Barkingside headteacher questions new GCSE system

There is just over two weeks to go before teenagers around the borough collect their GCSE results. P

There is just over two weeks to go before teenagers around the borough collect their GCSE results. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/PA Images - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A Barkingside headteacher said the new GCSE grading system does not meet the needs of most students.

This summer marks the end for the familiar A* to G results which are being replaced with a numeric scale of 9-1.

While it will take three years to convert all subjects over to the new system, this summer’s GCSE students will see numerals instead of letters for maths and English.

Sam Walters, headteacher at Redbridge Alternative Provision, told the Recorder that the new system could alienate some pupils.

“I am not saying the new system doesn’t work for everyone but it doesn’t meet the needs of the many,” he said.

“As long as the focus remains on progress then that is ok but when you focus on attainment it can be damaging to pupils’ self-esteem.”

This year will see some students forever left with a CV which boasts an 8 in maths and an A* in geography.

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Mr Walters said it is unclear how the grades for the old and new system equate and it would be a shame if this year’s cohort of GCSE students were “treated like Guinea pigs”.

“The rigor of exams had become a lot harder and where the old maths exams were two lots of 90 minute papers, the new ones are three lots of one hour 30 minute papers,” he added.

“The system is becoming very academically focused and not always what is needed educationally – it is definitely more exam focused.

“In an era when mental health and anxiety issues are up, creative subjects are often therapeutic for pupils and gives them a break.”

When the plans for the new system were first announced in 2013, the government said the alternative grading would clearly differentiate between students of different abilities, especially among higher achieving students.

“This year’s GCSEs and A-levels are the next step in a six year process of reform to ensure young people have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the future,” a Department for Education spokeswoman said.

“Teachers, schools and universities were consulted throughout their development and working with Ofqual we have published multiple resources over a number of years about the new qualifications, including information packs for every school and a dedicated website to answer questions people might have.

“We have also deliberately phased in the introduction of the new GCSEs to reduce workload on the profession and ensure teachers and students have time to prepare.”