Perceptions of qualifications in England: wave 16

The results of Ofqual's annual survey on perceptions of A levels, GCSEs and other qualifications in England. Conducted 24 October to 1 December 2017

Highlights from this year’s survey:

GCSEs, AS and A levels

1. Overall confidence in AS and A levels was similar to wave 15 (conducted in late 2016), and GCSEs to wave 14 (conducted in early 2016).

2. Around three-quarters (72%) of stakeholders agreed that GCSEs ‘are a trusted qualification’, the same as wave 15. The proportion who said that ‘GCSE standards are maintained year on year’ was also unchanged (40%).

3. 8 in 10 (81%) stakeholders said that AS and A levels ‘are a trusted qualification’, and half (49%) said that ‘AS and A level standards are maintained year on year’, both similar to wave 15.

4. Overall, levels of agreement that GCSE, AS and A level ‘marking is accurate’ were consistent with wave 15, and higher than wave 14.

GCSE 9 to 1 grading

1. 8 in 10 (83%) stakeholders were aware of the new 9 to 1 grading scale used in new GCSEs and a similar proportion (82%) correctly identified that 9 is the best grade that students can get.

Review of marking, moderation and appeals

1. Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) headteachers knew that there was a review of marking, moderation and appeals system for GCSEs, AS and A levels. More than half (56%) of these respondents knew that new grounds of appeal had been introduced in 2017.

Special consideration, reasonable adjustments and malpractice

1. 7 in 10 teachers and headteachers said they had ‘adequate information’ about arrangements for students eligible for special consideration (74%) and reasonable adjustments (68%). Both outcomes were higher than wave 15.

2. The vast majority (86%) of teachers and headteachers said they had ‘adequate information’ about what constitutes malpractice for GCSEs, AS and A levels, and to whom they should report such incidents (89%).

Applied Generals

1. Questions about Applied Generals were asked for the first time in wave 16. Outcomes are generally lower than for GCSEs, AS and A levels, but there are in some cases large numbers of ‘don’t know’ responses.

Commenting on today’s release, Dr Michelle Meadows, Deputy Chief Regulator, said:

"We are pleased that many of the improvements observed last year in respect of GCSEs, AS and A levels, in particular in relation to levels of trust, perceived marking accuracy, and fairness of the review and appeals system, have been maintained in this wave.

"Levels of understanding with respect to the new 9 to 1 GCSE grading scale, new review and appeal arrangements, and around identifying and reporting malpractice are positive and reflect the extensive communication and engagement programmes we have undertaken over the past few years.

"We recognise the need to continue to engage with stakeholders as reforms bed in. To that end, we have launched new films and other resources related to GCSE science ahead of this summer’s exam series and will be doing more to explain other aspects of the reform programme in the months ahead.

"These first results in relation to Applied Generals provide a benchmark against which we can seek improvements in the years ahead.

"The planned programmes of work set out in our Corporate Plan, published earlier this month, will help to support further improvements in stakeholders’ perceptions of GCSEs, AS and A levels, and Applied Generals over time."