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Teachers will find it “incredibly challenging” to predict what GCSE grades pupils get this year after a major shake-up of the exam system, Ofsted’s London director has warned.
Thousands of teenagers will pick up results tomorrow in tough new English and maths GCSEs, which are now graded from 9 down to 1.
The beefed-up exams, which are graded on final exams rather than coursework or modules, have been described as the most difficult since the end of O-levels in the Eighties.
Senior Ofsted director Mike Sheridan told the Standard that he is not expecting schools to predict students’ exact grades. He said: “Whenever there is a change there is always an element of uncertainty. We have told [schools], ‘Nobody is expecting you to predict what your grades will be’.
“I don’t predict it to be chaos but there is an element of uncertainty.”
He said schools will know how well-prepared their pupils were for the exams, but they will not know where the new benchmarks will fall, so predicting grades will be “incredibly challenging”. He added: “Nobody is expecting those kind of predictions. Schools will have prepared young people for the GCSEs but we are not expecting anybody to second-guess where the 6s or 7s will be.”
Lord Baker, who introduced the original GCSEs between 1986 and 1988, has criticised the new grading system, saying that “schools won’t understand it, and certainly employers don’t at all”. He said exam regulator Ofqual should be “very wary of making such fundamental changes as this”.
Mr Sheridan said the shake-up of exams is the biggest since GCSEs were introduced to replace O-levels in 1988.
This year’s GCSE students took the new exams in English, English literature and maths. Other subjects will follow next year.
The content has been made more demanding, there are no modules, much less coursework and all exams are at the end of the two-year course.
The changes were made to ensure GCSEs are a “gold standard” qualification and prepare students better for A-levels. However, there have been warnings of confusion as this year students will get a mixture of number and letter grades in different subjects.
In the new GCSEs there are also two different types of pass grades — a grade 4 “standard” pass and a grade 5 “strong” pass.
The Institute of Directors warned last week that some employers might not understand the new grades and would see them as “gibberish”.
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