For some, it’s a day of jubilation, for others it’s a time to reassess options and seek alternative paths to professional success. GCSE results have recently been released but thanks to education reforms many have seen their grades drop. Today we discuss the fallout from the latest batch of results and suggest how students can still find success even if their grades didn’t quite match their hopes.  

Education Reforms

Part of a new set of reforms saw examinations place greater importance on final exam marks. Previously, coursework related grades had allowed schools and parents to work with students to build an academic platform from which students could build. The final exam would have a heavy influence on the final mark; now, however, little or no coursework is counted towards the final grade. The traditional grading system of A*-G was also replaced with 9-1 (9 being highest and 1 being lowest). 

Some have argued that this grade dependency on final examinations has hit those who need academic support the most. Kevin Courtney of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) told the Guardian: “Putting more emphasis on final exams is hitting hardest those who require the most support, such as disadvantaged students and students with special education needs.” 

A-Grades Fall Across UK

Certainly, the new reforms appear to have had a significant impact on the grades students have achieved this year: “The proportion of 16-year-olds in England achieving a 7 or above – equivalent to an A or above – fell from 21.7% to 19.1%” reported the Guardian. Whether this is down to the importance of the final exams or the changing grade boundaries is unclear. We can, however, confirm that the new grading scheme will be incrementally introduced to subjects over the next two years.  

In what appears to be a continuing trend, girls once again outperformed boys in the vast majority of subjects. The Telegraph (page 4, Friday, 25th August 2017) reported that “two-thirds of grade 9s” were awarded to girls this year. Top grades also appear to have been impacted; top-grade results (currently 9, the equivalent of A*) are down from 6,500 in 2016 to just over 2,000 this year.  

C grades and above also fell by 2.1% according to a Guardian report. Another government policy seeks to address those failing to achieve at least a C grade (now called a 4) in English and Maths by obliging students to retake the exams if they achieve a lower grade. TES (formally the Times Education Supplement) commented that compulsory retakes are “not the answer” and should be replaced by properly funded “functional skills” such as apprenticeships.   

“There are plenty of opportunities to achieve academic success post-school”

We spoke with UKCBC Student Advisor Rebecca Reed to find out what steps students can take if they didn’t receive the results they’d hoped for: 

“There’s no age limit when it comes to personal growth, and if you don’t achieve the desired grades at the age of 16, there are plenty of opportunities to achieve academic success post-school.” 

“NVQs and other Level 3 diplomas are available at local further education colleges, which gives school leavers the chance to obtain vocational qualifications in a subject they are passionate about. The next step would be a Level 4 and 5 Higher National Diploma (HND), equivalent to the first two years of a university degree.” 

“Following an HND, students can then achieve a Bachelor’s Degree with one extra year of top-up study, meaning a university degree is still within reach for those unable to sit A-levels. HNDs are also available to mature students over the age of 21 with relevant work experience, meaning it’s never too late for anyone who didn’t shine at school to prove themselves.” 

Interested in finding out how an HND and Top-up degree can help you achieve your professional goals? Contact UKCBC’s course advisory team today 

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