• 11 September 2013 – Gove published new national
curriculum for all subjects except English, mathematics
and science at KS4
• 1 November 2013 – Gove published the new GCSE subject
content for English language and English literature
• 2 December 2013 – Gove published for consultation the
programmes of study for English at KS4
• 3 February 2014 – consultation period ends
• September 2015 – programme of study for English will be
introduced, alongside first teaching of the new
Gove – 2nd December 2013
In English, the programme of study has been strengthened to
ensure all pupils read a wide range of high-quality, challenging
and classic English literature. There is a renewed focus on the
reading of whole texts which should include at least one play by
Shakespeare, works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and
poetry since 1789, including Romantic poetry. The language
requirement is also more demanding and pupils will be expected
to speak fluently and use linguistic and literary terminology
effectively and confidently in their written and spoken English.
• Employers, universities and colleges are often dissatisfied
with school leavers’ literacy and numeracy even though the
proportion of young people achieving good grades has gone
up in recent years. Around 42% of employers need to
organise additional training for young people joining them
from school or college.
• The government believes that making GCSEs and A levels
more rigorous will prepare students properly for life after
school. It is also felt necessary to introduce a curriculum
that gives individual schools and teachers greater freedom
to teach in the way they know works and that ensures that
all pupils acquire a core of essential knowledge in English,
mathematics and sciences.
• The government is keen to address literacy standards in
schools and make sure pupils develop good reading skills
• There will no longer be GCSE English. The current GCSE English will be available for the
last time in 2016. All students will have to study GCSE English Language.
GCSE English Language
• The new English Language GCSE will encourage students to read a greater range of high
quality, challenging literature and non-fiction text from a range of genres and types (from
the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries).
• Reading and writing will be equally weighted in the new English Language GCSE.
• The new English Language GCSE will have a greater focus on making sure that students are
able to write clearly and accurately, in good Standard English. There will be an increased
emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar including the use of vocabulary.
• Tiers will be removed from GCSE English Language. This means that specifications and
question papers will have to cover the full range of abilities.
• Speaking and Listening will be assessed through endorsement (this change is being
introduced to exams from summer 2014). There will be a bigger emphasis on teaching
students to become more confident in formal speaking.
GCSE English Literature
• The new English Literature GCSE will encourage students to read a wide range of classic
literature fluently with the assessment of:
– A 19th century novel
– A Shakespeare play
– A selection of poetry since 1789 including representative Romantic poems
– British fiction or drama from 1914 onwards.
• Tiers will be removed from GCSE English Literature. This means that specifications and
question papers will have to cover the full range of abilities.
• There will be increased assessment of unseen texts.
• The quality of writing in the response to texts will be assessed.
Changes to both new English GCSEs
• The study of literature will remain a compulsory part of the Key Stage 4 curriculum.
• There will be new requirements to use more diverse and challenging writing skills, such as
narrating and arguing.
• All English GCSEs will have terminal assessment with no controlled assessment.
• a new grading system will be introduced. Students will be awarded a grade from 1 to 9, with
9 being the highest. Students will get a U where performance is below the minimum
required to pass the GCSE
• Exam boards that are recognised to award
the new qualifications will start developing
them with a view to Ofqual accrediting
them (if they meet requirements) from the
summer of 2014.
• Schools will then be able to decide which
of the accredited qualifications they wish
to teach. Most accreditation decisions will
have been made by the end of 2014.
• Ofqual note that if qualifications do not
command respect, or equip students in the right
way, and if there is any unfairness in the way
that they are assessed, then students’
achievements are diminished.
• In 2012, Ofqual state, GCSE English could not
withstand the pressures placed on it; 60 per
cent of the marks for the qualification were
for controlled assessment, marked by teachers,
whose schools were being judged to a
significant extent by the results of those
Assessment of GCSEs (Ofqual)
• In new GCSEs, assessments in most subjects will be by exam
• This will reduce the disruption to teaching and learning caused
when students take controlled assessments in the classroom
when they could otherwise be learning.
