ALL GCSE Content Review 2021 Webinar 2



ALL has arranged two webinars on the GCSE content review.

The first one was open to everyone and looked at the proposals in the review comparing with current and former GCSE content . Here is a link to the recording and the accompanying documents.

This second webinar gave ALL members (individual, student, group and corporate) the opportunity to share their views and consider the questions on both consultations thereby informing ALL’s response to the consultation, which closes on May 19th.


Don’t forget to join ALL or renew your membership to ensure you have access to all the great member benefits!


We urge you to respond to the consultations.  Here are the relevant links:


Please note that the recording does not include the chat or poll results. See below for this information.

Presentations and results


Chat curated by Steven Fawkes – grouped under useful themes: Content webinar 2 Chat edited

Also pasted at the end of this page.

Poll results













Chat curated by Steven Fawkes – grouped under useful themes: Content webinar 2 Chat edited

Pasted below:

Examinations / Mixed Skills

Dictation and Phonics test. This seems like a lovely idea to have a check to make sure pupils are secure in the phonics. Except that’s not what a GCSE is. It needs to split pupils from grades 9 to 1. So it has to be a dictation/reading aloud task that many pupils get wrong. A hard dictation.
A complete speaking test has never before been prescribed in subject content
Would there be any consideration of using video clips for listening like the ones on TeachIt which give lots of body language cues as well and are much more natural.
what is the rationale behind reading aloud? I don’t see any advantage to this. Pronunciation should be key and come under speaking skills.
Slow pace speech in Listening sounds great. But not if the real problem is that the Listening is not a listening at all, but rather a reading you have to do in your head. Natural speed and intonation are features of listening. They shouldn’t be deliberately removed in order to have questions that focus on tricks and language features in word by word processing. Instead of questions that focus on understanding content/interaction/communication.
I like the notion of mixed skill testing but do NOT think it is the role of DfE to specify. In the same way that they should NOT be telling us how to teach
Does the mixed skills idea come from people who think there are no skills. And just want to test knowledge of vocab and grammar?
We have been advised to think of the current A level papers which have mixed AO
We operate in languages in a variety of skills not one at a time. I think it good improve our approach to supporting learning
The skills are wholly inter-related. Testing them in that way makes sense and reflects how language is actually used.

Word lists
With the 90% of words thing, the question on the proposal seems to make it clear that speaking/writing should be within these words too. So pupils couldn’t say things they want to say. Or at least, the boards can’t come up with topics which could need “extra” words.
yes, does the word list for writing just mean the words that are in question and not in the answer?
The consultation seems to say that the words should be for receptive AND productive. And that it would be unhelpful for pupils to have to learn extra words.
I agree with the poll. It makes completely sense not to have a define list for the productive skills.
A defined list for Foundation Tier receptive skills would work, but don’t think it’s a good idea for Higher
Why not for higher?
Too restrictive I guess?
I defined list is good idea in principle. The issue is, which words? and what would they allow you to say and under which context?
They should also be rewarded for using different words in writing and speaking
If it’s too prescriptive there’s a real knock on effect on A-level too
Also, by 90% from the list: does that include all words in the text or just the part that you need to answer the exam question
It’s more to do with what the exam board are being tasked to create. Topics that ONLY use words on the list and can’t require any other words… For speaking and writing!?!
Yes this could mean exam boards create artificial and contrived texts
Therefore no authenticity or real culture! Quite contradictory with what they also want!
do the word lists include different verb conjugations? Or high frequency verbs in the infinitive which students need to know how to conjugate in the tense / subject.
Going back to defined word lists. If this is an attempt to make the Listening more accessible, then I’m not sure that works. Because the exam will need the same number of pupils to get questions wrong. So with the vocab defined, it puts MORE emphasis on grammatical feature spotting and tricksiness.
it would be a very massive piece of work to gather a robust corpus ‘relevant to a 16 year old’. – but v interesting and useful. What would that look like? in fact, regardless of the corpus you use, the most useful (the highest frequency) are largely the same.

teaching pupils to infer words from contexts is a real life skill, inferring from a written context should be retained but be manageable and realistic.
I am just concerned that, aiming to teach inference, we keep testing students in words that may be very difficult to get.
I think higher students should develop deciphering skills
Exactly. Waiting for the chance to say YES to defined list + some inference + some words for padding.
Agree with teaching students how to infer words too
Agree – inference is a natural, satisfying and motivating part of building receptive language
I think for life long language learning students must be able to infer meaning and deal with unfamiliar language using strategies. They should also be rewarded for doing this.
not inferring means we are not assessing ‘real’ language skills and good preparation for post 16
Normally the higher end questions require more inference skills. I will be interested to see how the differentiate the questions if inference is not a requirement.
It could be important here to be specific about the type of “inferencing”: lexical inferencing (work out a likely meaning for a word; this could be tested in more constrained contexts than currently often done) or pragmatic (what do you think that this person is meaning, without actually saying it directly – a more complex and subjective thing to test)
GCSE is meant to reflect 9 year of language study assuming language teaching from year 3. Surely being able to infer meaning after 9 years of language study (even if it’s a different language) is a fair assumption.
Clearly, people agree the need for students, particularly at Higher to use linguistic strategies to work out some meanings. No chance to express this in DfE consultation. Send in a separate email!

