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Changes to GCSE English language - what a bugger!

(28 Posts)
Itscoldouthere Mon 16-Sep-13 12:30:06

So we just had a letter from school saying Ofqual has made changes to the GCSE English language exam and Speaking and Listening marks will no longer count towards the qualification.

This means that all assessments taken last year by yr 10 children will not count towards their GCSE ( speaking and listening component should have represented 20 %) and instead the examination will now be worth 60% of the total marks.

It seems so wrong to change the format of an exam half way through and really unfair to the new yr 11s who spend all that time last year working on something that is no longer being counted.

My DC will be really pissed off when I tell him.

noblegiraffe Mon 16-Sep-13 12:35:21

It's utterly appalling. All that hard work for nothing.

dopeysheep Mon 16-Sep-13 12:39:31

Agree it is unfair to change the.format for the current cohort but I agree that the speaking and listening should be replaced. It doesn't really seem like a lot of work for 20% of an exam.

LazyMonkeyButler Mon 16-Sep-13 12:56:32

DS1 is Year 11. We have also had a letter from school about this.

It would appear that there is a way around it - by taking the English Language element in November 2013 (about 6 weeks time!) to get in before the changes take effect. The English Literature element is coursework based & will still be worked on for submission in May 2014.

The letter mentions that Year 11 will be having "intensely pressurised English only days" over the next 6 weeks to prepare. How absolutely excellent for DS1, who has Aspergers and is already struggling with the GCSE pressure!

It does mean that their work in Year 10 will still be counted though.

Itscoldouthere Mon 16-Sep-13 13:16:27

Well our school haven't offered that, they have just apologised and said they can't believe that this change has been made by the government but its out of their control.

I feel sorry for my DS who is dyslexic, so the speaking/listening part of the exam was the easiest bit for him, now there is more pressure for him in the written section.

It must be hard for the teachers as well to have to make the changes so quickly.

Lazymonkeys - are your yr11s ready to take the full exam in 6 weeks time? I don't think my DS is ready yet!

Kez100 Mon 16-Sep-13 14:45:55

Knew this from some time ago. My dyslexic son had an A*, full marks, but has CAs Grade D and came home fuming a few months ago. It's not like speaking and listening isn't a worthwhile skill! Shafts him completely.

Lancelottie Mon 16-Sep-13 14:50:58

Yep, DS is fuming, as he put in a lot of effort (for him!) and similarly did very well on this section.

His English homework last week was to write an essay on the pros and cons of including Speaking and Listening in the English exam, together with a character assassination of Gove reasoned assessment of whether it is fair and useful to change a GCSE requirement after the candidates have already done the work.

I think his English teacher may be planning to post the lot off to Gove...

Itscoldouthere Mon 16-Sep-13 15:07:52

Lancelottie - that's very funny his English teacher must be fuming !

My school seems to suggest this change was only announced a few days ago, but perhaps they are a bit behind on this ( or telling a few porky pies!).

friday16 Mon 16-Sep-13 15:22:49

My school seems to suggest this change was only announced a few days ago

The consultation exercise was launched, with media coverage, on April 25. The final announcement was much more recent, but the direction of travel was clear in April.

It's worth noting that almost everyone who actually read the report into the 2012 GCSE English debacle stopped talking about the iniquity of the marking last year and moved on to discussing how to sort the issue out. Anyone who'd read that report, and the April consultation document (which includes, one would trust, every practicing English teacher) would realise that there was absolutely no way Ofqual could do anything else.

secretscwirrels Mon 16-Sep-13 16:34:53

This is not new, my DC school certainly knew last term.

FozzieMK Mon 16-Sep-13 16:43:38

Rather like the 2012 GCSE English when they played around with the marking mid year after the January exams. My DD was one of the pupils who would have got a C if she had taken the exam in January but got a D in June! To be honest though, despite having grade 7 LAMDA speech and drama this part of the GCSE gained her worst mark. Not sure why but she is now re-taking it in college so I suspect she will be happy this element has been removed.

IHeartKingThistle Mon 16-Sep-13 16:51:27

I loved the Speaking and Listening element. It helped many bright, articulate students who weren't so strong on writing get a grade that reflected their intelligence. I feel sorry for current Year 11s.

But I also personally know a teacher who never bothered to do the S+L tasks AT ALL and just made up the grades to send off to the exam board. TBF it was a bit too easy to fiddle.

I left English teaching last year. It's a terrible time to be a teacher.

Fozzie your DD, my Set 3 and thousands of others were treated appallingly that year. angry

LazyMonkeyButler Mon 16-Sep-13 16:55:07

I'm not sure how many of the students will be ready to take the exam in November TBH confused. I suppose some will be fine but others are bound to suffer.

