‘It’s not very fair or nec­es­sary’

Par­ents and chil­dren are anx­ious and con­fused about what con­sti­tutes a pass un­der the new grad­ing sys­tem

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - INSIGHT: RESULTS SEASON 2017 -

THEY REP­RE­SENT the big­gest changes to GCSES since the qual­i­fi­ca­tion be­gan, but less a than a fifth of par­ents think this year’s new grad­ing sys­tem is a “good idea”.

The 9-1 nu­mer­i­cal grades – re­plac­ing A* to G – were in­tro­duced to sig­nal that GCSES had been re­formed and tough­ened, and to of­fer bet­ter dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween pupils.

But a sur­vey – of more than 1,000 par­ents in Eng­land – re­veals that nearly two-thirds of those with chil­dren study­ing GCSES do not sup­port the nu­mer­i­cal sys­tem.

Cate Sum­mers shares their con­cerns: “I don’t un­der­stand why things have to keep be­ing changed all the time.”

The mother, whose daugh­ter will re­ceive her GCSE re­sults at a south-west Lon­don com­pre­hen­sive next week, adds: “I don’t un­der­stand what it’s go­ing to add apart from stress. I don’t think it is nec­es­sary or par­tic­u­larly fair.”

The Tes and Mum­snet poll also re­veals that al­most three-quar­ters of par­ents with chil­dren who have stud­ied for the GCSES do not think enough of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion about the grades has been pro­vided.

More than two-fifths of all par­ents do not know that a 9 rep­re­sents a top grade un­der the new sys­tem. The poll also un­cov­ers con­fu­sion about what rep­re­sents a pass.

In March, ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary Jus­tine Green­ing an­nounced that a grade 4 would be a “stan­dard pass” and pupils who achieved this in English and maths would not be re­quired to take re­sits.

Less than one-fifth of par­ents recog­nise a grade 4 as a pass un­der the new sys­tem, the sur­vey shows. In fact, slightly more think a grade 5 – which is on a par with a high C and a low B – is a pass.

Cathy Bowler, whose daugh­ter took her GCSES this year at a sec­ondary in Bury St Edmunds, Suf­folk, says she was un­aware what a “pass” would be un­til re­cently. “It has been very stress­ful for us,” she says. “How can you make plans for the fu­ture if you have got no idea what col­leges are look­ing for?

“The school was the un­der the im­pres­sion that [the pass] was go­ing to be a grade 5. I know in the mock ex­ams she was way off get­ting a 5 and that pan­icked us.”

More than two-fifths of par­ents with chil­dren in Years 10 and 11 think the new grades will hin­der their chil­dren’s prospects, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey.

Jus­tine Roberts, Mum­snet founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive, says: “There’s quite a lot of anx­i­ety and con­fu­sion among par­ents about GCSE re­grad­ing. The closer their chil­dren are to Year 11, the more wor­ried they are about the ef­fects [the new grades will have] on their chil­dren’s fu­ture chances.”

“Par­ents have al­ready ab­sorbed a lot of dire mes­sages about their chil­dren’s prospects and the un­pre­dictabil­ity of the jobs mar­ket, so they’re un­der­stand­ably con­cerned by any­thing that adds fur­ther un­cer­tainty.

“It seems clear that the ra­tio­nale for the grad­ing changes or what the ben­e­fits will be, es­pe­cially for those stu­dents who aren’t ex­pect­ing to land 8s and 9s, haven’t been fully com­mu­ni­cated.”

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