Will the new GCSE of grades 9 to 1 lead to new Elitism?

An article in the TES (The Times Educational Supplements – a magazine widely read by teachers) recently carried the headline “Why GCSE Reform may lead to a new ‘elitism’. The article raised concern felt in some quarters about the newly introduced numerical grading of 9-1 by OFQUAL (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation – the exams regulator).

In my view, the idea of changing the way educational achievements of young people are graded is another distraction from the core issue – just like the introduction of the A* grade. I am fortunate to have taught Physics to very bright young people – most of my mainstream school teaching was done in independent and grammar schools and was before the A* grade was introduced. My impression when the A* was being introduced was that it would be awarded only to young people who are just utterly bright and not to those who are quite bright but who have been coached and supported very heavily. I thought it was for the ‘real thinkers’. Evidence from the students who have been awarded A* shows that this is not always the case. I wonder if the introduction of the A* grade has served the purpose it was meant to serve? One must not by any means rubbish or play down the intelligence and diligence of the young people who have laboured hard to achieve the A* grade. They rightly deserve it and they, their teachers and supportive parents should all be commended.

My issue with the new grading system of 9 to 1, which will start in 2017 – affecting students who are currently in Y9 (13 and 14 year olds) is that it is a distraction and it may cause, yet more confusion. Everyone in the world understands what an “A student” is – at least in the in the western world, the Caribbean and Africa anyway. With the new grading system ‘9’ will be equivalent to A* and the new bottom grade will be ‘1’.

One thing I must say to those who fear elitism is that elitism is a fact of life anywhere in the world. Before we start attacking elitism, we ought to examine the meaning of the word ‘elite’…

In the concluding part of this article – next week – I will continue to examine the charge being levied by those who are opposed to the new grading system for GCSE in terms of its potential impact and perceived value. I will look at the definition of the word ‘elite’ and also ask the question: Is grade 9 just the start or are we likely to end up with a top grade that is considerable higher than grade 9 - perhaps  grade 99!



New grading structure old grading structure
9 A*
7 A
6 BC

Please see my blog for next week for a conclusion of this article