Guide your child through the new school grading

With the holidays finished and kids back at their desks, many are concerned about the new changes coming into our schools this year. The new curriculum put together by the Government and exam boards aim to bring the country in-line with some of the world’s top performing education systems. But what does it mean for you and your child? Rimante Boguzaite investigates…

The last few years have seen radical reforms transforming the face of our secondary education system. While some of these changes have already been implemented, others will continue up to 2020, when current plans see all GCSE students take the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). If you have just tuned in for the changes, here’s what has happened so far:

What has changed?

  • New maths, English language and English literature GCSEs have been taught in schools since last September with a new set of exams to take place in 2017.
  • Last year saw a return to linear GCSEs – modules are being phased out, with exams taking place after the two-year course, and resits only available for maths and English.
  • Students are expected to know the key maths formulae by heart, with syllabus covering proportions, ratio and “real-world problems”, including financial mathematics. New exams include between 33-50% of non-calculator work rather than the previous 25%, with longer exams to cover more ground, and three papers to write over four-and-a-half hours.
  • For the English language GCSE, students will be required to read a wider range of more demanding literature and non-fiction texts of multiple genres and periods – with reading and writing being weighed equally. The exams will have greater emphasis on correct punctuation, spelling and grammar, assessed by a new additional mark which will make up around five per-cent of the grade in all written papers.
  • English literature will no longer be compulsory and will not be a part of the EBacc. During their exams pupils will have to asses a 19th century novel, a Shakespeare play, a selection of poetry since 1789 and a British fiction or drama from 1914 onwards.


What is changing?

  • The grading system is going through a complete overhaul. Students will receive grades 1-9, 9 being the highest, rather than A*-G for English and maths from September next year, with other subjects following suit in 2018. Grade 5 – the equivalent to a low B or a high C – will be a new benchmark for a “good pass” by the league tables, where currently the required grade is a low C. This new system will introduce greater differentiation between high performing students. The numerical grading system will be fully implemented by 2019.
  • Coursework and controlled assessments will be scrapped from all subjects apart from practical and creative ones, like drama and dance. In English, speaking and listening exercises have disappeared, making written papers worth 60% of the grade instead of previous 40%.
  • Every student will have to do at least two science GCSEs.
  • New biology, chemistry, physics, modern foreign languages, history and geography GCSEs, among others, will be launched in 2016.

While many are worried and overwhelmed by the changes, the reform is claimed to better equip our children for their adult life. Here’s a few things you can do to help your kids adjust to the changes and prepare for their exams:

  • Start early – Starting revision early will help to keep frustration, fear and anxiety at bay.
  • Set a timetable – It is important to set a schedule of when, what and how to study a particular subject, as well as having enough time to explore the subject for areas that are causing confusion within a manageable timeframe.
  • Always prepare before revising – Any disruptions or having to leave the study environment will make your child lose focus, and making them regain their concentration can be tiresome and even more difficult. Make sure you have all the necessary tools for a study session before sitting down, and the environment is quiet and free of distraction.


  • Use helpful tools – Like pie charts, mind maps and cue cards. This will help them retain more information, especially when dealing with more challenging subjects.
  • Hydrate and sleep – Feeling energised is very important when dealing with a demanding study session.
  • Constantly reassure – It is important to show your confidence in your kids when it comes to them taking tests. Positive affirmation will leave your child with a stronger self-confidence and a winning mind set.

If you stay positive and communicate well with your child, as well as their teachers, there’s no reason these new courses and exams can’t be a breeze.

For more information on the upcoming changes click here.