‘DESTABLISING’ changes to the GCSE system left schools poorly equipped for exams and students feeling like ‘guinea pigs’, teachers claim.

Oxfordshire educators have expressed concerns about a major shake-up to the new grading system, as anxiety mounts ahead of results day.

On Thursday thousands of students will descend on schools across the county to collect their results - the first since a Government reform replaced A*-G letter grades with numerical grades of 9-1.

Jolie Kirby, head of Cheney School in Headington, said there was a lot of ‘uncertainty’ about the switch.

She said: “We don’t know what this week holds. Our concern is that there hasn’t been enough examples of questions. Teachers haven’t had enough past material.

Students have had to come to grips with it, this is all new to them. Some genuinely feel they are guinea pigs. Students want to do as well as possible; this is extra stress.”

She said most teachers are not opposed to change but need more material and better advice to ensure they are equipped to cope.

Grading changes apply this year to English and maths, with many more following next year. They were brought in after concern that students were gaining the top A* grade too easily. The new top grade of 9 was designed to separate outstanding students from good students.

The reform also made course content tougher, removed modules and made assessment exam-focused.

Layla Moran, who was a teacher before becoming Oxford West and Abingdon MP, said the changes had ‘not been fully thought through’.

She said: “Schools have done an incredible job at keeping up with changes the government has thrown at them. Students are fully aware they are guinea pigs and have done their best.

“The Government needs to bring in changes far more slowly and listen to teachers, who don’t have time to come up with good resources.”

Ms Moran noted reforms are ‘always difficult’ but added: “When it’s done quickly it’s the students who end up suffering. It’s huge anxiety.”

Jo-Anne Baird, a professor in educational assessment at Oxford University, questioned if the reform was really necessary and noted it brought ‘enormous costs’.

Professor Baird, head of the university’s department of education said: “It’s one change after another and causes massive upheaval. 

“There is enough pressure on schools as it is. This change was really about making exams harder but schools are also expected to drive up outcome. That’s quite a conundrum.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said the ‘new gold-standard qualifications’ were the result of a six-year process, and all schools had been sent an information pack explaining changes.

He added: “We have worked with Ofqual to issue a wide range of resources since 2014, to raise awareness of the new grading system.

“This is part of our drive to continue raising standards so every child is taught the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life?.”

More information about the GCSE changes will be published in the Oxford Mail on Thursday.