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Ofqual plans GCSE English changes

30/04/2013 Joanna
Speaking and listening exercises overseen by staff in English teaching jobs are to no longer count towards final GCSE grades, under new proposals by the exams watchdog.

At present, speaking and listening assessments, overseen and marked within schools by secondary teachers, account for 20 per cent of pupils' final GCSE English marks.

Controlled reading and writing assessments make up a further 40 per cent, with written exams accounting for the remaining 40 per cent.

However, concerns over marking of speaking and listening tests prompted Ofqual to revise grade boundaries last June, with its chief regulator Glenys Stacey subsequently stating that overgenerous marking was understandable given pressures on schools to achieve good grades.

Ofqual has therefore proposed that as of June 2014, speaking and listening assessments will no longer count towards final GCSE marks, with written exams to instead account for 60 per cent and controlled reading and writing assessments for the other 40 per cent.

Following these changes, which are currently under consultation, English teachers would still carry out speaking and listening exercises with their pupils and exam boards would be required to report speaking and listening achievements separately on GCSE certificates.

Ms Stacey commented that speaking and listening remained very important skills and would continue to be assessed in schools.

Nevertheless, she asserted: "But we have found that the design of the GCSE English qualification is seriously flawed.

"The proposed changes will make it more robust and will help protect against any repeat of the problems experienced last year. They will also mean a better balance between controlled assessment and written exams for the qualification."

A Department for Education spokesperson told BBC News that it was Ofqual's responsibility to maintain GCSE standards and that the department supported its efforts to do so.

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg sounded a note of caution, however, stressing the need for "young people need to be able to communicate confidently and articulately".

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