New Key Stage 3 Curriculum

Over the last few years there has been a great deal of change to the curriculum in secondary schools. This has affected Key Stage Three, GCSE and A Levels courses.

From this academic year we will be using a new assessment criteria in all subjects across KS3. We will use the criteria and scales based on the new reformed GCSEs to replace the old National Curriculum criteria and levels.  However, in KS3 we will differentiate the criteria so that it is appropriate for students in Years 7, 8 and 9.  As our students will not actually be taking or achieving GCSEs in KS3 we will be calling the new scale ‘Steps’.  For KS4 students, we will continue to refer to Grades for GCSE.

The numbers you will see on the tracking reports will represent a student’s current attainment using ‘Steps’ 1 to 9, 9 being the highest grade.  We have also introduced two grades lower than an grade 1, Working Towards 1 and Working Towards 2, for students whose current attainment is below the criteria for ‘Step 1’. The ‘Steps’ will look as shown here:

Target setting will be based on a student’s KS2 score from primary school and an estimate of their potential in Year 11 based on external data.  Targets will then be set each year in KS3 to challenge and engage students but also to ensure they are making the incremental progress to allow them to reach their potential at GCSE.

By basing our KS3 assessment criteria on the reformed GCSE scale we are looking to provide continuity from KS3 to KS4 and to better support students’ progress.  The new ‘Steps’ will support how we monitor a student’s progress as we will be speaking the “same language” since the assessment objectives will be the same for both key stages. It is important for us as a school to move away from the old National Curriculum levels as they will no longer be relevant in either primary or secondary school and the old levels do not link cohesively to the new KS4 objectives.

To be clear, the new criteria for our ‘Steps’ do not correspond with the old National Curriculum levels. For instance, it cannot be said that a new ‘Step’ 5 is equal to the old National Curriculum Level 4.

Forgive the change! It is change placed upon us but change that we are convinced will long term be of great help to students, parents and their teachers.

It is very important to us that we create a system of reporting at Key Stage 3 that is helpful to students, their parents or carers and staff.  If you have any feedback on our new assessment routine we would be happy to receive your comments.


Curriculum criteria for each subject is also available on the individual department’s home pages.


New Key Stage 4 Curriculum

GCSE Factsheet for Parents

Grades 1 – 9 Explained








































Grading the new GCSE science qualifications

The new GCSE science qualifications can be taken in different ways – students can take single GCSEs in one or more of biology, chemistry and physics, or they can take a double GCSE in combined science. Students who take combined science will study all three sciences and they’ll cover roughly two thirds of the content of the single GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics.

If they take the single GCSEs they will receive a single 9 to 1 grade for each subject, in the same way as for other reformed GCSEs. If they take the combined science qualification, they’ll receive an award worth 2 GCSEs. It will consist of two equal or adjacent grades from 9 to 1, giving 17 possible grade combinations – for example, (9-9); (9-8); (8-8) through to (1-1).

Why a double grade?

Since students will have covered two GCSEs’ worth of content and the overall exam time is similar to that for two GCSEs, it’s right that the grade they get recognises that. The double grade will be based on their overall mark across the three subjects; they won’t get a separate mark for each science, and good performance in one area will compensate for weaker performance in another, as in any GCSE. This is reflected in the available grade combinations, which can therefore only be either the same (for example 5-5) or adjacent (for example 5-4) grades from 9 to 1.  So students won’t end up with grade combinations such as 5-3 or 7-4.

Why have a 17-point grade scale?

We considered a scale that only included (9-9); (8-8); (7-7); etc but we said it would be unfair for students to lose (or gain) two whole grades at each grade boundary. After all, a student studying single sciences who just misses a grade 5 by one mark in biology would not also lose their grade 5 in physics or chemistry. As such, it’s fairer for all if those who just miss, say a (5-5) get a (5-4). Exam boards will set 17 grade boundaries for combined science, as shown on the postcard.

Why is the bigger number first?

We are asking exam boards to adopt this convention to avoid any suggestion that there are more than 17 possible grade combinations.

Predictions for 2018

Several people have asked us about the basis of predictions for the new science GCSEs, and in particular for the combined science award.

Let’s start with the single science GCSEs. In biology, chemistry and physics, exam boards will use statistics so that broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 4 and above as previously achieved a grade C and above in the legacy GCSE single science qualifications. The same holds for grades 7/A and 1/G. That means that if the national cohort for chemistry remains similar to previous years, we would expect to see a similar proportion of students nationally at the key grades.

In combined science, those anchor points are less clear, because there is no previous double GCSE award for comparison. We also know that exam boards will need to take account of the fact that some schools previously entered students for science in year 10 and additional science in year 11, while others entered students for both at the end of year 11, and some students were entered for science but not additional science. We are working with the exam boards to make sure that the predictions used in the summer take account of these different practices. We’ll be looking carefully at the provisional entry data in April to see if there are any changes.


GCSE new grading scale: factsheets – please click here to view

GCSE Reforms 2018 – Frequently asked questions for parents

Why are GCSEs in England changing?


New Key Stage 5 Curriculum

Changes to GCSE

Changes to A Level