Our announcement on speaking and listening assessments

, filed under .

As we expected, our decision to stop speaking and listening assessments from counting towards final marks in GCSE English and English language has disappointed many teachers.

We understand this. It was not a decision we made lightly. We considered carefully the responses to our consultation.  They showed that speaking and listening are widely-valued skills.  They did not, though, give us reason to alter our view that the current arrangements are unfair and need to be changed quickly.

There is no way that the exam boards can make sure these assessments are administered and marked sufficiently consistently across all schools and colleges. That means unfairness: results are not fair as between one student and another and it is not right that we allow that to continue when we can do something about it.  I have seen comments from people who think this move is unfair for those students in schools where they do rigorously apply the rules and take pride in fair and accurate marking. But it is exactly these students who have faced unfairness under the previous arrangements.  We saw that last year in the debates about fairness following the GCSE English awarding concerns. Their counterparts in other schools where the rules are interpreted differently, or where marking is more vulnerable to pressures from accountability measures, may have received extra credit – when grade boundaries were set – for work of the same quality.

There are also concerns that speaking and listening skills will no longer be taught.  It is worth reflecting: the curriculum has not changed, and nor has the assessment.  Speaking and listening are incredibly valuable skills, and they should still be taught. I hope English teachers will continue to do that.  The results will still be reported on the GCSE certificate.  Of course, one of the reasons schools focus so heavily on what is assessed is because of performance tables.  The Government consulted earlier this year on changes to secondary accountability arrangements, in light of concerns we and others expressed about the impact of the current arrangements, and we look forward to seeing the Government’s decisions following that consultation.

I know that it is the timing of the change, as well as the change itself that teachers find particularly galling, and some students will be concerned as well. In deciding to move quickly, we weighed up the possible effect on current students as against the continuing unfairness for all students. It is an uncomfortable thing to have to consider, but faced with evidence of unfairness Ofqual thinks it right to act.

Incidentally, we are proposing to use a comparable outcomes approach to smooth out the transition. This means that where the group of students is basically the same from one year to the next, their results should look broadly the same. As we explained on our consultation, without that, A*-C results would likely drop by between 4 and 9 percentage points. That, of course, tells us something interesting about the relationship between speaking and listening results and marks in the rest (80%) of the assessment in GCSE English. If 20% of the assessment can lift results by up to 9 percentage points, it means that many teachers are judging typical performances in speaking and listening to be better than those in other aspects of the subject. And because the nature of the assessments means there is no evidence for the exam boards to review, or moderate, there is no way to be sure that this difference is always justified.

As regulator, we do sometimes have to make decisions that prove unpopular. It comes with the territory. Our aim is always to protect standards and do the right thing for qualifications and students so people can have confidence in the results. And we will always do our utmost to explain clearly the evidence and thinking behind what we do.

Glenys Stacey
Glenys Stacey, Chief Regulator

11 Responses to “Our announcement on speaking and listening assessments”

  1. Leigh

    I am absolutely appalled that you think it is acceptable and fair to bring in such changes for those youngsters who are already half way through their GCSE studies. Many of these students have already taken their controlled assessment and now you are saying all your hard work and preparation was a a waste of time and your grades are irrelevant – what message are you sending to our youngsters. You continually change their curriculum and marking schemes midway into their studies and this is not providing a stable education for our children. I understand your reasons for wanting to change this but doing so for this year’s Y11 group is totally irresponsible. If you want to make changes you make them for those pupils about to start Y10 – this is the only fair way.

    With regard to your consultation process, advertising the consultation in the press is totally inadequate. You should send your consultation papers to all schools in the country and they should be asked to disseminate this information to parents. I knew nothing of this consultation nor did any of my friends, we are all busy people, working full time – we don’t have the time to sit and read the papers (our spare time is spent trying to support our children with their revision and school work ) – the information should be given to us – we should not be expected to trawl the media on a regular basis to see if we should be commenting on something. This smacks of an organisation that just pays lip service to consultation but doesn’t really want to consult.

    Our children have had so many changes to their education in the last 4 years, heard so much criticism about their exams and their results that it is time Ofqual started to support them and given them a little stability not keep moving the goal posts. Parents and pupils alike are fed up with this constant change and the inability to be able to comment and effectively voice their views about the education system. Changing curriculum, course content, marking schemes etc etc in a pupil’s final year is fundamentally wrong and you are letting our children down in their education.

    You probably won’t get many comments about this on this website but don’t assume that’s because parents aren’t bothered, they are, they just don’t know about your website and they don’t know about these changes.

