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Research and analysis

GCSE maths: understanding schools' approaches to tiering

Before the summer 2017 exams, Ofqual interviewed 12 schools in England about their tier entry choices for reformed qualifications.


GCSE mathematics: understanding schools’ approaches to tiering

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The findings suggest that schools are carefully considering their tier entry choices ahead of the summer 2017 series. The majority of surveyed schools were intending to enter a greater proportion of their students into the foundation tier in summer 2017 than they had in previous exam series. This was primarily due to both the higher and foundation tiers being more challenging in the reformed qualifications.

Schools reported that they would continue to use information such as a students’ prior attainment and expected achievement at GCSE to inform tier entry, but they were conscious that there was less information available about the qualifications, for example, past exam papers and their associated grade boundaries. Schools also reported that in future years, as more information became available, they would become more confident in their tier entry choices and might enter more students into the higher tier.

The findings are based on a small number of schools and are not necessarily representative of all schools in England. They suggest, however, that schools have a good understanding of the differences between the new higher and foundation tiers in maths and are reconsidering their entry approaches accordingly.