June 2018

The know zone

  • Blade runners
    A helicopter landing on the playing field is a prime learning opportunity but is mixing whirring rotors with a swarm of students really a good idea? More
  • Reducing workload
    Workload in the education profession is one of the factors that must be addressed to help retain our staff and ensure we have a happy, and health workforce. So, what are the causes of workload? What can be done to reduce it? Are you taking any steps to help reduce the workload of your staff? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Unfair shares
    Education has some of the worst instances of a gender pay gap - particularly among leaders - but the picture is less clear-cut than the figures suggest. Sara Ford unpicks the reasons. More
  • Setting the standard
    Kevin Gilmartin takes a look at the new apprenticeship standards and the newly formed body responsible for their development. More
  • Be prepared
    2018 is the most significant year of GCSE reform, with 17 new GCSEs being awarded for the first time. Suzanne O'Farrell looks at lessons learned from 2017 and answers key questions about this year's reforms. More
  • Pension myth
    Stephen Casey seeks to clarify a common misunderstanding by members about the teachers' pensions final salary scheme and the career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme. More
Bookmark and Share

2018 is the most significant year of GCSE reform, with 17 new GCSEs being awarded for the first time. Suzanne O’Farrell looks at lessons learned from 2017 and answers key questions about this year’s reforms.

Be prepared

The OCR and Whole Education report, The New 9–1 GCSEs: From first teach to joy and relief (https://tinyurl.com/yavtc8y8 see pages 12–13), looks at the impact of the first wave of GCSE reforms and offers the following advice on preparing pupils for the next wave of reforms:

  • Develop resilience, independence and revision strategies in students, and ensure that students are encouraged to remain positive.
  • Become familiar with the new specifications and style of assessments, and make use of materials from all exam boards.
  • Move away from reporting progress in grades and reduce the emphasis on predicted grades (many use percentages).
  • Structure your curriculum in KS3 to ensure smooth progression to KS4.
  • Where possible, collaborate with colleagues within the same institution or MAT.
  • Think about becoming an examiner for your chosen exam board.
  • Trust your own professional judgement.

What happens if KS2 outcomes are different each year?

Awarding organisations standardise KS2 results so that fluctuations from year to year don’t affect GCSE results.

What’s likely to happen with tiering in science?

Students who may be considered a solid 4 (with maybe a 5 on a good day) should be entered for foundation. Students who are likely to get a 5 or 6 should be entered for higher tier. Exams should be a positive experience for students, so please think carefully about entering less able students to the higher tier where they may only be able to access a small number of questions.

Is there an advantage in entering for either foundation or higher in the 4 to 6 grade range?

No. Entries are made for the qualification as a whole, at either foundation or higher tier. Exam papers will include questions that are the same on both tiers. This helps exam boards align grade standards across tiers, so that it is no more or less difficult to achieve the same grade on different tiers.

How can I estimate what my results may look like on the new science grading?

If in 2017 your school obtained 65% A–C in core science and 65% in additional science, it doesn’t mean you will get 65% 9–4 in combined science. Anchor points are complicated by the switch from two separate exams, each with A*–G grading, to a single exam with double grading (e.g. 5–5, 5–4, 4–4, 4–3). In reality, some of the 65% A*–C may well have gained a D in the other science exam, so it could be that only 60% gained C or above in both. Assuming that anchor points work correctly, you could estimate that only 60% should get 4–4 or above with possibly 5% achieving 4–3. Calculate how many students obtained A*–C in both core and additional, and use that as the point of comparison for new 4–4 or above. Similarly, A*–A in both compares with 7–7 or above.

Will the separate science outcomes look any different to previous years?

Historically, the cohort taking the separate sciences has been more able and, therefore, the proportions of students at A*–A and A*–C have been higher than for science and additional science. These anchor points in each science should translate across. If we see a similar pattern of entries to the new qualifications, we would expect to see a higher proportion of students in separate sciences achieve grade 7 and above, compared to the proportion achieving 7–7 and above in combined science.

As there are more grades, does this mean that the grade boundaries are likely to be quite narrow?

As there are now five grades above grade 4, grade boundaries could be narrower. Avoid predictions of where grade boundaries are likely to fall and instead rely on the statistical alignment of the proportions at the anchor points. These qualifications were designed with the 9 to 1 grading scale in mind to avoid grade widths being too narrow.

When will I know the grade boundaries for the reformed GCSEs?

As with all years, exam boards will wait until students have taken their exams and then compare their performance to that of previous cohorts, before setting grade boundaries.

How will English and maths grade boundaries be set this year?

Grade standards for English and maths, established in 2017, will be carried forward to 2018. Examiners will look at last year’s scripts, examiner judgement and statistical predictions to set grade boundaries this year. There is potential for movement up or down, so don’t rely on 2017 boundaries as absolute indications of where the 2018 boundaries will be set.

Are outcomes likely to be the same for other EBacc subjects?

If the entry profile is different, e.g. if more pupils are entered for these subjects with low prior attainment profiles, then the national outcomes will be different to previous years.

More info

See Suzanne’s full set of FAQs online at www.ascl.org.uk/ExamResults2018

Suzanne O’Farrell
ASCL Curriculum and Assessment Specialist