Understanding the 9-1 grading system

GCSEs are being reformed to make them more demanding and to allow greater differentiation between levels of ability. The headline changes are:

  • More demanding course content
  • Assessment based solely on terminal examinations i.e. no more coursework
  • Grades will be awarded on a scale of 9-1, rather than the old A* to G


GCSE 9-1 grading

The changeover to numeric grades is the most visible aspect of the GCSE reforms and has caused widespread debate and confusion. The main points to note are:

  • There are no direct comparisons between the old alphabetic grades and the new numeric grades
  • Grade 9 is the highest grade and grade 1 the lowest
  • In the first year of the new GCSEs, the proportions of students awarded grades 7 or above and grade 4 and above will be the same as those awarded A or above and C or above under the previous system
  • The number of students awarded grade 9 will be lower than the number awarded A* in previous years
  • The Department for Education have defined a “pass” (C grade equivalent) in the following way:
    •  Grade 4 – standard pass
    •  Grade 5 – strong pass


Impact on students

The impact of the reformed GCSEs on students will be:

  • Greater demands on memory and retention for terminal examinations
  • Greater challenge in examinations e.g. emphasis on problem solving in maths

All of the student’s GCSE results will now be given a numeric grade and entry requirements for further education, employment and training will also be numeric.

The minimum standard for maths and English is grade 4. Students not achieving a grade 4 in Maths and/or English will have to re-sit those exams.

There is still some confusion and debate around “pass” grades for Maths and English and students should check with course or training providers if the requirements are not made completely clear.

Supporting students

As a school, we have:

  • Trained staff as appropriate on the new GCSE content
  • Re-written schemes of work to incorporate new content
  • Re-designed schemes of work to help with memory and retention requirements of final examinations

We will continue to provide support and intervention to students in all year groups.

As a school, we would ask parents and carers to support students by:

  • Ensuring their attendance at school is good
  • Encouraging attendance at support and intervention classes
  • Support their independent studying at home

Chessington School, Garrison Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2JS

Chessington School is a co-educational, non-selective, secondary school providing excellence in education for pupils aged 11 to 16.

Everyone valued • Every day an opportunity • Every moment focused on success

Everyone valued
Every day an opportunity
Every moment focused on success

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