Ofqual omits ‘strong’ grade from new GCSE guidance

The exams regulator Ofqual has written to schools about proposed changes to new GCSE grades, but has left details of the government’s new “standard” and “strong” passes off its new aide-memoire.

Sally Collier, the watchdog’s chief regulator, says in a letter sent today that she wants to inform schools that her organisation has “added to and refreshed” resources to “explain changes to GCSEs”.

It comes after the government scrapped plans to designate the new grade 5 as a “good pass” – and instead rebrand it as a “strong” pass. A grade 4 will now be considered a “standard” pass.

Sally Collier

But the new postcard issued by Ofqual does not include references to the new “standard” and “strong” passes, even though Collier said other resources had been updated to reflect the new terminology.

The original postcard issued by the regulator prominently featured the old “good pass” descriptor. The new edition simply includes a line denoting the pass threshold as being below the new grade 4.

As well as the postcards, Ofqual has a set of videos available on YouTube to explain the new system.

Collier said she wanted to assure schools the regulator’s use of statistics will “ensure that the cohort taking new qualifications this year will not be disadvantaged compared to previous years”.

“In terms of the new GCSEs, this means that broadly the same proportion of students will get grades 1, 4 and 7 and above in any subject as would have got grades G, C or A and above respectively in the old system.”


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  1. Grade 4 is a “good pass” according to Ofqual.
    Grade 4 is a “standard pass” according to the DfE.

    This must mean that “good” and “standard” mean the same thing. Call me old fashioned but I always thought “good” meant better than “standard”.
    Are you confused?

    Well Ofqual has been warning that users will be confused about the new GCSE grades, so has decided to clarify things.

    To clarify things, Ofqual has just sent out guidance to schools saying “grade 4 is a good pass”. But they also say that they have other literature which says that grade 4 is a standard pass. But they have not sent this other literature out to schools.

    So how do you rate Ofqual’s clarification? Is it a “good clarification” or a “standard clarification”? We use to call this a “cock-up”. Ofqual is correct in one aspect. Users will be confused about the new grades. Only an idiot could understand them.

    • Reminds me of the Ofsted rebranding of Satisfactory to mean Requires Improvement. I always thought satisfactory meant ‘satisfying the criteria’. But it appears satisfying the criteria means ‘not good enough’.
      In answer to your question about rating Ofqual’s clarification, if we use Ofsted terminology the explanation means ‘Requires Improvement’.