Grade Boundaries (2015) – Why the volatility Part II

May 26, 2017

AQA GCSE grade boundaries 2015 - Part 2

AQA GCSE grade boundaries 2015 - Why the Volatility?

Every summer, when schools’ GCSE results are made available across the country on that fateful Thursday morning, many students anticipate a clean sweep of what used to be As and A*s – now 8s and 9s! – while others worry about what to do should they narrowly miss out on a C (now 4 and above).

This sense of anticipation, worry, and outright dread in some cases is compounded by the reality that the grade boundaries for GCSEs change almost every year. Many factors weigh into why they change, including subject, difficulty and the exam board you sit them with.

Grades in 2017

This year, while students sift their way through exam season, the outgoing government is failing to provide sufficient information about the new GCSEs because of what’s being described as an “overzealous” interpretation of rules governing what civil servants can say in the run-up to the election.

The change in England to GCSEs marked from nine to one as opposed to A* to U in English and maths, with other subjects to phase in the same system by 2019, has prompted warnings that some parents and pupils could be confused.

After a variety of measures to help parents and employers understand the new grading system were scrapped, headteachers and school leaders have written to the Departmentfor Education to express their concern.

The letter comes as teachers, parents and doctors warn that the new GCSEs are having a negative impact on the mental health of students. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Leaders, said: “I have heard of students crying in the toilets. Middle and lower sets are finding it a form of slow torture.”

She added that teachers did not know what a four or five grade meant. “I am hearing amount a huge amount of stress. Teachers are feeling very insecure. They are having to say to people: ‘I think this is a pass, but I don’t know’,” she said.

The Department for Education has pointed to a factsheet it published on the new exams and a letter from the education secretary to the education select committee. It has also reiterated that the civil service was prohibited from publishing anything that could be seen to influence an election.

Teachers and students say the lack of information has caused problems. An English teacher in Sheffield, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Often we as teachers are unclear about exactly what exam boards are looking for with the new assessment. We are not told how the marks we give in preparatory test will become grades. It is hard for us to give helpful, clear guidance to students.”

The new English and maths exams also involve a lot more memorising of texts, as well as countless formulas. Another English teacher said: “I feel students with special educational needs and in particular dyslexia and/or memory-related problems are very much disadvantaged.”

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