August 21, 2017 9.18 am This story is over 51 months old

Matthew Spoors: More change for GCSE results

Some important changes to be aware of ahead of results day.

GCSE students will soon be opening their results and planning their futures, whether it’s sixth form or starting an apprenticeship or traineeship.

This year will see more changes to the way results are marked and information about school performance will be slightly different from previous years.

In English and mathematics pupils will receive numbers rather than letters on a scale from 1 to 9. The top ‘grade’ is 9 and the lowest 1.

In all other subjects, grade letters will remain. i.e. grade letters from G to A* with G being the lowest.

In this new system a grade 4 will be equivalent to an old grade C. This is now considered a ‘standard’ pass.

This is what pupils will need in maths and English to ensure that they do not need to retake them post 16. It’s also what employers and colleges should continue to accept as a requirement where they would previously accept grade C.

However, the government is introducing a new ‘strong’ pass measure. This will be set at grade 5 which is the equivalent to an old C+ or B-.

The aim of this is to encourage schools to secure the best progress for all pupils and provide parents with more information about school performance.

Comparing the performance of schools this year and in previous years is not straightforward. This is because of the way in which the grades are calculated and converted to numbers and also because the new system was designed specifically so that there could be no direct comparison between new and old.

Key performance measures will be:

Attainment 8

This shows the overall level that pupils have reached at GCSE across eight subjects. This must include English, mathematics, science, humanities and a language. To calculate this, the grade letters will be converted to numbers by the DfE.

This measure does not take into account the starting points of pupils and so does not give any clear indication of the value a school adds to pupils’ education.

So an academically selective school would most likely be expected to have a very high Attainment 8 score whereas a secondary modern school would not.

It does not necessarily mean teaching and learning is any better or worse at either.

Progress 8

This shows how well pupils achieved from their starting point when they entered secondary school – in the eight subjects that make up attainment 8.

A school in which, on average, pupils make as much progress as other schools with pupils of a similar ability range across the UK, would score 0 on Progress 8. This would represent the progress which might be expected. If a school has a positive P8 score i.e. above 0, then pupils on average have outperformed other schools with a similar profile of prior attainment and vice versa for a school with negative Progress 8.

Basics measure

This shows the percentage of pupils who attain a pass in both mathematics and English. This may now be measured and shown as ‘standard’ passes and ‘strong’ passes. Remember, for individual pupils, colleges and employers, the ‘standard’ pass should be accepted as an old grade C.


This measure shows the percentage of pupils who attain a ‘standard’ pass in five subjects. These subjects are included in the Attainment and Progress 8 measures – English, mathematics, science, humanities, and language.

Also this year, school performance tables will continue to show the percentage of pupils who remain in education or employment after Year 11.

One last thing to note is that the government has occasionally altered its stance on school accountability measures and what should be published.

Later in the summer there will be a more definite line on which indicators will be included as headline measures within DfE analysis.

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Matthew's career has been in education. He is a qualified teacher, senior school leader and taught at St Hugh's School in Grantham – now the West Grantham Academy Trust St Hugh's. He moved to Nottingham to work as a consultant before becoming a regional adviser for national strategies. He joined CfBT, the county council's school improvement partner, 5 years ago and has held the post of secondary education lead adviser for the last 2 years.