Speaking and Listening marks being dropped from GCSEs

Ofqual has announced that Speaking and Listening ‘controlled assessments’ are to be removed from English GCSEs with immediate effect. Ofqual defends this by saying that these must be removed immediately to ‘protect standards’

But this reaction has sparked anger from Head Teachers, who are disappointed by the timing, condemning it as ‘flying in the face of reason’.

According to Ofqual, the present situation means there is “inconsistency” in how schools set and mark the controlled assessments – in effect coursework which is carried out in school, under supervision. In speaking and listening assessments, students might have to prepare a speech and deliver it to fellow pupils and answer questions from them, having studied famous speeches and various techniques used in public speaking. I remember doing a presentation about the history of the world’s largest McDonalds (don’t ask why) for mine.

Their “performance” is usually recorded and marked by their teachers, with exam boards checking the marks given.

Ofqual believes the setting and marking of the controlled assessments is not consistent between schools. It says the results of the work already under-taken will be recorded separately in results students receive next summer, alongside the GCSE grade, and that speaking and listening will remain on the curriculum.

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.”

Controlled assessments for speaking and listening had been due to count for 20% of the overall GCSE grade, but now will not count for any. It is part of a move by Ofqual to shift the balance of marks away from controlled assessment. Controlled assessments as a whole made up 60% of the marks, (20% speaking and listening and 40 % reading and writing). Formal written exams made up the remaining 40%.

As a results of the changes confirmed on Thursday, from next summer, formal written exams will count for 60% of the marks and the reading and writing controlled assessments will count for 40%. I find it rather interesting how we’re still moving away from controlled assessment whilst the Scottish education system (which is currently stronger than ours) is moving the other way.

I feel that this is a serious case of awful timing by Ofqual. I can understand and respect that their is a lack of consistency across all schools, but instead of dropping it, why not adjust it so the controlled assessments are not carried out by the teachers but by independent examiners? That way there is no bias or inflation of grades which should then eradicate the problem. Why do you need to scrap it entirely, and why change it now, when in a couple of years time GCSEs will be facing an overhaul as it is? Serious questions over their decision here, particularly by the frustrated teenagers who have just done these assessments thinking that it would contribute to their grades, which we now know it isn’t.

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