Understanding the GCSE new grades and guides for employers - 2020

We have had a few calls from employers who, with the increased government funding available, are keen to take on apprentices but are unsure of the qualification criteria.

Indeed, in speaking to parents of school leavers over the last few weeks, we have found that parents felt that predicted grades of 4, 5’s, 6 and 7 were not good enough to become an apprentice.  This is not the case!

It’s been a couple of years since the new grades for GCSE changed from A-G to 9-1. With the addition of Covid-19 and students unable to take their GCSE’s this year, and a new grading system based on predicted grades some employers are finding it difficult to gauge what these grades mean, so here is a quick guide for you. All GCSE grades will be scored 0-9 from August 2020.

The Department for Education recognises grade 4 and above as a ‘standard pass’ in all subjects. It is a credible achievement for a young person that should be valued as a passport to future study and employment.

For clarity, a grade 4 or above marks as a similar achievement to the old grade C, which is the standard for a Level 2 qualification. If you have previously set grade C as your entry requirement, it would be reasonable to ask for a grade 4 under the new system.

Between 2017 and 2019, some exam certificates will have a combination of number (9 to 1) and letter (A* to G) grades as students sit a mix of new and old GCSEs.

This year, 2020, GCSE certificates will contain only number (9 to 1) grades.

Even more difficult this year is that due to Covid-19, Year 11’s were unable to sit their exams and have been graded by teachers against mock exams and homework assessment. 

Youth Employment UK makes it clear that the grades awarded have equal status to grades in previous years and should be treated in the same way. Ofqual has provided clear guidance to all schools and colleges on how to assign GCSE grades fairly and using the same grading methods.
Also, it is worth remembering that apprentices can be any age, so grades provided by candidates from previous years as A-G are still recognised.

Finally, while looking at the new benchmarks, as employers, we know that grades and top-scoring academic ability are not the only criteria that are important when employing an apprentice. Some kids might have excellent course work results, but exam conditions might not suit them or challenges like dyslexia might challenge them, but they could be very entrepreneurial.

If you are already in the process or thinking about taking on an apprentice, then you are the right path to adding value to your business and career of a new learner. You are doing something great, so if you see a candidate with some great skills, but have not achieved a grade 4 or C in Maths and English, we can teach them functional skills equivalent as part of the course at no extra cost.

Here is a quick table to help you with the new grade system



And remember you can gain funding up to £3000 for taking on an apprentice.  For more details give us a call on 020 8989 9832 or contact us here  


19 Aug 2020