How should the minimum mark for the award of new GCSEs be determined? This is the main focus of a new consultation on setting grade standards for reformed GCSEs.
Decisions about the awarding of new GCSEs in English and maths (to be first awarded in summer 2017) have already been announced. Ofqual is now consulting on a broadly similar approach for all other subjects, but will also consider changing the previous decision on how grades 8 and 9 are set for English and maths.
The proposals are designed to protect students taking the new qualifications, particularly in the first year when teachers will be less familiar with the new content and how it is assessed.
Ofqual has also published research into the year-on-year variability of GCSE results in individual schools and colleges.
Most schools/colleges display little year-on-year variation. However, some display large differences with some commentators believing that this is due to the comparable outcomes approach for grading, or those operating with a high number of students from low socio-economic backgrounds or with speakers of English as an additional language.
However, according to the research, the two main factors associated with variability are schools/colleges which have a larger numbers of candidates straddling the C/D GCSE boundary and schools/colleges with changes in entry size from year to year.
The study echoes Cambridge Assessment’s research (June 2015) which showed that exam results in a school may go up or down in unanticipated ways causing year-on-year volatility.
Ofqual intends to carry out further analysis to better understand the systematic factors associated with year-on-year variability.