• The new arrangements will make it easier to ensure exams are
conducted fairly. Assessments will mostly be marked by
examiners employed by exam boards rather than by teachers.
• This will free teachers’ time so they can concentrate on to
teaching and lift the pressures placed on them by marking their
own students’ assessments, whose results affect the way the
teachers themselves, and the schools in which they work, are
• In some subjects, not all skills that are intrinsic to the subject can be
assessed by exam, so non-exam assessment will continue where
necessary. Decisions will be taken on a subject-by-subject basis.
• Ofqual will not prescribe the minimum total time that should be spent
on exams in each subject. Exam boards will be required to develop
assessment strategies for their new GCSEs.
• These strategies will have to show that the assessments they will use
will be valid, reliable, manageable, minimise bias and be comparable with
• Each Exam board will have to consider the amount of examination time
necessary when they develop their strategies.
• They will also have to show that their assessments are suitably
demanding, using questions and tasks appropriate to the qualifications’
demanding and fulfilling content.
Assessment of GCSEs – English
• This will be assessed by exam.
• Students’ speaking skills will be assessed but, as with current
GCSEs, will not contribute to the overall grade.
• The assessment will be marked by teachers and reported
separately, alongside the qualification grade on the certificate.
• Twenty per cent of the marks for the written exams will be
allocated to accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.
• This will be assessed wholly by exam.
• Five per cent of the marks will be allocated to accurate spelling,
punctuation and grammar.
Currently students can be entered for either
GCSE English (taken by students who do
not take a separate GCSE in English
literature) or GCSE English language.
This choice will end – there will be reformed
GCSEs in English language and English
literature but no combined English option.
Tiering: Ofqual: We believe that the curriculum content for English language can be the same
for all students and that all students can be assessed in the same way. We propose that the
reformed GCSE in English language should not be tiered.
Forms of assessment
• It is Ofqual’s view that, with one exception, the outcomes for English language can be fairly
and validly assessed by written exam.
• It is proposed that with the exception of speaking and listening, all assessment for the
reformed English language qualification should be by written exams alone and that the total
assessment time should be no less than 3.5 hours.
• The draft content includes a requirement that students must be able to demonstrate
presentation skills in a formal setting and listen and respond appropriately to spoken
language, including to questions and feedback. These important skills cannot be assessed by
written exam. Alternative assessment arrangements must be used.
• Ofqual propose that exam boards should design the assessment in which spoken language
skills are assessed and that the assessment should be administered and marked by students’
teachers. The outcome of this assessment should not contribute to the grade; it should be
reported separately on the certificate..
• Ofqual propose such separate reporting because they are not confident that a national
standard can be assured for teacher-administered and marked assessments in speaking and
listening, particularly when schools may be under significant pressure to secure good
outcomes in the qualification.
Tiering: Ofqual: We believe that the curriculum content for English literature can be the
same for all students and that all students can be assessed in the same way. We
propose that the reformed GCSE in English literature should not be tiered.
Forms of assessment
• Ofqual do not believe there are any skills in the draft content for English literature
that could not be validly assessed by written exam, set and marked by the exam
• Ofqual’s review of controlled assessment found that there are some elements of
current GCSE requirements for English literature that can only be assessed by
internal assessment, such as the ability to plan and produce extended responses to
• However, they also found that the time limits and restrictions of controlled
assessment limit the scope for students to develop those re-drafting and evaluation
skills. Ofqual know from their review that the advice from exam boards about what
assistance and feedback can be given to students is open to interpretation, which
means that assessment may not necessarily be fair to all students.
• Ofqual propose that all assessment for the reformed English literature GCSE should
be by written exams alone and that the total assessment time should be no less than
3.5 hours (see proposal and question in section 3).
• All exams for a subject will normally be taken in May and June of the same year.
