Schools have weathered the storm of GCSE upheaval

23 August 2018

Commenting on today’s GCSE results, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

Congratulations to students and teachers on today’s GCSE results. They have weathered the storm of an unprecedented year of upheaval with 20 new GCSEs being sat for the first time and they deserve full credit for the results achieved today.

“The reformed GCSEs are harder than their predecessors. They contain more content and more papers and the bar has been set deliberately higher to achieve the new top grade 9. We are concerned about the additional pressure this has placed on students and teachers and the impact on their wellbeing, and we are not clear why the government felt it necessary to ratchet up the pressure to such an extent and what this was intended to achieve.

“There will be a great deal of interest in students who have achieved grade 9s today. These young people have done exceptionally well, but it is important that we do not lose sight of the achievements of many other young people who have also recorded very good grades and should feel proud of their achievements.

“We are particularly concerned about the impact of the new grading system on students who have recorded grades at the lower end of the scale. The government’s decision to describe a grade 4 as a ‘standard pass’ and a grade 5 as a ‘strong pass’ sends a negative message to those who attain grades 1, 2 and 3. These young people have completed demanding courses and we must find a better way to credit their achievements.

“While today’s results are stable at a national level, there may have been volatility in the results of some schools. Teachers will have done their utmost to prepare young people for these exams but there are 20 entirely new qualifications which are relatively unfamiliar, and three qualifications which were only sat for the first time last year. It is important that nobody rushes to judgement over a single set of results and that government, regulators and governing bodies take into account this context.

“The number of GCSE entries to creative arts subjects such as music and drama, and to design and technology, has fallen once again. We have repeatedly warned that these subjects are being marginalised by a combination of performance tables which prioritise traditional academic subjects and severe funding pressures which force schools to make cuts to the curriculum. The government must wake up to the fact that its policies are eroding the breadth of curriculum that has long been a hallmark of our education system.”