For many children the jump from 11+ to GCSE is one of the most important challenges that they will have to overcome, not only because the content in which they are examined on is on a different level, but also because the subjects are much broader. Some focus on STEM subjects, both practical and theoretical, others on Arts & Humanities, Languages or even ICT and Computing, which had been very popular. What is also vital to understand is that each subject can have different methods of assessing one’s skill set and knowledge. Another important reason why the pressure on GCSEs is different to previous examinations is mainly because the children’s career path depends much more heavily on the outcome of these exams. What can be observed is that success is more likely if they would have passed their 11+ examinations. For that reason it does not make 11+ any less important.
To make sure that students are fully prepared for their GCSE examinations, they get the opportunity to prepare towards them over the course of the 5 year secondary education program from Year 7 to Year 11, and in some cases they get the opportunity to take exams early. What can be observed in the last year and more so this year, is the impact that the new grading system has had on the way achievement at GCSE level can be distinguished. Previously with the letter based system, the means of segregating high achievers was already fairly comprehensive (i.e. A* against A or B grades). Last year, English and Mathematics had this changed to the numbering system, where the higher achievers could be separated even further through the introduction of new classification (9 = Higher A* and 8 = Lower A*). This had been expanded to numerous others subjects this year.
In that sense, what was very interesting for many observers to see was how effective the system is in identifying and narrowing down the very high performing students. As the recent GCSE results of 2018 have demonstrated, out of the dozens of students who entered, only 732 achieved a ‘9’ in all their subjects which is an interesting statistic. More importantly, what can be observed is that students were not fazed by the introduction of the new grading system as there had been an increase in top grades for the first time in seven years, which is promising news for those who are just entering secondary education. It demonstrates that you can still perform well. What can be concluded is that the new grading system makes the education more competitive, thereby emulating to a higher degree the ‘job application’ and subsequent employment scenario that the students will have to undergo later on in their life. In that sense the new grading system is predicted to better prepare students for the world of work.