  2. sandev randhawa

    Ofqual have mad wrong choice to remove speakinh and listening because this valuable to peoples life and think ofqual should look at thia carefully again because ofqual are wrong and teachers are right and need to think about this care fully again and correct decision is to krep speaking and listening and need to think very carefully about gcse and alevrl reform because the curtent system is fair and the new one is not going to be.

    • J.M.C

      the system of GCSE english before the change was debauched in terms of speaking and listening. This is because the, supposed, art of articulation mostly relied on confidence and not adept english discernment.

  3. Ros S

    ‘I know that it is the timing of the change, as well as the change itself that teachers find particularly galling, and some students will be concerned as well. In deciding to move quickly, we weighed up the possible effect on current students as against the continuing unfairness for all students. It is an uncomfortable thing to have to consider, but faced with evidence of unfairness Ofqual thinks it right to act.’

    With reference to your above comment I am staggered at its naivety. To suggest that ‘some students will be concerned’ is a massive understatement. My dyslexic son, who has just started year 11, is deeply demoralised by the timing of this decision, as are his classmates. He has been practising his speaking as he knows that due to his learning difficulty his written work can let him down. He now has the added worry that he may not get a grade C or above due to this change and feels the work he did in year 10 is wasted. You use the words ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’ quite freely in your statement and presumably fail to see the irony in this. What you are doing to the current year 11s is grossly unfair.

    I can only echo ALL the comments from Leigh, above, who eloquently expresses what most parents and pupils are feeling.

  4. Jane

    I wholeheartedly believe you have made the right decision. Some years ago, my very shy daughter had to go to great lengths to get a good mark for her speaking and listening assignment at GCEs(she had to choose a key character from Hamlet and had to answer questions in character from the rest of the students in class). As a TA in another school at the time, the kids there seemed to get good marks without putting in nearly as much effort as she had to get the same grade. I think the whole speaking and listening grading was too subjective and open to variation in applying the rules. With the pressures from above, and the government pressures for all pupils to attain a grade C this was bound to happen.

    • Ros

      Do you also agree that it is fair to do this mid GCSE? Imagine if your daughter had been half way through her GCSE course only to be told that some of the work she had done was invalid? My son and the rest of his year are now going to after school English clubs in an attempt to catch up on the work they could have done last year. When they started the GCSE course they were told that 40% of the GCSE mark would be for controlled assessments in class, 40% for the final exam and 20% for speaking and listening. This has now changed to 40% controlled assessment and 60% final exam. If Ofqual feels changes are necessary they should be done at the start of year 10.

  5. Elle Royal

    Dear Ofqual

    I am writing to say how disappointed I am to hear that you have decided to remove the speaking and listening from our GCSE, I am particularly disappointed as I have never found it easy to do speaking and listening, but since this year I have overcome my fear and done really well, so well I was predicted to getting an A at the end of year 11. However since the decision my grade has gone down to a B+, this has then caused me to reconsider taken english literature or language for A level. I’d also like to ask why the decision was made during the middle of the GCSE year and not at the beginning !

  6. Elizabeth

    First, may I say I totally agree with Leigh. I fully endorse his comments regarding the lack of information made Public and that schools and local Education Authorities should inform parents of the proposals being made by Governmental Bodies, including those indepentantly appointed by The Houses of Pariament. The ‘sharing of information’ does not seem to apply to Ofqual but it does apply to the schools and other establishments who have an interest in our childrens future.
    I was not aware of this website until I had need to troll (via the telephone) my way through all of the Governmental Departments regarding the Speaking and Listening changes.
    Glad I have because I can now pass this site on to the other frustrated Parents who care deeply about their childrens future.
    I believe, however, that this is a double edged sword. Not only is Listening and Speaking being removed and now will be an add on to the certificate, also the schools are being challenged in their attempts to move children forward in sitting early GCSE’s.
    As such, children now sitting their GCSE’s will need to achieve higher grades in their written work which, in the case of SEN children will prove difficult (especially if they are dislexic) and rely on their ability to communicate articulately to attain the grades they require to achieve the required results for entrance into the University of their chosen profession.
    My Daughter has a problem with nerves when she is required to sit an examination of any kind. The removal of ‘First Attempts’ leaves her cold as she has no concept of what is required of her. Her opportunity has now been removed because of the suspicion by the DFES that schools are MANIPULATING the figures to their own end. How Sad.
    Finally, I feel that all current year 11 children are being secluded (not exclded) and that these decisions should not have been moved forward for economic reasons! The current year 10′s are aware of what is required of them and w2ill fulfil their obligations as all conditioned children do.
    What has happened to the current year 11′s and their aspirations for success.
    Apologies for the lack of spell check.