Ofqual starts conversation on how standards should be set for new GCSEs

Ofqual has launched a conversation with the public on how standards should be set for new GCSEs.

Following a previous announcement that new GCSEs will be graded from 9 to 1, with 9 being the top grade, Ofqual is now asking for views on how it should set and maintain performance standards for them, and how the grading system could work.

Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey said: “How standards are set and maintained, in effect where we set the bar and how we hold it steady, are extremely important issues.

“We want to hear from students, parents, employers, higher and further education school leaders and teachers about our proposals.

“It is vital that people engage with these issues, as many will need to think about how they will use the new grading structure to make decisions about students applying for work or education opportunities. And we will be working hard to help them understand the new system as 2017 approaches.”

Ofqual’s consultation sets out how awarding happens at the moment. It also considers alternative approaches and seeks people’s views. It makes it clear that it is Ofqual’s view that the best course of action would be to continue to use and improve the current approach.

Ofqual is proposing that a national reference test should be introduced ready for 2017 and beyond to enhance the approach and provide extra information about the performance of the year group. This will help make sure that real changes in the performance of the year group can be reflected in the grades awarded each year. The consultation sets out the outline, the details of the test are still to be developed.

Teachers have been clear that they want to know, above all else, what grade in the future will equate to the current grade C and what this will mean for the accountability measures – how schools are held to account.

Ofqual proposes to anchor the current grade C to the new grade 4. This means that broadly the same proportion of candidates will achieve a grade 4 or above as currently achieve a grade C or above.

The Government has a policy aim that there must be an increase in demand at the level of what is widely considered to be a pass. Ofqual is proposing that the grade 5 should be internationally benchmarked. The performance at that grade should correspond, so far as possible, to performance in high-performing countries.

Glenys Stacey said: “The anchor point with the new grade 4 and current grade C will provide some valuable certainty for people as the first new GCSEs are awarded in 2017.

“If the proposals for grades 4 and 5 go ahead, the Government can consider how the new grading scale will be reflected in the accountability regime.

“There is still much to do, but we know that teachers will want as much time as possible to understand the new grading system and familiarise themselves with the new qualifications. That is why we aim to have decisions made about setting standards and the new specifications in school this autumn, a year ahead of first teaching,” she added.

The consultation runs until June 30. Ofqual will be holding a number of events around the country to talk to people about these proposals and other aspects of qualifications reform in May and June. Details will be publicised nearer the time.

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Source: Ofqual