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New GCSE system with numbered grades from 2015

Ofqual has confirmed the details of new GCSE system, which will replace the A*-G lettering system with numbered grades.

The changes will start for pupils due to take exams in 2017, with English and Maths to be the first subjects affected. The following year, 20 other subjects will start with the new system.

Other changes include final exams after two years of study, rather than modules, and more marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar. The numbered grades will run from 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest. This will help examiners distinguish between the top grades, Ofqual said.

Chief executive of Ofqual, Glenys Stacey, said: “This is the biggest change in a generation. They [GCSEs] have been around for over 25 years but now we are seeing fresh content, a different structure, high-quality assessment coming in.

“It's a significant change for students and for schools. The new qualifications will be significantly different and we need to signal this clearly.”

Schools minister Elizabeth Truss added: “What we want to do is encourage schools to focus on those core skills that employers really want, because that is what is going to help our children get jobs when they leave school.”

Secondary school teacher and spokesman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Jovan Trkulja, said: “Exams are challenging and they should continue to be challenging. But we have to remember that setting the top of the mountain as the baseline means someone has to fall behind, and I feel for the sense of failure for the less able.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “The one-size-fits-all model of having a single three-hour exam at the end of a course is built on a faulty premise that by definition all other approaches represent lower standards.

“We do not accept this. Tiering, resit opportunities, modules and coursework all have their role to play in getting the very best out of all learners.”

And shadow schools minister, Labour MP Kevin Brennan, said he had “reservations” about some aspects of the changes: “Having everything staked on one final exam is not great for all pupils.”

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