Are the new GCSE grades 9 to 1 Elitist – what is elitism anyway?

In my last article I started to examine the charge being made by those who are opposed to the new grading system for GCSE, in terms of its potential impact and perceived value. In this concluding part of that article, I look at the definition of the word ‘elite’ and ask if we will end up with a top grade that is considerable higher than grade 9.

Before we start attacking elitism, we ought to examine the meaning of the word ‘elite’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines elite as  “A select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society”.  As long as other people, who are not members of the elite in a particular area of life are not being looked down upon or condemned as been ‘no-good,’ it is fine to have elite and it is a fact of life. I have no problem whatsoever with elitism or the word ‘superior’ in the definition of ‘elite’, as when you achieve mastery in a particular field or endeavour, we describe your skills in that niche as being superior to others. It does not mean that one is a superior human being in comparison to others.

Anyone who ever runs a business understands the importance of concentration, discrimination, organisation and communication – among other attributes. We do not use the rather strong word – of ‘discrimination’ these days, as it is too politically incorrect.  We have serious problems when we begin to discriminate against people by race, gender or religion – especially in circumstances in which there is no justification for it. One extreme example of such is apartheid South Africa about 30 years ago.

It is far too politically incorrect in a modern civilised society to use the word discrimination. Universities discriminate against those who achieve lower exam grades and employers discriminate against less experienced people. Those who cannot afford to pay double or more than the standard price for tickets are segregated and discriminated against when queuing up for entrance to a rock concert or an amusement park.

It is fine to have elites as long as the ticket into each elite group is based on merit.  I’ve met plumbers who are a lot more articulate, better organised and who are a lot more culturally aware than most graduates. These plumbers and other tradespeople, who deliver a high quality service and provide the end user a memorable experience, are in my view ‘elite plumbers’. Many of them also clean up after their work and they don’t charge you the earth for the privilege of their services either!


                           New GCSE Grades 9 to 1 – from 2017
New grading structure Old grading structure
9 A*
7 A
6 BC

Will we soon have grade 20?

I do not particularly like or see the point of the new 9 to 1 grading system. Those of us who believe there is grade inflation will argue that – just like the A* has lost its value, it is only a matter of time before the top grade changes from the proposed 9 to something significantly higher. Perhaps the advocates of the new grading system have a galaxy of space to manoeuvre. I suppose the top grade 9 will eventually become grade 20!

Now that a decision has been made perhaps we should just get on with it and hope it solves more problems than it creates.

Please see below for a link to some of our previous blogs on education matters and also to the article by TES on 'elitism'

TES article in the TES –Why GCSE reform may lead to a new ‘elitism