Employer's Quick Guide to the New GCSE Grading System

Published: 24th August 2017


Pupils anticipating their GCSE results this week will for the first time receive a number grade between 1-9 rather than a letter grade for English Literature, English Language, and Maths.

Yet, despite coming into effect, a recent study published by the Confederation of British Industry and Pearson discovered that more than a third of businesses were unaware of the changes and a further 29% said they were aware of the change but didn’t understand how it worked.  

A lot of questions have therefore been raised about how the grading reform will affect both students and employers. 

In order to help employers understand the complexity of the new grading system, we have summarised the changes into 9 key points that employers should be aware of:

  • 9 is the highest grade
  • Fewer grade 9s will be awarded than A*s under the old

  • The previous span of A*-C will be covered by 9-4 in the new system.  A low level 4 will be the equivalent of a low C.
  • Grades 7 and above are equivalent to the old A/A*, so high achievers will obtain grades in this region
  • This summer the new grading system will be introduced for GCSE’s in English Literature, English language and Maths only
  • The remaining subjects are still graded by the ‘old’ letters classification, but most will move to the new system by 2019, with all subjects eventually using the new system
  • GCSEs graded in the new way will be more challenging and more exam-based, and the exams will be taken at the very end of the course.
  • These changes only apply to schools in England.  Schools elsewhere in the UK will not be introducing the new system
  • The reason for the reform is to allow employers and teachers to differentiate students of different abilities to a greater degree and to apply the necessary teaching/training accordingly.

As an employer, it’s important to understand the new grading system so that you’re ready to receive applications with these new grades, can understand what level has been achieved so you can make an informed decision when selecting candidates.

Employers should also consider reviewing their recruitment strategies to reflect the changes including any entry requirements (e.g. English and Maths) and ensuring recruitment forms can accept numbers as well as letters.

For advice and support on recruitment or any other HR issue, contact one of the team at Pennine Business Partners on 01484 841776.