Sunday, 6 January 2008

Teachers force changes to GCSEs

By Warwick Mansell, Helen Ward and Nick Hilborne
TES, Published: 21 December 2007

New exams in 28 subjects from 2009 show drastic alterations to QCA’s original revisions.Teachers have forced the Government’s exams watchdog into drastic changes to revision of GCSEs in many subjects from 2009. Already-trailed alterations to the 20-year-old exams, such as the introduction of tighter controls on coursework and the possibility of more modular courses, remain in place.

But the final criteria for the new GCSEs in 28 subjects, published today, show many detailed changes from what was proposed when they appeared in draft form in June. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s decisions follow a consultation with 1,865 teachers.

A TES analysis of the new criteria has revealed that not being able to speak French, German or other languages will no longer be a barrier to gaining a GCSE in the subject. Pupils will be able to choose to study a short course in either speaking and listening or reading and writing. The change is in line with Lord Dearing’s review into language learning published earlier this year. This pointed out that the current GCSE short course, which covers all four skills but has less content than the full GCSE, was not popular.

Other major changes have also been prompted by the Dearing recommendations. Oral tests could change to become less stressful and schools and students will be allowed to choose at least some of the content to be studied.

Students will now gain 40 per cent of their grade from external exams and 60 per cent from controlled assessment, the same weighting as in other practical subjects such as music or engineering.

In addition, the criteria state that assessment of speaking and writing must be by controlled assessment. But tiered papers will remain, despite teachers in the consultation being divided over this issue.

For a summary of specific changes for languages, go to:

All references to new KS3 PoS and the outcome of GCSE review be found at

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