-thirds of entries sitting the tougher English and maths exams securing a grade 4 or C and above – a standard pass.”

GCSE results overview

  • Across English language, English literature and maths, 51,257 grade 9s were awarded
  • Entries in the reformed GCSE subjects of English language, English literature and maths all increased from last year
  • There have been record entries into geography GCSEs this year
  • Post-16 attainment for a standard pass in English has risen from 24.4 per cent last year, to 31.1 per cent in England
  • Attainment in modern foreign languages remains broadly stable, including French, German and Spanish
  • More pupils appear to be taking their maths GCSEs at a time that is right for them, as early entries in maths reduced by 64.6 per cent, but the number of entries gaining a grade 9 is at 13.3 per cent, compared to 3.5 per cent overall

What are the changes to GCSEs? 

A wave of reforms to the GCSE system began in in 2015. It saw a return to a linear approach, with students sitting examinations at the end of the two–year course rather than being allowed to sit them at various points during the course.Pupils were also forced to study the full curriculum. Previously, they had been allowed to study a narrower part of the syllabus in some subjects, such as English literature and history.September 2015 saw sweeping changes to the curricula in English language, English literature and maths, including the introduction of more-demanding content.Pupils embarking on their GCSE studies that September are the first to receive marks for English language, English literature and maths under a new grading scale of 9 to 1, with 9 being the top grade. The numerical grades were designed by former Education Secretary Michael Gove partly to counter grade inflation at the top end, since A and A* are split between grades 7, 8 and 9.The numerical system will be phased in to all other GCSEs over the next two years.

New GCSEs at a glance

  • A new grading scale of 9 to 1, with 9 being the top grade, replaces the old A*–G system. The government believes that this will allow greater differentiation between students and help distinguish the new GCSEs from previous versions
  • Assessment is mainly by exam, with other types of assessment used only where they are needed to test essential skills
  • New, more demanding, content, developed by government and the exam boards
  • Courses are designed for two years of study. They are no longer divided into modules, and students take all their exams in one period at the end of their course
  • Exams can only be split into ‘foundation tier’ and ‘higher tier’ if one exam paper does not give all students the opportunity to show their knowledge and abilities
  • Resits are only available each November in English language and maths

Why are GCSEs changing?

The raft of changes was introduced after criticism that the GCSE was becoming devalued, as increasing numbers of students were receiving the top A* grade.The government's reforms aim to raise the standard of education in Britain. However, critics argue that thousands of pupils are likely to receive incorrect grades, and that the confusing combination of letters and numbers that this year’s cohort has received will put them at a disadvantage when they apply for jobs.Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, told the Times Educational Supplement that employers might think, “What is this gibberish, and what does it mean, and how has it changed from previous grading systems?”Said Mr Nevin, “If the employer is time-poor and resource-constrained, then they can, on occasions, be quite keen to get through as many [CVs] as possible. So if they have a CV that they don’t understand, then they might opt for the ones that they do.”
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However, some experts believe that one of the more positive changes will be in how schools are ranked. Rather than looking at the number of pupils achieving a C grade or above, which tempts schools to place too much emphasis on those who are attaining just below a C grade and too little emphasis on low and high achievers, schools will now receive a progress score that measures every pupil’s GCSE results against their Key Stage 2 tests, taken at the end of primary school.The new GCSEs are being been rolled out in a phased approach. New curricula for 17 subjects, including sciences, art and design, history, geography and modern foreign languages, were introduced last year. Further subjects will be added this year and in 2018. 

School GCSE results

Check back to find out how the individual schools did as they come in!

Alice Smith School, Kuala Lumpur

Alice Smith School students once again attained outstanding grades, with 70 per cent of all results awarded at grades A* - A. The school reached the heights of 89 per cent A* - B grades and 97 per cent of all grades being  A*- C. 

Bangkok Patana

Bangkok Patana are celebrating excellent IGCSE results. In May/June 2017, 213 students sat these examinations with the majority being from Year 11, but there was also an additional cohort from Year 10 sitting IGCSE Mathematics a year early, along with some students from Years 8 and 9 sitting examinations in their first language. With an overall pass rate of 100 per cent, the cohort achieved 95 per cent of grades at or above Grade C. In addition, an incredible 81 per cent of all grades were awarded at A*-B. 117 students (76 per cent) achieved an average exam grade of B or above.

