Students will be sitting exams for new GCSEs in maths, English literature and English language for the first time in the summer of 2017. We want to be clear with them and others well ahead of 2017 about the new grading system and the levels of performance expected.
We know that teachers want as much notice as possible of changes, and we intend to be clear about standards - where we set the bar and how we hold it steady - ahead of this autumn term and before teachers begin to teach the new GCSEs, so that they know what to plan for as they consider the new specs in the first subjects. We have put forward some proposals in the consultation we launched today.
There is no one, right way to set standards. Countries do it differently, and set different standards. That makes this consultation a little unusual, and we are running this consultation a little differently than usual as a result. Because there is not one way or one international standard, but many, it makes it particularly important that people have the chance to give us their views about what is right for our students, to set them up well for the next stages in their lives. We want to hear people's views, and in May and June we will be running regional events for people to have their say.
We are proposing that we match the new grade four to current Grade C – to provide a reference point, a link between old and new. We propose that we align grade five to the performance of students in other countries that perform well, where students perform better than our students in international tests. We are not proposing to hardwire our standards to those in any particular country. Instead we suggest that we take a broader view, and look at a range of countries that do well. We explain that that would mean setting the grade five boundary in 2017 at about a half to two thirds of a grade higher than that required for a current grade C.
We will have more grades available above grades four and five than we have above current grade C and we make some suggestions about standards at the top end, for example that only students who perform exceptionally well are awarded the very top grade. We know that there is some concern about the proportion of students who get top grades at the moment, and we are interested to see what people think about reserving the top grade for very high achievers.
Lastly we ask about the bottom of the scale, and your views on where we should pitch the first grade above the fail grade ('unclassified').
As you would expect, we think our suggestions are sensible - otherwise we would not be making them – but we really do want to know what others think. There is no right answer to some of these questions, but judgements for us to make, and we want to base our judgements not just on the technical considerations that we are familiar with. We want to take into account the nation's views as well.
Do tell us what you think is right for our young people.