Educational reforms

What do the new GCSE grades mean?

From the summer of 2018, most GCSE subjects will be recorded as a numerical grade, not letters. This means the gradings received in assessments and on reports are now reported in a numerical grade or band.

Importantly, students are now measured on whether they achieve a good pass, which is a grade 5, and a standard pass, which is a grade 4. Grade 5 is the equivalent of a C+, and it is the grade which we would strongly recommend students strive for if they are to progress to A Level and other level 3 courses.

New Number grade Old GCSE grade What does this mean?
9 N/A A grade 9 is a new grade. It is being used to show the most exceptional performances across the country at GCSE.
8 A* A grade 8 is the new grade for an A*. This means students are still performing amongst the best in the country at GCSE.
7 A A grade 7 is equivalent, broadly, to an old A grade. It will still be viewed by top universities as a very strong grade and will be awarded to approximately the top 20% in the country for each GCSE subject.
6 B A grade 6 is a strong grade. It is the grade the school recommend that students aim for if they wish to sit A levels. It is particularly important to get this grade in subjects students wish to study at A Level. Further education institutions also ask for a Grade 6 in English and Maths to allow progress on to many A Level courses.
5 C+ A grade 5 is viewed as a good pass. It is the grade we suggests students aim for as a minimum, as it will allow many options at post 16. Exeter College and other institutions will expect students to achieve at least 6 grade 5s at GCSE to study A levels and many other level 3 options.
4 C A grade 4 is a standard pass. This means students will be able to access most level 3 vocational courses. Exeter College and other institutions will want at least five Grade 4 GCSEs for Level 3 vocational courses.
3 D A grade 3 is, broadly equivalent to an old D grade. Students will have to re-sit English and Maths if they get a grade 3 or lower in those subjects.
2 E A grade 2 is broadly equivalent to an old E grade. Students will need to undertake further Maths and English qualifications if they achieve a grade 2 in these subjects at GCSE.
1 G/F A grade 1 will allow students to access foundation level courses at college.

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Vocational qualifications

At St James we offer students a range of BTEC vocational qualifications in Performing Arts, Health and Social care, Travel and Tourism, Enterprise, and Sport Studies. These BTECs offer students the opportunity to complete a range of coursework components and sit one externally assessed component. Currently some of these qualifications are the BTEC First awards, and some the BTEC Tech awards. By September 2018 most students starting the BTECs will be studying for a BTEC tech award.

Our aim is that all students achieve the very minimum of a Level 2 and therefore achieve a grade equivalent to a grade 4. The grading system for a BTEC is as follows:

Level 1 pass Level 1 qualifications are broadly equivalent to grades 1-3 at GCSE.
Level 1 merit
Level 1 distinction
Level 2 pass Broadly equivalent to a grade 4 at GCSE
Level 2 merit Broadly equivalent to a grade 5/6 at GCSE
Level 2 distinction Broadly equivalent to a grade 7 + at GCSE
Level 2 distinction *

Every BTEC Tech award has three components:

Components 1 & 2 are internally assessed and component 3 will be externally assessed.

Measuring student progress and achievement

As the GCSE grading system changes, so have the ways in which school achievement is measured. Below are the key measures that are reported and used as an indicator of school success.

  • Progress 8: Students’ grades are now measured against students of a similar ability nationally across 8 GCSE or equivalent subjects, including Maths, English, Science, Humanities and Languages. If a student has done better than similar students nationally, they are identified as making positive progress. This is the aim for all our students.
  • Attainment 8: This is the average grade given to student across their best 8 GCSE grades, including in Maths, English, Science, Humanities and a Language.
  • The Basics: Schools are all now measured on the % of students achieving a good pass in English and Maths (grade 9-5 in both subjects).
  • EBACC: Finally, the % of students gaining a good pass in English, Maths, Science, Humanities and Language is also measured. This means the % of students achieving a Grade 5 or above.

These measurements have impacted the way in which schools now plan their curriculum for their students. More schools than ever are now encouraging students to do a wide range of academic qualifications. With this in mind, St James aims to give students a personalised, broad and balanced curriculum that allows students to gain the best set of qualifications to compete with other students as they enter further education and the job market.