Contexts / Themes
Words need to be used to talk about something. Otherwise the Productive Skills will be based, mainly on grammatical structures. That is very restrictive…
Is this being misunderstood? Just because no themes are specified, this doesn’t mean that the exam boards aren’t supposed to come up with some?
If they can make any themes out of those words! For R and L they can gloss. But for sp and wr, how can they make themes from those words without requiring other words…?
What I would like is a CHOICE of themes – like in history where there is a choice of which periods to study
Good idea about choice of themes, but then History have to buy in about 3-4 different textbooks!
Choice of themes interesting – might be more motivating? Suspect it will mess with the 1200 words + 500 Hgr lists though….
Like the idea of choice, but just hope that provide meaningful context and relevant to our students.
if exam boards develop widely different themes, this could be problematic for collaboration, comparison of standards and lead to an inconsistency in language ,earning
With established themes/topics, going to need more words!
It would be good to see the end of such limited topics
It will also be difficult for children moving from one school to another if the content isn’t the same.
The current GCSE deliberately blocks reading skills by using bizarre texts. And takes out all listening cues such as natural speed, intonation etc. All so they can focus on language features processed word by word. Instead of comprehension of content and listening/reading skills at all! The new proposals push this to further extremes of word by word linguistic feature spotting, slow pace, and actual dictation!
If schools teach different topics, how can students moving schools mid-course be guaranteed a fair experience?
Having themes will guard against the use of grammatical knowledge being the force of the curriculum rather than communication
Not sure why themes matter if words are defined. Might make textbooks more interesting
The lack of themes is one aspect I actually agree with!
If I had a defined word list I would avoid text books altogether.
We prob also teach the themes/topics in different orders to each other now too
Some of the themes we have now are dead boring because we do the same themes over and over again. So a choice at GCSE where teachers could use their interest and the interests of their classes might be better?
The themes tend to be very simplistic compared with what they can understand in History Geography etc
Yes some existing themes are deadly boring
Themes – also if we want to be more cross-curricular, lack of themes might be positive in that regard.
The current themes aren’t helpful for children from more disadv
I think (from discussions I have had) that the exam boards are quite open to creating themes but until the consultations are complete they cannot start to do any planning around this.
Oops. I think the themes aren’t great for children from disadvantaged families who don’t have hobbies holidays and homes!
We don’t need themes in the strict way we have now, which is too prescriptive but having some contexts to facilitate the learning of words is essential. We learn vocabulary/better in context.
Can I ask: does “lack of themes” actually mean “lack of defined themes” i.e. freedom to teach through any themes you want – as long as vocabulary is within the defined list? Is it still expected that language will be taught through themes?
Choice of themes would help cross curricular. Not necessarily no themes
very interesting point: “if we want to be more cross-curricular, lack of themes might be positive in that regard.”
Cross curricular learning would have implications for the vocabulary lists.

I am concerned about how key aspects of language (inference) and authentic communication are just being removed and prescribed. I don’t see how it is going to be exciting for pupils.
Especially communication. Really worried that spontaneous extended speaking and response to questioning is not going to be needed or rewarded apparently.
I agree that successful communication is what the students enjoy the most.
Raising uptake will not come through a new GCSE course. It goes so much wider than that and needs action from a range of stakeholders. I could go on …!
Increased uptake will come from a feeling of success.
Pupils may leave secondary school with a GCSE in a language, but they’ll find it completely useless if they can’t use it in a real context.
Worth bearing in mind that greater accessibility to language learning for disadvantaged students might be better supported by these GCSE proposals? We need to bear in mind these students. Perhaps the earlier comments on inference refer here too?

