Exclusive: Ofqual considers grading shake-up that could cause English GCSE results to plummet

The exams regulator is looking at how to improve the comparability of grades across GCSE and A-level subjects

Exams watchdog Ofqual is considering a major grading shake-up that would cut the proportion of pupils achieving a crucial “pass” grade in GCSE English by more than a quarter.

Teachers fear the change – which would make it harder to achieve top grades in “easy” subjects – could have a “devastating” impact on pupils.

Analysis by the watchdog reveals that the proportion of pupils achieving a C grade or above in GCSE English in 2013 would have plummeted from 64 per cent to 46 per cent if this model had been in place at the time.

It is one of a series of measures being looked at by the regulator to improve the comparability of grades across GCSE and A-level subjects.

Moving the goalposts

Paul Clayton, the director of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said: “Students have always had to work hard for good grades in English; and with the introduction of the new GCSEs this year, they will have to work harder still.

“To move the goalposts yet again, in order to achieve some spurious sense of parity with other subjects, may well have catastrophic effects on student motivation.”

The regulator insisted that it needed to look at the issue because schools were offering subjects according to “perceived difficulty”, whereas university admissions “treat most subject grades as interchangeable”.

A timetable for reform

Ofqual will decide if it wants to make changes and which option it favours by September.

Any changes would be introduced in the wake of the biggest overhaul of GCSE grading for decades, which will involve A*-G grades being gradually replaced by grades 9 to 1 from next year onwards. The new 5 “pass” grade is already being set at a tougher standard than the current C.


This is an edited article from the 12 February edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInGoogle GmailShare