Recruiters need to educate clients about new GCSE grading system

Recruiters operating in sectors likely to provide the latest cohort of GCSE students with their first job have a key role to play in educating clients about the new GCSE numbers grading system as evidence emerges some are baffled by the changes.

This morning, students up and down the country collected their results in the first year in which the grading system has changed from the old-style letter system to a numbers system.

Under the new system, an A is equivalent to a 7 while a C is anchored at the bottom of a grade 4.

Three bands – 7 to 9 - instead of just A* and A at the top end – have been introduced to give more detail about the highest-achieving candidates.

On the day of the changeover to the new system, Recruiter spoke to agencies operating in the two sectors most likely to encounter this latest cohort of GCSE students entering the workplace for the first time. 

Commenting on the new system, Mary Anderson-Ford, managing director at retail recruiter AQUAretail, told Recruiter the new system would highlight any agency that relies too heavily on its computer systems.

She maintained that recruitment is about people and about nous, and that placing the right candidates in the right role requires brains rather than being too reliant on a computer to identify a suitable candidate.

But Anderson-Ford added that recruiters have a role to play in educating clients about the new grading system. “Recruiters are likely to be able to adapt quickly, but are going to have to do a bit of education of their clients and explaining what it means,” she said.

And it seems that education of clients is sorely needed if Russell Crowe, chief executive and founder of Kudos Recruitment, an agency that operates in the retail sector, is anything to go by.

“From an employer perspective, we have found that many clients have assumed what the grading means and have got it wrong – mainly that 9 is the top end, and not 1. This does show that the information produced by the government has not filtered through fully across all markets. While we found that HR directors were aware of the change, hiring managers were somewhat in the dark,” he said.

“We regularly liaise with our clients, and have always advised that they look for a much wider range of skills, outside straightforward academic ability – communication, confidence, people skills and so on – and that they do not measure the potential of a candidate solely on their grades but on myriad skills.”

But Ed Vokes, director at hospitality staffing specialist Evolve Hospitality, told Recruiter the change to a new system “makes no odds” to his clients.

“Numbers or letters makes no difference to catering – no-one’s ever looked at someone’s GCSE results in this industry and said ‘you can’t join it.’ If you’re a chef, whether your GCSEs are numbers or letters-based makes no difference whatsoever,” he said.

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