Will be interesting if we get onto authentic oral interaction, which has effectively been killed by these proposals? Consultation ignored this completely as it allowed no comments on omissions.
Being able to spontaneously speak is how pupils evaluate whether they are successful learners
Using language to communicate is also important for pupils to practise using their language, how it fits together and works. It’s essential for learning, not just for communicating.
However, we have to move away from pupils learning conversation questions off by heart.
I think current speaking is a nice balance of learned vs spontaneous. You have to learn some things by heart. It’s how we all make progress at this stage of language learning.
We need an interactive dialogue that rewards true communication skills, include questioning, and does not demand formulaic development and complexity. This is what has encouraged rote learning.
Rote learning is no preparation for A Level speaking
Totally agree that rote learning for speaking has been a real weakness, and has not prepared learners for KS5
Rote learning was the OLD GCSE.
Yes and we definitely don’t want to go back there!!
Teachers are sharing how to teach spontaneous speaking, after years of being wiped out by the rote learning GCSE. These proposals are responding to the OLD GCSE!
First reference ever to ‘spontaneity’ in current content. This should have been picked up and developed further.
It’s incredibly different to design markschemes to credit speaking that is NOT rote learning vs rote-learned answers. Students are still currently rewarded for overly complex answers and structures that can’t be produced spontaneously (unless rote-learned).
I know this is done in Latin but that’s because we aren’t learning to communicate in Latin.
But you can have a stimulating dialogue marked in a way that does not promote rote learning!
The new GCSE has only been examined twice. Teachers are only just finding their way back to teaching spontaneous speaking. AQA have given guidance that cutting down the topics to a narrow rote learned couple of topics is malpractice.
Just because we’ve always marked a conversation the wrong way, it does not invalidate the role of interactive dialogue in MFL speaking test.
The current mark scheme rewards complexity as opposed to spontaneous responses.
It was very difficult to recognise true spontaneity when marking GCSE Speaking tests as it was judged based on whether the students hesitated or paused before an utterance. Easy to teach them to do this!!
That’s not a reason to abandon teaching pupils to speak spontaneously and test/reward grammatical accuracy in short answers.
I know very skilled people who have pushed on the design of speaking markschemes over recent years to reward spontaneity and it really has proved challenging to achieve a fair and reliable way to do this in national assessments.
The wide range of topics and Qs in the speaking exam should make it so that no one would even think of learning the lot by rote! And also the writing exam is unpredictable, so people do have to be able to write from internalised language.

dilution of culture could lead to heavier focus on exam techniques, pressures of accountability
If the cultural elements are not assessed, they will disappear from schemes of learning because of time and exam pressure.
Interesting to ask: has “culture” – itself – been assessed at GCSE to date? How has that been done? How could it be done validly and reliably?
Culture is the vehicle. I don’t think it should be tested.
We find there’s a much bigger uptake for geography than for languages, suggesting students are interested in global issues but see languages as too difficult. I think they would engage well with assessment of culture.

I’m really concerned about what advice to give our KS2 feeder schools at the moment. Not sure where they’ll fit into this?
I agree entirely. If a corpus of vocabulary is going to be prescribed for KS4 surely it would make sense to provide more content guidance in KS2 and KS3 to allow for meaningful progression. Some of this KS2 and KS3 content should also include high frequency language. The starting point for GCSE shouldn’t be that students have zero prior knowledge
I am really concerned that the KS2 language work will be downgraded. If the high frequency words only start at KS4 what is the future of KS2 languages?
KS2 definitely starts the language learning journey and can also benefit from high-frequency vocabulary to the fore
Agree with the need to liaise with KS2 colleagues for development here, but also to bear in mind that there are still so many who don’t have a positive KS2 language learning experience.
The process appears to be back to front. We will spend so much time as MFL teachers implementing whatever new GCSE is agreed. This doesn’t solve the main problem which stems from a lack of clarity and consistency in Ks2 and Ks3.
We need to find ways to make MFL teaching in KS2 more successful rather than assuming that as it isn’t done well across the board at the moment it’s not important.
It is true that many KS2 pupils do not have an excellent language experience. Well deal with that and ensure everyone does have this experience rather than throwing hnads up and trying to disregard and build on this learning

What seems worrying is that all I have seen so far is about what the students should know rather than what they should be able to do by the end of the GCSE in the language (as in really life language teaching beyond GCSE…)
In an ideal world we need to go back to KS3 and KS2 and get it right there in order to raise GCSE uptake. So many TAs are teaching MFL in primary, often leading to a poor experience of MFL. Would that happen in Ma, Eng, Sc etc?

Other comments
Agree re lack of opportunity to consult on diversity in the consultation qus. Thank you for making this point.
Is there any student voice in these consultations?
Has the severe marking problem in MFL been addressed? Should it have been taken account of in last year’s GCSEs?
Normally these consultations are a done deal. But there are some things like the productive use being limited to words on the list. That doesn’t seem to work. Pupils can’t say the things they want to say. But maybe that doesn’t matter if it’s all about testing learned defined words and being tested on them.
Is this based on an out of date “review” looking at the landscape of MFL in the years of the Learn By Rote GCSE? And before the widespread use of sentence builders etc?
It’s important that we respond to DfE on omissions. The DfE sham consultation only encourages responses to what is before us. ALL needs to challenge this.
I think we’re back to teachers doing things they don’t really believe in (encouraging rote learning) to meet accountability expectations
Good professional discussion everyone!
Lack of total agreement reflects the need for diverse views to be reconciled!

Yes thank you everyone – really interesting
Thanks so much for organising this!
Thank you, ALL!!
Thanks to ALL – these webinars have been a really fantastic support to professional thinking and
Thank you so much, it’s great to discuss and share ideas.
Thank you. A very useful session.
Thank you very much for organising this – it has been really helpful.
thank you – certainly made me think!
Thank you for organising this. Take care
Thank you for all the hard work involved and the thought-provoking chat.
Well done for pulling this together
Thank you so much, as this is a mammoth task to sort out.
Thank you very much for organising this.
Thank you very much, very interesting and helpful
Yes, thanks for this. Hopefully I’ve been random enough to keep Mr Fawkes busy!