The Summer 2017 exam results are really up-in-the-air and our magic crystal ball that allows us to predict what grades students are going to achieve is well and truly clouded up.

We have sought to flag up to parents through letters, posters, websites articles and parents’ evenings, the move from A*-G to 9-1 in GCSE English and Maths this year. Most subjects – though not all – follow for Summer 2018 and that’s without taking any notice of the equable vocational courses which retain their Distinction *-Pass grades.

This lack of clarity is compounded by the fact that teachers have no real idea what will constitute a new ‘5’ or ‘6’ or ‘7’ and so on. The exam regulator (OFQUAL) has given the following guidance:

“Our advice to schools would be this: do not rely on any predictions of grade boundary marks for

new GCSEs next summer. They are only a best guess, regardless of any modelling that might have

been done. If the boundaries in the summer turn out to be different, which is quite likely… you

and your students might be disappointed.

Essentially, the grades will be more determined by how many people get what mark so will be more divided up on scores rather than the quality of answers. This means that your daughter in Year 10 may get a ‘6’, but your son in Year 8 may give exactly the same answer and only get a ‘5’ two years later.

Earlier in the year, the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, announced that Grade 4 would be a ‘Standard’ Pass and Grade 5 a ‘Strong’ Pass. This was news to schools who had been told they needed to get students’ ‘5’s, though local colleges were already saying that they only needed ‘4’ for their entry requirements. Twitter feeds talked of a Grade 7 being a ‘Herculean Pass’ and Grade 8 a ‘Bionic Man Pass’.

Better news is that it is not just The Friary that is having to get grips with a grading system that leaves us somewhat groping in the dark. All local secondary schools will publish a joint press release for GCSE results which will point out that grades will be unclear until a national picture emerges much later and that year-on-year comparisons in the same school will be irrelevant. Last year we saw 69% of students get GCSE English & Maths (A*-C) but in the new 9-5 reckoning evidence suggests our joint figure will be closer to 50% which could well be a greater success!

This leaves the parents of our current Year 7-10 in a difficult position as they look at report grades that have fluctuated. This is more likely to be down to our pursuit of accuracy in the new gradings – especially when we are working to a 5-year curriculum which is plotting a Year 7’s route to their GCSE final grade. We are getting there, we are working incredibly hard to devise rigorous and accurate assessments, but final grades are not concrete anywhere and we will have to ask for patience and an awareness of the national picture. The effort grades are a good barometer for learning and a valuable guide for your child.

Amidst this confusing picture, the school and governors are maintaining a focus on what brings outstanding learning. Specialist teachers who are in their lessons day-in-and-day-out, clear marking and feedback, a clear message on standards and expectations, a sense of competition alongside shared identity, and a repeated call to arms for all of us to back one another 100% in helping our children succeed and flourish.

The only certainty in education is that things will change but it will settle in time. This will be achieved through patience, care and team-work; combining the best efforts of students, teachers and parents, all pulling in the same direction. We can do this, and we will do this.

Enjoy a lovely summer, have a great time with your children, and we go again in September.

Matt Allman
July 2017