Changes to GCSE English and English language

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Ofqual has now announced that it is to go ahead with plans to stop speaking and listening assessments from counting towards final grades in GCSE English and English language.

The change is being made to the qualifications in England to protect standards, as there is no workable way to ensure the skills are assessed consistently and fairly across all schools. It will come into effect for awards made next summer (2014).

Students’ speaking and listening skills will instead be reported separately on the GCSE certificate alongside the GCSE grade, giving a more detailed picture of their achievements than under the previous arrangements.

The changes will also alter the balance between exams and controlled assessments, which are marked in schools. Under the current arrangements, controlled assessments make up 60 per cent of marks (20 per cent speaking and listening and 40 per cent reading and writing), with written exams counting for 40 per cent. In future, written exams will count for 60 per cent of marks and the reading and writing controlled assessments will count for 40 per cent.

Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey said: “We know that this will be unpopular with many teachers, and will affect students who have already completed their first year of studies, but we think it right to make these changes and to act as quickly as possible because the current arrangements result in unfairness.

“Exam boards cannot be sure that speaking and listening assessments are being carried out and marked consistently across all schools, and we have evidence that they are not. That creates unfairness, and that is unacceptable.

“Many teachers rightly say that speaking and listening skills are of vital importance. We agree, which is why we will still require them to be reported. We know there are concerns that these skills will not be taught if they don’t count towards final grades and accountability measures. We must stress that the curriculum has not changed, and these skills will be assessed as they are now and the results reported.”

Ofqual launched a consultation into the proposals in April. This followed an investigation into concerns around GCSE English last summer, which found that the qualification was poorly designed and particularly vulnerable to the pressures of the accountability measures for schools. Ofqual found evidence of over-marking of controlled assessments.

Tighter controls have already been introduced for written controlled assessments, but speaking and listening cannot be covered by those arrangements. Moderators do visit one-third of schools each year to advise them on their marking but it is not possible to design workable controls to ensure fairness.

A summary report of the consultation responses can be found here. [PDF, 685KB]

Our report into GCSE English last summer can be found here

Ofqual has also carried out a review of controlled assessment. [PDF, 693KB]