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Are new GCSE grades up to the job?
Posted on: August 30th 2017
Section: Member news


Top 40 accountants Bishop Fleming have criticised the new GCSE grades as "confusing" and "more difficult" for employers to understand. 

Employers looking for a minimum of A to C in the old style grades will now need to decide whether they are looking for new grades 9 to 5, or if they will also accept grade 4 which overlaps the old grades C to D. 

Bishop Fleming, with offices across the Westcountry, says trainee accountants will probably need a grade 5 in their Maths and English GCSE, but the firm will also consider those that have higher grades in A' Levels or Degrees in relevant subjects. 

The accountants contend that there is a move amongst some employers towards ignoring college results altogether, and testing candidates themselves. However, the firm says that their ‘A' level and Graduate training programmes are very popular, so this is not a move they are planning to make just yet, as there has to be a way of sifting through the many applications it receives from very good candidates. 

HR Director for Bishop Fleming, Barbara Wood, commented: "The change to the GCSE grading structure is definitely confusing for employers and it will make shortlisting for jobs more difficult." 

Barbara added: "The information available is certainly not as clear as it might be. There is a real risk that good candidates will get missed - especially with so many automated shortlisting systems now. I'm not sure how they will be able to capture a mixture of numbers and letters, given not all subjects are changing at the same time." 

The firm is recruiting Trainee Accountants for 2018 across all Bishop Fleming offices in Devon and Cornwall, so are being extra vigilant in looking at exam results: "We look carefully at every CV and do not rely on an automated system," Barbara explained. 

The HR Director cited an odd example she came across: a BTEC D*D result which was the highest grade! The candidate nearly got rejected on the basis it was a D, but it was actually a distinction! 

Barbara noted that the government website contained useful but unwieldy guidance. She commented: "In a nutshell the reforms seem to be aimed at making GCSE's more challenging, so there will be fewer grade 9s awarded than A*s, and English Language, English Literature and Maths will be the first. There will no doubt be lots of disappointed parents and students who did not get a Grade 9, i.e. an old A*." 

Bishop Fleming's HR Director said she was still unclear why the grades had moved away from letters to numbers, or why there was a need for better differentiation: "It seemed pretty fit for purpose as it was to me," she added, noting that it was interesting that Wales and Northern Ireland had not adopted this change. 

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