Harris Academies
All Academies in our Federation aim to transform the lives of the students they serve by bringing about rapid improvement in examination results, personal development and aspiration.

GCSE Reforms

The Government is introducing the new GCSEs with the aim of increasing their rigour and further developing the literacy and numeracy skills of young people nationally to better prepare them for the workplace or further study.

There will be an emphasis on students acquiring a core of essential knowledge in English, Maths and Sciences.  Specifications for all subjects will have a greater depth and breadth of knowledge required and the level of thinking needed to achieve the top score will be higher.

The assessments are likely to be more challenging, which is why we have moved to a three year KS4 starting in Y9. This allows us to better prepare students for the new GCSEs and gives them more time to develop their depth of knowledge, thinking skills and exam technique. This is complemented by a real focus on numeracy and literacy in KS3, as these create the foundations for study in KS4. We therefore have a faculty-based intervention programme which includes KS3 and KS4 in 2016-17.

Key changes

Some of the key changes with the new GCSEs will be as follows:

(a)    All assessment will be at the end of the courses in Y11. There will be no more modules and students will not be able to take some exams early.

(b)   Exams will form 100% of the assessment in nearly every subject. Coursework and controlled assessments will cease in nearly all subjects.

(c)    There will be a new grading scale which uses numbers instead of letters. The scale will be from 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest.

(d)   Exam papers with different tiers will only apply to subjects where untiered papers do not allow for all students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. We will inform you of which courses have tiered papers and which do not from September 2015 onwards on an annual basis as the new specifications are released.

The implications are that our half termly internal assessments which we will report on become an even more essential tool for us to gauge students' progress and better support them. In order to support their rigour, where available we are using Harris Federation external, unseen assessments (KS3-KS4), which are designed by exam board trained consultants. 

It is vital that we work in partnership to ensure that when asked to revise and prepare for these assessments as part of their homework, students do so diligently. We will inform pupils and yourselves before key assessments but please do help us by ensuring they prepare well so that action taken to support and further challenge them thereafter is most appropriate for their individual learning needs.

Combination of 'old' and 'new'

As the changes are introduced year on year, there will be a ‘mixed economy’ for a period between different subjects; so students will be doing a combination of old and new GSCEs for different subjects at different points in time.

In order to have a clear understanding of the structure of the courses your son has chosen, please do refer to the subjects section of our website which has a parent fact sheet for each course and outlines the assessment requirements. We will write to parents again as more details are published by the Department for Education and the examining boards.

See below for information which summarises the phases that the different subjects will be introduced in.

GCSE reform timeframe

First Teaching on 2015 – Phase 1

First Teaching in 2016 – Phase 2

First Teaching in 2017 – Phase 3

English Language

English Literature


Combined Sciences




Ancient Languages



Modern Foreign Languages

Art & Design

Computer Science



Design & Technology



Physical Education (PE)

Religious Studies

All other remaining subjects

Grading system per year group when they reach GCSE in Year 11

Year 11 2016-17

‘Old’ style GCSE for all subjects.

Grades will all be letters A*-G.

Examination year: 2016.

‘New’ style GCSE for phase 1 subjects. Grades will be numbers for phase 1 subjects.

‘Old’ style GCSE for all other subjects.

Grades will be letters A*-G for the ‘old’ GCSE.

Examination year: 2017.

Year 10 2016-17

‘New’ style GCSE for phase 1 & phase 2 subjects. Grades will be numbers for phase 1 & phase 2 subjects.

‘Old’ style GCSE for all other subjects.

Grades will be letters A*-G for the ‘old’ GCSE.

Examination year: 2018.

Year 9 2016-17

'New’ style GCSE for ‘phase 1, phase 2 & phase 3’ subjects. Grades will all be numbers.

No students will be taking ‘old’ style GCSEs in this cohort.

Examination year: 2019.

Year 8 2016-17

'New’ style GCSE for ‘phase 1, phase 2 & phase 3’ subjects. Grades will all be numbers.

No students will be taking ‘old’ style GCSEs in this cohort.

Examination year: 2020.

Year 7 2016-17

'New’ style GCSE for ‘phase 1, phase 2 & phase 3’ subjects. Grades will all be numbers.

No students will be taking ‘old’ style GCSEs in this cohort.

Examination year: 2021.

Progress 8 and Attainment 8 - what do they mean?

In addition to the new GCSEs, the benchmark pupils need to achieve in order to successfully enter into further education or training is changing.

In 2015, 5A*-C GCSE grades including Maths and English was the headline measure. From 2016 onwards, the key measures will be Progress 8 and Attainment 8.

Progress 8 is an average grade (expressed in numbers in line with the GCSE changes), based on the progress made from a pupils’ Key Stage 2 level.  A score of 0 would demonstrate the pupil is progressing in line with expectations across eight selected subjects. Any score higher than 0 would show that the pupil is on average progressing above expectations. The new reporting system expresses progress based on this score. A value of +0.3 and above would show that, on average, the pupil is achieving one third of a grade above the national average, given their starting point. We believe any score above +0.3 is an excellent outcome.

Attainment 8 is an average grade for the pupil calculated from eight selected subjects. The highest score that can be achieved is a ‘9.’ We believe employers and higher education institutions will begin to ask for an Attainment 8 score of a ‘5’ and above.

How are the eight selected subjects identified?

All pupils at HBAED are completing courses (academic and vocational) which are approved and contribute to the Attainment 8 and Progress 8 measures. The measures calculate the overall scores by selecting the best eight grades from the following pots of subjects:

Pot 1

Pot 2

Pot 3

English Language (or Literature, whichever is highest) and Mathematics

The best three English Baccalaureate subjects

The best 3 remaining subjects

These are both double weighted and therefore more significant for Progress and Attainment 8 scores.

At HBAED, these subjects are: Spanish, French, all Sciences, History, Geography.

These are the best 3 of all remaining subjects from all of the subjects the pupils study. For example, it may be BTEC PE, ECDL or GCSE Art. These may include strong grades from Pot 1 (remaining English) or Pot 2.