I remember getting my GCSE results very clearly; that day is ingrained in my emotional memory. I’d been to a great school, one with a highly competitive academic environment, and my results were, well, let’s say disappointing. I’d been through a rebellious stage, like many other teenagers I’m sure, but my school didn’t really do ‘rebellious’.
When I got my results, I thought my future was going to be bleak. The way my teachers were talking, I thought no one would ever employ me and that I had ruined my entire life. These were my GCSEs – the most important thing I’d done so far - and my terrible results would stay with me forever.
In fact, I went on to do well in my A-levels (rebellious phase safely out of the way!) and enjoyed studying at university. I went on to a career in HR and absolutely loved doing professional studies such as my CIPD. But this time of year makes me feel an incredible amount of sympathy for all 16-year-olds across the country in the same position as I was.
It’s results time and GCSEs are in the news again, this time with an issue from an HR perspective. A recent Personnel Today article quoted a CIPD poll that 48% of HR professionals did not know that GCSE grades were changing* and that this was “concerning”.
My initial thought was “Why does this matter?” But for those of us in HR, it really is important. GCSEs are the only point where the whole cohort of school-age children are formally assessed together as a group. They provide a view of that group and compare to those who came before and who will come after.
The concerns, in particular, are around organisations who recruit for younger summer employees, work experience placements, apprenticeships or internships where understanding the grades of 16-year-olds is relevant.
A basic understanding of what the new grades mean it is imperative for any HR professional involved in recruitment; we need to educate all involved in the interview process, as we should always have our eye on what is happening externally. We are the people experts after all – we need to understand all ‘people’ issues so we can advise the businesses we serve. HR people need to understand “equivalences”; for example, a grade 1 CSE is the same as a grade C ‘O’ level or a grade C GCSE. These are the core reference pass points for these qualifications.
Whatever your view on the relevance of GCSEs as a means to prepare our younger generation for life and the real world of work, GCSEs are still a gateway to the next stage and a national route to assess today the workforce for tomorrow.
For those HR professionals who do not know how the school qualification system is changing, the good news is it will only take you 5 minutes to get ahead: Ofqual summarises the 9 things we need to know.