It sounds as though the next 6 weeks are going to be pretty much one big English lesson in preparation!

Our school are also very much going down the "we knew nothing, this has just been dropped on us" line.

janeyjampot Mon 16-Sep-13 16:57:35

My DD1 has just come home with a letter about this. Like LazyMonkeyButler's DS, they are going to do it in November so that the work they've already done (DD is sure she hasn't done any!) will count.

friday16 Mon 16-Sep-13 17:11:53

I'm not sure how many of the students will be ready to take the exam in November TBH

But that's pretty much Ofqual's point about the poor consistency of the S&L assessment. See also their blog entry here.

A school consider it worth forgoing six months' teaching and revision in order to squeeze under the wire with a module that only carries 20% of the overall marks? Doesn't that make you think, hmm? As Ofqual say, "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."

If the difference between 80% other work and 20% S&L and scaling the 80% up to the whole result is a bigger issue than the gain over six months, what's the explanation? That six months of teaching won't raise grades? Or that S&L is being marked very generously?

DiaryofaHollandParkParent Mon 16-Sep-13 18:37:06

My DD will be sitting English in November along with maths in year 10 - normal for her school - first time I have actually been glad that she is sitting early.

pixiepotter Mon 16-Sep-13 23:16:50

I am not surprised they have cracked down on it to be honest.It was a way of getting the thick kids to scrape through

IHeartKingThistle Tue 17-Sep-13 00:29:10

You sound lovely pixie hmm

morethanpotatoprints Tue 17-Sep-13 01:04:48


You have to be pretty dim to come out with a comment like that.
I won't use your term, its offensive.

Kez100 Tue 17-Sep-13 02:27:25

Ha! Pixie. Yeah, my thick son with his Ds in English controlled assessments and Cs in Science Controlled assessments. Lets not forget his A grades in the actual Science exams.

They say they cannot moderate speaking and listening. Funny that, they've managed to do so in MFL oral exams since time in memorial.

It just needed a bit more effort on the part of the exam boards and a bit of thought on behalf of the government. But they chose to take the lazy and inequitable way out.

hellsbells99 Tue 17-Sep-13 07:25:43

It is very wrong to change things half way through the course. This decision was only made at the end of August. I think most people thought the proposals wouldn't go ahead as they were and they would change it so it affected the new year 10s onwards and not be retrospective.

friday16 Tue 17-Sep-13 09:08:20

I think most people thought the proposals wouldn't go ahead

You'd have thought that the removal of the modules from both GCSE and A level after teaching had started would show that as a triumph of hope over experience.

they've managed to [moderate] in MFL oral exams since time immemorial

Yes, but with far lower numbers, much more tightly specified tasks, far more stereotyped responses, a subject generally taken by a narrower range of abilities and a qualification which only tangentially forms part of the accountability measures. Less motive for cheating, fewer opportunities for cheating, cheaper to police. Recording every English S&L task would be a massive undertaking, and had Ofqual announced that you'd have had to wear hearing protection to avoid being defended by the uproar.

Aside from King Thistle's account upthread, after last year's debacle I'm afraid that Ofqual have every reason to be suspicious. People who are unhappy about the way English is being singled out should actually read the Ofqual report to see why fixing the situation can't be left for two years.

friday16 Tue 17-Sep-13 09:08:57

deafened, not defended, obviously.

englishworries Tue 17-Sep-13 22:12:12

As an English teacher, it was absolutely not "a way of getting the thick kids to scrape through." It did give articulate students an advantage, and acknowledged the importance of verbal communication, which is assessed at university level via presentations, and is certainly a life skill.
The Ofqual consultation was less than thorough, and there are technical inaccuracies in the review document, for instance stating that spoken language was worth 20%, when it was worth 10%.
The decision was communicated via the media at the end of August, so any schools informing parents and students otherwise prior to this were jumping the gun. The exam board websites were certainly not amended prior to this, and they still seem to be struggling to keep up with the changes.
So schools are now faced with a choice: accept that an exam worth 40% is now worth 60%, and tell students that their previous assessments count for nothing; push students to do an early entry in November (a practice that has been decried by Gove) or switch to iGCSE, where speaking and listening still counts as 20%. Interestingly, candidates for iGCSE English tripled in 2013. I will be surprised if there isn't a similar increase in 2014.

NoComet Wed 18-Sep-13 00:59:42

As the Mother of another dyslexic, who needs a B for her chosen sixth form collage, I too am very annoyed about this.

Standing up and giving presentations at university and at work is a skill many of us have used and everyone needs to be able to talk clearly when going for a job or collage interview. Speaking and listening is a vital skill and this decision makes no sense.

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