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If as an Employer you use GCSE grades to assess applicants for your business, then you will need to be aware of the new GCSE grading change implemented this year and adjust your hiring process accordingly. 

Last week saw the first batch of GCSE students receive their results with the new numerical grading system. Previously the standard grading system was a grade A through to E, now students will be graded from nine down to one, with nine being the top grade. The aim of the reform change was to make GCSE content more challenging and to better differentiate between students of different abilities.

According to HR Grapevine, this change in the grading system however “could have a ripple effect on hiring and the recruitment sector”.

Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors (which represents leaders of British business) warned the Times Educational Supplement (TES) that many employers will only discover that the GCSEs have changed once they begin receiving CVs from pupils and he fears some businesses could simply disregard CVs with new GCSE grades through lack of understanding. A Department for Education spokesperson argues however that almost two thirds of employers are already aware of this new grading system which eliminates this risk.

GCSE grading change and how it will affect the way you hire

 

Overview of the GCSE grading change

The exams regulator, Ofqual, have stated that instead of the four grades between A* to C, the new system will have six grades. Currently this new system only applies to Maths & English exams, eventually by 2019, all GCSEs will receive this same numerical grading.

2017 sees GCSEs in English language, English literature and mathematics will be graded from 9 to 1. Another 20 subjects will adopt 9 to 1 grading in 2018. These will include science subjects, French, German and Spanish, geography, history, religious studies, art and design, drama and physical education. In 2019 other subjects will adopt the new grading including business, economics, Chinese and sociology.

This GCSE grading change will only apply in England. Wales and Northern Ireland will retain grades A* to G, but students may be able to take some English GCSEs graded 9 to 1. In Scotland students will continue to sit Nationals.

Fewer grade nines will be awarded than A*s like in the current system, denoting exceptional performance. Under the new system, a grade 4 and above will be equivalent to a C and above.

  • 9, 8 and 7 are equivalent to A* or A
  • 6, 5 and 4 are equivalent to B or C
  • 3, 2 and 1 are equivalent to D, E, F or G
  • A U (ungraded) is still a U

“The new grading scale is intended to better recognise the achievements of high-attaining pupils and ensure parents have greater clarity over how their child performs in their exams. It will also distinguish the new, more challenging GCSEs clearly from the predecessor qualifications.” Justine Greening, Education Secretary.

 

The considerations for Employers

Reacting to Nevin’s comments, Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, said: “It’s critical that employers, and the HR profession, are aware of these changes and consider the implications for their recruitment and attraction strategies. For instance, IT systems may need to be updated so that recruitment forms can accept numbers as well as letters.”

The main confusion that has arisen is what grade do employers look at when it comes to hiring. The Education Secretary confirms that “under the new system, a grade 4 and above will be the equivalent to a C and above” and should use this as their minimum requirement where a grade C was previously.

It is also important for HR Teams to be aware that applicants from different home countries of the UK will have grades reported in different ways making it harder to directly compare one applicant from another. In England alone for example, with only Maths & English exams moved onto the new system and the phasing of the reforms of the next few years, pupils will receive both alphabetic and numerical grades, adding further to the confusion when posting job applicants. HR Teams will need to constantly review when these phases are happening in order to ensure they are fully aware of what grading system they need to reflect in their entry requirements.

Not only that, recruitment materials, training and practices ready for applicants having GCSE certificates and CVs with a combination of numbers and letters must be updated.

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