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Courses and exams are changing to ensure that young people have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century. The new GCSEs ensure that students leave school better prepared for work or further study. They cover more challenging content and are designed to match standards in the strongest performing education systems elsewhere in the world.

  1. The new GCSEs in England have a new 9 to 1 grading scale, to better differentiate between the highest performing students and distinguish clearly between the old and new exams.
  2. Grade 9 is the highest grade and will be awarded to fewer students than the current A*.

  3. The first exams in new English language, English literature and maths GCSEs were sat in summer 2017 and the rest of the new GCSEs will be rolled out over the next three years.

  4. The old and new GCSE grading scales do not directly compare but there are three points where they align, as the diagram shows:
    • The bottom of grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of grade A;
    • The bottom of grade 4 is aligned with the bottom of grade C; and
    • The bottom of grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of grade G.

  5. Although the exams will cover more challenging content, it is right that pupils are not disadvantaged simply by being the first to sit the new GCSEs. The approach used by Ofqual, the exams regulator ensures that, all things being equal, broadly the same proportion of pupils get grades 1, 4 and 7 and above in any subject, as would have got G, C or A and above respectively in the old system.

  6. The Department for Education recognises grade 4 and above as a ‘standard pass’; this is the minimum level that students need to reach in English and maths, otherwise they need to continue to study these subjects as part of their post-16 education. There is no re-take requirement for other subjects.

  7. Employers, universities and colleges will continue to set the GCSE grades they require for entry to employment or further study. We are saying to them that if you previously set grade C as your minimum requirement, then the nearest equivalent is grade 4. The old A* to G grades will remain valid for future employment or study.

  8. For measuring school performance, the Department for Education will publish the proportion of students achieving a grade 5 and above in English and maths. A grade 5 and above in English and maths is recognised as a “strong pass”, a benchmark in line with the expectations of top performing education systems around the world – this is one of the headline measures of school performance. The Department for Education will also publish the proportion of students achieving a grade 4 or above in English and maths for transparency and to enable schools to show their students’ achievements.

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