GCSE changes are coming into effect this summer. But what does this mean for teachers? How can they help their students achieve the top grades?
We took a look at the new system and what this means for teachers across the UK:
How are GCSEs changing?
Instead of being graded in letters (A*-G), students will now be assessed numerically (9-1). Grade 9 is the highest, and is set above the traditional A*.
Grade 4 will be considered a ‘standard pass’ and Grade 5 a ‘strong pass’.
The aim of these changes is to provide more differentiation among students, especially the top tier pupils. It is thought that fewer Grade 9s will be awarded than current A*s. Predictions suggest that 20% of those who achieved A-A* in their exams would be equivalent to a new Grade 9.
The 2017 GCSE results will see the core subjects (English Language, English Literature and Maths) adopt this new system. Another 20 subjects will grade numerically by 2018, and most others will follow in 2019.
What do these GCSE changes mean for teachers?
Students are not the only ones who will be affected by GCSE changes. Teachers will have to adapt their approach to ensure that their students achieve the top grades and are confident in their work.
Here are four ways that these changes may affect teachers:
1. New marking strategy
As the new grading system is implemented, teachers’ marking strategies will have to change to reflect it.
While it is still unclear what exactly constitutes grades 7-9, it has been said that there will be a greater emphasis on mathematical skills and quality of written communication in all subjects.
However, judging by this year’s odd GCSE questions, we think that the top grades might require some out-of-the box thinking. Teachers must encourage their students to think around the subject and imagine alternative applications to get the top marks.
To find out subject specific GCSE changes, take a look at the government-provided grade descriptors.
2. Complicated transition
Different grading systems will be used across year groups and subjects for at least the next couple of years. This means that teachers who instruct multiple year groups or specialise in more than one subject will have to use both systems simultaneously.
3. Changes to the curriculum
The changes to GCSEs have made the curriculum more exam-focused, therefore students won’t complete as much coursework. This puts much more pressure on the students and teachers to perform well in final exams.
Most subjects will not have a foundation paper – only Science, Maths and Languages will provide tiered options. While it may seem more straightforward for students of all abilities to take the same exam, this could present challenges in teaching a mixed ability group.
4. Low student morale
As it’s harder for students to achieve the top grades, many are likely to feel inadequate or devalued, not to mention confused by the new grading system.
Teachers will have to work harder to engage and equip students to do their best in exams, and think positively about their results.
To boost student morale, teachers could consider introducing curriculum-based school trips. These can breathe new life into a subject and encourage out of the box thinking, removing focus from the grading system. It may be the tool you need to help your students achieve the best possible results after these changes.