• This means that students should normally have completed the full two-year
course of study before they take their exams, giving them the best opportunity
to develop their knowledge and understanding of a subject before the
• This fully linear structure should avoid the disruption to teaching and learning
caused by repeated assessment and allow standards to be set fairly and
• The only exception to this is that students who were at least 16 on the preceding 31st
August will be able to take the exams (whether or not for the first time) in English
language and maths in November, as success in these subjects can be required
for progression to further study or work.
• A student who decides to take the exams again will have to take all of the exams
in that subject again.
• Students of all abilities take GCSEs. Some GCSEs are currently tiered, so that
some students take the easier foundation tier (giving access to grades C-G) and
some the higher tier (grades A*-E). Schools have to decide for which tier they
enter a student.
• Students who are wrongly entered for the foundation tier cannot usually be
awarded more than a grade C, however well they do in their assessments.
• In the future, wherever possible, qualifications will be untiered, so all students
will take the same exams. This means all students will have the opportunity to be
awarded the highest grades, if their performance in the assessments merits
• Ofqual will require qualifications to be tiered only where one exam cannot
assess students across the full ability range in a way that enables them all to
demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills in the subject.
• English language and English literature GCSEs will be untiered. Currently
GCSEs in both subjects are tiered.
New GCSEs will be graded.
Students will be awarded one of nine grades
(rather than one of eight as now) or they
will be unclassified (U), in which case they
will not be awarded the qualification.
The grades will be described using numbers
(1-9) rather than letters.9 Grade 9 will
represent the highest level of
Ofqual’s approach to grading:
• We are changing the number of grades and the way they are described. This will:
• Provide more differentiation between students achieving the middle and higher grades.
Currently there is a “bunching” of grades as most students are awarded grades B, C and D.
Adding in an extra grade will improve the spread of grades in this area.
• In our consultation we proposed increasing the number of grades at the middle and top end,
to improve differentiation, and reducing the number at the lower end, since relatively few
students are currently awarded the lower grades.
• In response to feedback to our consultation, we have moved from the eight grades we
proposed to nine grades. In part this was to avoid the risk of people assuming that eight new
grades would map onto the current eight grades.
• We also want to avoid the risk of reducing the opportunity for less able students to
demonstrate the progress they have made and have their achievements recognised.
• Signal that new GCSEs are new qualifications. This would be less apparent if we continued to
describe grades as we do now. If we retained the current grades, users would reasonably,
but wrongly, assume that any given grade awarded for a current GCSE and a new GCSE
indicated the same level of achievement.
• Differentiate between the new GCSEs awarded to students in England and GCSEs awarded
to students in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Reading and Writing
Writing and Reading are equally weighted
in assessment objectives at GCSE.
No more assessment of Spoken
The government do not believe that it is right to set out
requirements for speaking and listening skills in GCSE
In considering the concerns that this section of the content
is unweighted, they have taken account of Ofqual’s recent
conclusion that there is no way to ensure these skills are
assessed consistently and fairly across all schools.
No evidence was presented during the consultation that
would challenge this conclusion. Spoken language remains
unweighted in the content the government are publishing.
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar
We have heard a variety of views, both in favour of and
against increasing the proportion of marks allocated to
SPaG in English language from 12% to 20%. These skills
provide the basic building blocks of the subject and they
are required both for progression to further study and
for the world of work. Employers, and employer
organisations, told us that the GCSE does not currently
give them the assurance they need of young people’s
literacy. A focus on these skills is crucial, and
respondents presented no convincing alternative means of
securing this. In the content we are publishing, 20% of
marks are allocated to SPaG.
While awaiting the final GCSE criteria from Ofqual, the following
general characteristics are currently proposed:
• Linear assessments
• Assessment by external exam only
• Tiering to be avoided, unless strong subject-specific reasons
• Expectations to match and exceed those of high-performing
• Greater demand and discrimination at the top
• Current grading structure to be replaced by numbers
• Inclusion of synoptic assessment
• No re-sit opportunities (except for English Language and Maths)
• Spelling, punctuation and grammar to continue to be assessed
within English Literature, Geography and History, and to also be
assessed within English Language