Box Hill School, Surrey

Box Hill School is thrilled with its 80 per cent A*–C pass rate which is nearly 15 per cent higher than the national average. This is particularly rewarding in the context of a non-selective approach to education, which also puts holistic learning at the core of school life. 

British School of Brussels

At BSB, A* passes stand at 36 per cent – 6.5 per cent higher than in 2016. Remarkably, just over 60 per cent of grades were at A* or A, with 78 per cent of grades at A*-B. Again, both of these figures are well above last year’s excellent IGCSE results.           In addition to Year 11, classes of students in younger secondary year groups passed IGCSE in modern languages early, with a huge number of top grades yet again. The overwhelming majority passed with A*/A. 

Bromsgrove School, Worcestershire

Bromsgrove School’s fifth form has achieved a superb set of GCSE results, which are among the School’s best. 36 per cent of the total grades achieved were A*, representing Bromsgrove’s highest-ever top end result. 60 per cent of results were graded A*/A, also amongst the best results a fifth form cohort has achieved. The overall grade spread continues to be on a par with the strong performances the School has come to expect in recent years. 

Culford School, Suffolk

Culford School celebrated another excellent set of GCSE results this year, with 45 per cent of all grades at A* or A grade. The overall pass rates were 45 per cent A*–A (or 9–7) grades, 68 per cent A*–B (or 9–6), and 92 per cent A*–C (or 9–4). 99 per cent of entrants were awarded three A*–C grades. 85 pupils sat GCSEs at Culford in 2017.

Denstone College, Staffordshire

Fifth Form students at Denstone College are celebrating after achieving strong results in their GCSE and IGCSE exams. 26.3 per cent of exams taken resulted in a top A* grade, and 54 per cent of entries resulted in an A* or A grade. Students gained an average of ten GCSE and IGCSE passes at C grade or above.Individual girls and boys achieved some outstanding results. A total of 23 students (that is 22 per cent of the year group) came away with at least six A* grades, and 23 students achieved a complete set of A* /A grades.

D'Overbroeck's, Oxford

At D'Overbroeck's, 54 per cent of students were awarded an A* or A grade and 20 per cent of all maths entries were awarded a 9 under the new GCSE grading system, which is higher than an A*. A D'Overbroeck's spokesperson said, “Despite the radical changes taking place in GCSE exams at the moment, and in particular the ramping up of difficulty in the new style English and Maths papers, this has been another very successful year for d’Overbroeck’s 7-11. Our students have done themselves proud across the board, with well over half of all grades being at A*/A  or equivalent and with every single student achieving at least a grade 4 (the new standard pass) in English Language and Maths. In addition, despite only a very small proportion of students nationally being awarded a grade 9, an exceptional 20% of our own GCSE Mathematicians achieved just that this year.”

Fettes College, Edinburgh

Fettes College are celebrating their best ever GCSE results with 43 per cent of all the exams taken graded A* and 75 per cent A*/A grades. English: 77 per cent A*/A with a 100 per cent pass rate
Maths: 79 per cent A*/A with a 100 per cent pass rate 
Science: 84 per cent A*/A (separate sciences and Dual Award combined)Particular congratulations go to the 34 pupils (34 per cent) who received nothing lower than an A, including eight students who achieved nine or more A* grades.

Haileybury, Hertford

Haileybury’s pupils achieved 63.7 per cent A* or A grades in their GCSE and IGCSE exams. This is the second best set of GCSE results ever achieved at the college. Thirty-five percent of all grades awarded to the class of 2017 were A*s. Five pupils achieved a perfect score of A* grades in every subject they sat, and 26 pupils notched up all A*s or As. Pupils performed particularly well in English Language, with over 80 per cent securing an A* or A grade.Haileybury’s science students performed impressively in Triple Science: 83 per cent achieved A*/A in Physics, 79.7 per cent A*/A in Biology and 68 per cent A*/A in Chemistry. The College is currently creating a new STEM Centre that will bring Science, Technology, ICT and Maths together into one dynamic space.

