Changes to GCSE qualification Grades

A brief guide to what employers need to know

Significant changes are being introduced to the education system that will have a bearing on how young people are graded for their GCSEs this year. These changes will create a confusing landscape for employers who, when seeking to select young people for apprenticeship opportunities, will be presented with a two tier alphabetical and numerical GCSE grading system.

As an employer led organisation, our commitment is to helping employers navigate their way through these changes and offer clarity to assist when making those selection choices.
Amazingly, GCSEs have been with us since 1988!  Most of us are familiar with the grading system of A* through to G (and U for ungraded) when selecting young people for interview – a GCSE grade ‘C’ or above is often set as the benchmark to look for.  This is due to the grade being recognised by employers, as representing a good level of attainment by the applicant, essential where numerical reasoning and English comprehension form an important element of the job role being advertised.

The changes mean that from 5 August 2017, three prime qualification strands, English, English Literature and maths, will be graded on a banding of 9 – 1 (9 representing the highest grade).  

The structure of the new grades from 2017 looks like this:

Whilst the new numbers do not align perfectly to the existing grades, under the new system a GCSE Grade 4 would be equivalent to a Grade C and a GCSE Grade 9 will be higher than the existing grade A*.  

This system is seen by Ofqual as reflecting the fact that new GCSEs are designed to be more challenging.  Ultimately, all other qualifications will follow suit by 2020, meaning all GCSEs will be graded under the new system.

So what do you need to look out for?

As an employer, you can anticipate that young people exiting mainstream education and seeking work opportunities this year will be presenting a combination of GCSEs graded as either legacy letters or numerical values on their CV or Application Forms.  The table above will guide you as to what these mean.

For the future, our commitment remains clear.  When working with employers who are seeking to fill apprenticeship opportunities, we will guide and advise as to how these new qualifications align to your vacancy expectations.  So please rest assured, during the transition we will continue to offer clarity in our information, advice and guidance regarding your Apprenticeship recruitment needs.

For information regarding Apprenticeships, Levy and Co-funding or if you are seeking an apprenticeship candidate, call us on 023 9253 8724 or email for a no-obligation chat about your requirements.

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