Some quick thoughts on the new #GCSE reform and post 16 progression

The latest in a tumult of change sweeping through all stages of England’s education system was announced this morning with the Ofqual consultation on which grades in the new GCSEs (1-9, with 9 being the best) will be equal to what grades under the old GCSEs (with the all important for the student C gateway).

A few possible implications regarding how these changes will affect the progression of young people onto the next stages of their learning and how CEIAG staff will have to adapt spring to mind.

So, bearing in mind that these will first be awarded to students in the summer of 2017 in English, English Literature and Maths GCSE only and that the content of the curriculum studied by these students for the 2 year course will have been more challenging than the predecessor and it will have been assessed purely on terminal exams rather than incorporating speaking and listening elements…

1. The proposal that a grade 4 will be equivalent to a grade C from the legacy qualification and a grade 7 will be equivalent to an A – will mean very different things depending on which side of the ‘C’ boundary a child falls. The increased number of grades (6 rather than 4) above the boundary will spread students achieving a “pass” out across these grades and give Sixth Forms and HE more scope to distinguish between higher achieving candidates for both A Level and Russell Group type degrees and between A Level courses even at the same institution, you may see a greater variance in entry requirements (History A Level courses asking for a “7 or above in GCSE History” for example rather a standard 5 or 6 across the other subjects).

For those below the  boundary it will be a different story. More children, to begin with, will be clumped across fewer grades below this raised standard and will therefore have the choice of Post 16 routes restricted. The Dfe believe that improving standards and changes to Key Stage 2 curriculum and tests will raise standards of attainment in the longer term but most people’s first conclusion will be that will see a larger proportion of students each year not have the choice of the full range of pathways open to them. The 4 A Level and higher vocational qualification route will not be possible for as many students as it is now and, because of the rules for English & Maths retakes, more students will see the options that are open to them become more prescribed. I fear there are implications for student motivation here in Key Stage 4 which CEIAG professionals will be at the forefront of addressing.

2. 2017 and 2016 is going to be a dogs dinner for CEIAG workers in Secondary schools – As it will only be new GCSEs in English Language, English Literature and Maths awarded this year, students will open their envelopes on results day to find a grade 1-9 in these qualifications but still be awarded A-G in any other GCSEs they will have taken such as History, Drama, Music etc. Many students will have also studied a L2 BTEC course so receive a Distinction, Merit, Pass or Fail in those subjects.

This will have repercussions as those students go on through the education system and their working lives but also in the long tail of guidance and build up to transition that pre-empt those results. How will Sixth Forms, FE Colleges and Apprenticeships Employers adjust their requirements to reflect this mix of new and old? Will they be able to communicate their requirements to feeder schools early enough so proper IAG can take place? How will these changes interact and impact with the changes to the A Level curriculum and the removal of the AS mid-point? Will Apprenticeship employers react in time to adjust their online application sites or be fully aware of the equivalent grades?

Of course this is still at the consultation stage and the Ofqual documents states that, ultimately, the decision on where the grading falls will be based on the feedback from employers and FE and HE. Meanwhile, for the students and those trying to advise them, there are lots of answers still to come.

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