All change please

The last few weeks have seen a flurry of exam results come in. Now the dust has settled, here’s a rundown of our key takeaways.

On cloud 9?

For the last year we’ve seen countless reports in the education press claiming teachers are stumped by the new grading system. Going from the long-standing A*-G to 9-1 criteria, there are now three top grades (7-9) to give greater differentiation to the highest achieving students.

Now they’ve come into play, what impact has this had on students and teachers?

As reported by the BBC, ‘there were 50,000 grade 9s overall – two-thirds of which were girls’ and apparently this is evidence that students and teachers are ‘already rising to the challenge’ of reaching these new higher levels. With 2,000 students receiving a grade 9 in all three new subjects marked numerically, this was higher than anticipated.

It’s tough to say at this stage what the long-term impact will be. For the foreseeable, we’re going to be faced with a group of people who have a mish mash of grades referenced in CVs and job applications, which is bound to have some kind of effect on the recruitment process and cause confusion. Perhaps we’ll see businesses increasingly overlooking exam results as they’re considering who to hire, just like some of the big four have recently introduced.

Par for the course

Teachers have been hit by a double whammy of GCSE shake ups this year. Not only has the grading system changed for maths, English and English literature, they’ve also apparently been made harder.

Removing coursework and continuous assessment from subjects is a big factor in this. Now a student’s results (and two years of study) hinge on one final exam, harking back to the days of O levels. The content itself has also been stepped up a notch. Educators have gone as far as terming the new maths GCSE ‘fat maths’, as it’s more like ‘one and a half exams.’ They’ve also complained about limited information available around the syllabus and a lack of appropriate training materials – making exam prep a bit of a stab in the dark.

It’s a tricky one as everyone learns in different ways. Spare a thought for those students who prospered from coursework and dreaded the exams. Now it feels like the emphasis is being placed on learning subject matter off by heart, rather than truly understanding it.

Combined with the change in grading, it appears that these harder exams have contributed to a 0.6% dip in pass grades overall.

What’s more, the Telegraph reports that at a time when talk of student mental health and wellbeing is rife, these changes may cause additional stress for students who have to deal with unexpected results which will inevitable affect their mindset as they enter another year of study.

Last-minute decisions

On a brighter note, the results for A levels have been pretty good overall. In fact, the number of top grades being awarded has increased for the first time in six years. It appears boys are outperforming girls and overall 97.9% were awarded pass grades. With so many people getting higher grades, and many doing better than expected, students are looking at their options at the last minute. This year saw over 11,000 uni places offered through clearing within the first 24 hours, which is a difference of 5,700 versus 2014.

The reason that there are so many places available through clearing? Applications were down on last year and a main factor for this could be the rising tuition fees. At over £9,000, students are set on securing value for money.

With the start of the new term fast approaching, teachers are going to be getting on that exam preparation bandwagon imminently. It’ll be Results Day 2018 before we know it!



About the author

Natasha Marlow

Natasha joined Hopscotch as an intern and now works across DfT, RNLI and John Lewis. Having been a Scout in her teenage years and volunteering as an adult member with the Association, Natasha knows what impact positive experiences and leadership can have on young people. These experiences in the youth sector, mixed with her advertising degree, led her to working at Hopscotch.

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