GCSEs and A levels in England are being reformed. In this blog post we’re examining the changes being made to GCSEs (a separate post will follow looking specifically at A level changes). The aim of the reforms is to make GCSEs more rigorous, matching the best education systems in the world and better meeting the needs of universities and employers. The changes can be grouped into three areas:  

1. Content – new and more challenging content is being added. 

2. Structure and Assessment – almost all assessment will be through exams at the end of a course. 

3. Grading – a new numbered scale (9 – 1) is being introduced, with 9 being the highest grade. 

When will these changes happen?

They’re already well underway. The new courses for English Literature, English Language and maths started in September 2015, with the first exams taking place in 2017. The majority of the other core subjects will follow from September 2016, with the remainder commencing in 2017 or 2018. 


The new 9 – 1 grading system has caused some confusion for parents and pupils. The numbered system is being introduced for two reasons: to make it clear to employers and colleges whether students have taken the reformed GCSE; and to differentiate more clearly between students at the top end of the grading scale. A grade 9 will be the highest available, with a grade 5 providing a “good pass” as defined by the Department for Education. In the first year, the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 7 or above as currently achieve a grade A or above. 

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