They’re trying to confuse everyone – teachers, students, parents – as if we don’t have enough to worry about. I’m talking about the new grading system for GCSEs.
Now numbers are replacing letters so instead of an A* grade being the best possible result a grade 9 replaces that. It’s not even particularly intuitive – with a Grade 1 being the worst result not the best.
This is going to take some time to bed in – and meanwhile the teachers are still not sure what a mock result of a D grade equates to in the new system. This means that students aren’t really getting accurate predictions of what their mock results indicate in final grades.
The teaching unions and government are all making a lot of noise about it. While the government have instituted the changes to respond to the former accusations of dumbing down GCSE results, the teachers are understandably concerned at having to deal with the impact of this – along with everything else they have to manage.
There’s bound to be a transition period – as in any change, upgrade or restructure. When something that everyone is used to is changed there’s always some negative response – comfort zones have been attacked. But as a parent, your focus needs to be on helping your child to be successful.
The actual curriculum hasn’t changed and if you’re worrying about what will happen with the uncertain political future – don’t. The secret is to focus on helping your child to do the best they possibly can, regardless of whether that’s categorised as an A, a nine, a gold or a lion!
Exams are always a stressful time for everyone in the education equation and adding uncertainty isn’t particularly helpful – but it doesn’t mean that studying should stop or new material needs to be learned in a hurry. A good study plan and appropriate support is worth its weight in gold.
The challenge may be that the huge majority of GCSE students are also teenagers – with all the angst and hormones that entails. Their state of mind can be anywhere on the continuum from ‘don’t care’ to ‘highly stressed’. Their willingness to let a parent help is also likely to be variable.
Inevitably, they will hear about the change to the results structure so our advice is to discuss it as a family and aim to reassure them that, as long as they do their best, the new system won’t trip them up. Be practical and pragmatic and encourage them to focus on ensuring they are comfortable with the learning they have done in class.
As exam time gets closer help them to set a revision plan (see our last blog for ideas) and stick to it. Give them a quiet environment to work in – and do a deal on leaving mobile phones in another room while they are revising. Suggest they do written notes – as not only will this embed the information better and also help them to get used to writing, which they will have to do in most exams.
In five years’ time everyone will have accepted the new system as ‘normal’, but don’t let your kids feel they’re operating under an unfair stress. Remember that if they start out with negative expectations – they’ll get what they expect. Give the situation a positive spin and set them up to succeed.