Changes to GCSEs in languages in 2016 and how to get involved

Fri Apr 11 14:00:00 UTC 2014

The Department for Education has recently published the latest version of the subject content and assessment criteria for the next generation of GCSEs in languages. First teaching of the new qualifications will start in September 2016 and they will be assessed for the first time in summer 2018.

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The subject content document will not be finalised until a linked Ofqual consultation about assessment arrangements has taken place and further decisions made as a result of the consultation findings. You are very much encouraged to respond to the Ofqual consultation and to have your say. The deadline for responses is 23 May 2014.

What's new in the subject content?

Following last summer’s consultation, the latest subject content has been revised and is significantly different to that of the current GCSEs. Unsurprisingly, given the concerns raised in the Ofqual review of controlled assessments, the changes bid farewell to controlled assessments and include:

  • focus on independent and spontaneous use of the target language
  • increased emphasis on the culture and identities of the countries and communities where the language is spoken
  • exposure to literary texts
  • contexts linked to themes that relate to:
    • identity and culture

    • local, national, international and global areas of interest

    • current and future study and employment

  • translation into English and from English into the target language

  • requirements for a minimum of 20% target language questions in the listening unit and for a minimum of 30% target language questions in the reading unit, in most languages

  • a formal requirement to ask questions in the speaking unit

  • reference to past, present and future events.

Read the full review of controlled assessment in GCSEs below.

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Please read the Department for Education GCSE Languages subject content document GCSE Languages subject content below for more information about the changes.

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New assessment objectives

The assessment objectives have been revisited so that each language skill will have a 25 per cent weighting.

  • AO1 Listening: understand and respond to different types of spoken language (25 per cent).
  • AO2 Speaking: communicate and interact in speech (25 per cent).
  • AO3 Reading: understand and respond to different types of written language (25 per cent).
  • AO4 Writing: communicate in writing (25 per cent).

The above is confirmed in the Ofqual GCSE assessment objectives information. 

New grading

A new 1-9 grading system is proposed to replace the current G to A* model. To discover more and respond to the proposals, please refer to the Setting the grade standards of new GCSEs’ consultation.

Other key issues

As you will see from the GCSE Languages subject content above, there are various other issues that need to be considered and further decisions made to enable awarding organisations to develop the new specifications. They include:

  • tiering of main and lesser-taught languages
  • potential for a removal of the facility to mix tiers across the language skills
  • assessment arrangements for the speaking unit with potential for tasks to be set and marked by awarding organisations
  • an intention to remove the uniform mark scale (UMS).

More detail on the above is given in the consultation on reforming GCSEs in Modern Foreign and Ancient Languages.

Tell us what you think

Share your views with other teachers on the proposed new GCSE languages subject content, tiering, speaking assessment arrangements etc via our Languages Community. The following ‘Want to have your say about the New GCSEs’ post could help to start a mini professional discussion board that is specific to language teachers. 

Join our teacher panel

Consider joining our teacher panel – this enables you to view and comment on potential content and assessment models that are currently ‘work in progress’. You could, to a certain extent, help shape the new qualifications and enjoy other rewards from panel membership.  

Stay in touch

Don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @PearsonMFLquals for news on GCSE and other qualification developments. Keep visiting the Languages subject page too for further updates and related 'quick polls'.

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