Headington School, Oxford

Of the 120 girls sitting exams at Headington School, 11 achieved 10 or more A*s, while an impressive 47 girls, nearly 40 per cent of the year group, achieved at least 10 A*s or As. A total of 49.3 per cent of all grades were A*s, while 81.7 per cent were at A* or A.An incredible 83 per cent of girls taking History achieved an A* with 98.1 per cent securing an A or A*. Spanish results also soared, with a rise of more than 35 percentage points in those achieving the top grade since last year, with 53.4 per cent of girls sitting the subject achieving an A* this year. Physics and Chemistry results were again strong, with 55.7 per cent of entrants achieving an A* in Physics and 60.4 per cent in Chemistry, while there was a clean A/A* sweep for our Latin students, with 64.3 per cent of those securing the top grade. 

Jerudong International School, Brunei

The 150 Year 11 students and staff at Jerudong International School are celebrating success in the results of the International GCSE (IGCSE) examinations. The results for 2017 surpassed the results for 2016 and have shown a steady increase year on year for the past three years.The results at the top end showed a significant increase from the 2016 results. Indeed, 33 per cent of all grades awarded were at A* and 57.5 per cent of the 1100 grades awarded were either an A* or an A grade. This was a fantastic achievement!There were strong performance across the school with 90 per cent of chemistry, physics and Chinese grades awarded at A/A* level. Over 70 per cent of IGCSE biology, geography, music, Spanish and Malay grades were Grade A*/A.

Kent College, Canterbury

At Kent College, the overall pass rate was 100 per cent and most students achieved 5 grades at the equivalent of A*-C. Around 70 per cent of all grades achieved were equivalent to A*– B grades. These statistics follow on from the best ever results at A level and IB already announced.

Mayfield School, East Sussex

Mayfield is celebrating some of its best ever GCSE results. Over one-third of all entries were awarded either A* or 9. Almost three quarters of entries were graded A*/A or 9–7 and 98 per cent A* to C or equivalent.An outstanding 20 per cent of the year group was awarded A*/A or equivalent grades in all their subjects and almost 20 per cent achieved 9, A* or equivalent. Over three quarters of the year group attained 5 or more A*/A or equivalent.Exceptional results were achieved in mathematics, with 42 per cent of girls awarded top scores of 9 and 8 under the new GCSE grading system. Keen mathematicians also studied the challenging further maths IGCSE course, with almost all achieving A*/A grades and over 20 per cent awarded A* with Distinction. In Chemistry 90 per cent received A*/A grades and 83 per cent in Physics.

The Mount, Mill Hill International

Pupils at the Mount, Mill Hill International celebrated their GCSE and IGCSE results this year. 45 pupils from 17 countries took IGCSE and GCSEs in the intensive One Year GCSE course in thirteen different subjects in addition to their first languages: 88 per cent achieved A* to C with 40.4 per cent achieving A* to A. Many subjects including Additional Mathematics, Chemistry, Geography, Art and Design and Music enjoyed a 100 per cent A* to C pass rate.

St Lawrence College, Kent

The top grades at St Lawrence College have increased again this year, with 13 per cent of all GCSE grades at A*, and 33 per cent of all grades A* or A. STEM subjects featured prominently in the success with Biology gaining 84 per cent A*/A, Chemistry 63 per cent, Physics 68 per cent and Computing 75 per cent A*/A.

St Mary’s School, Cambridge

The first St Mary’s School, Cambridge students to take GCSEs under the new 9 to 1 grading scheme has today received excellent results – including one student who achieved nine A* grades and three grade 9s. In those subjects graded under the new scheme – English Language, English Literature, and Mathematics –13 per cent of English Language papers were awarded the new top grade, against 2 per cent nationally, and 9 per cent of Mathematics papers were also awarded grade 9, against 3 per cent nationally.St Mary’s School, Cambridge students’ interest and performance in a range of foreign languages tells a different story. 86 per cent of Latin results and 83 per cent of German results were awarded the top A* grade and 81 per cent of Spanish papers were awarded at A*/A grade.As a hot topic for HR and relocation professionals supporting employees and their families on the move, education is a key area of focus across the Relocate media. For the latest education news, articles and practical advice, see our Education & Schools section. Support your relocating families with our Guide to International Education & Schools and our Guide to Education & Schools in the UK.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory

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