A 9 is for a student who has performed exceptionally well, usually in the top 5% of the cohort. Reformed GCSE grades will be awarded on a rating scale from 9 (highest grade) to 1 (lowest). So what's the difference? The government grading system changed from A* to G to a numerical system ranging from 9 to 1, allowing for greater differentiation of students at the higher end of the scale. A 9 is a higher grade than an A*, while 7 is approximately equal to the previous A rating.
I know a school that has been putting students on a foundation to save its high percentage of students in grades 9 to 7.Since the percentage is taken from the top-level candidate, therefore, fewer students who are more likely to score a 6 or simply get a 5 are sent to the foundation to maintain their higher percentages in the top-level group. The 9-1 grading program has been incorporated together with a new GCSE curriculum in England. However, government school leaderboards are based on the percentage of students who scored 5 or higher in the English and Math GCSEs. GCSE grade limits are now only released to students on the day of the results, whereas they were previously released in advance.
GCSE courses now include much less coursework than before, with grades in almost every subject based on exams. All GCSE score limits, including those for Mathematics, are published separately by the appropriate exam boards and posted on their respective websites on the day of the results. The new mathematics GCSEs were designed to be different from the old GCSEs A* to G, so you can't really compare the new with the old.