Statement to Parliament: GCSE and A level subject content consultation

Today, 10 September 2015, I am launching a public consultation on revised subject content for 6 GCSEs and 9 A levels which will be taught from 2017.

We are reforming GCSEs and A levels to be rigorous and more knowledge-based, and to match the qualifications used in the best education systems in the world. Our objective is to ensure that young people leave our education system equipped to compete with the best performers across the globe.

The reforms aim to ensure that GCSEs are more academically demanding and will be qualifications in which students, employers, and further education colleges and universities can have confidence. At A level, our reforms aim to ensure that they prepare students for undergraduate study.

A priority in the development of the new qualifications has been to ensure that subject experts, particularly university academics in the relevant subjects, are involved in determining the subject content.

The subject content documents being published today set new expectations which all awarding organisations’ specifications must meet. Awarding organisations have drafted the content, working with subject experts, the Department for Education and Ofqual. An additional consultation will be published in the autumn with content for government and politics, and geology A levels.

This consultation is an opportunity for all those with an interest in these subjects to provide their views which will be considered when redrafting the content for final publication.

Summary of changes to subjects

Accounting A level retains the current requirement for students to acquire a solid knowledge of, and the ability to apply, double entry accounting methods. There is also an increased emphasis on the use of accounting concepts and techniques in the analysis and evaluation of financial information.

Ancient history GCSE requires the study of the history of at least 2 ancient societies drawn from 3000 BC to 500 AD. Each ancient society must constitute 20% or more of the qualification, and at least 1 of them must be Roman or Greek. Students will have to undertake: 1 period study covering at least 50 years, 1 longer period study covering at least 200 years, and 2 depth studies focusing on substantial and coherent shorter time spans.

Ancient history A level requires the study of ancient history drawn from 3000 BC to 500 AD. A level students must study both Roman and Greek history, with each constituting 20% or more of the qualification. At AS level, students must study at least 1 of either Roman or Greek history, which must constitute 50% or more of the qualification. Students will have to undertake: 2 period studies covering at least 75 years, and (at A level only) 2 in-depth studies focusing on substantial and coherent shorter time spans. Students will have to study ancient historical topics from a span of at least 400 years.

Classical civilisation GCSE provides much greater detail on the requirements to be studied for literature and visual/material culture, which consists of architecture and/or artefacts and artworks. Literature must form at least 40% and visual/material culture must form 20% or more of the total qualification. There is also a comparative thematic study, which must form 20% or more of the total qualification. Both Roman and Greek civilisations must be studied, forming at least 20% each of the total qualification.

Classical civilisation A level provides much greater detail on the requirements to be studied for literature, visual/material culture and philosophy and thought. All 3 of these areas must be studied at A level. At AS level literature plus 1 of the other 2 options must be studied. Literature must form at least 40% of the total qualification at both AS and A level.

Electronics GCSE sets out the detailed knowledge and understanding required by students. The content increases the demand of the subject by increasing the breadth and depth of content required, including demanding mathematical requirements.

In the electronics A level, the depth and breadth of the content has been reviewed. A number of new topics has been added and depth has been increased by including additional content in current topic areas. The content also strengthens the mathematical requirements. New mathematical requirements have been added and the formulae to be recalled and used are clearly identified in the subject content, adding to the overall level of demand.

In the film studies GCSE, students have to study at least 6 films, of which 3 must have been produced in the US (an independent film, a film produced between 1930 and 1960, and a genre film), 1 must be British, 1 must be an English-language film produced outside the US and 1 must not be in the English language. All films studied have to be specified by the awarding organisation and must be critically recognised and culturally and historically significant.

At A level, film students must study a historical range of films, compare 2 films and must study at least 2 major movements or stylistic developments. For AS, students have to study at least 6 films and for A level at least 12 films. All films studied must be specified by the awarding organisation and must be critically recognised and culturally and historically significant.

Law A level content will ensure students study a greater number of areas of substantive law. At AS level there is a requirement to study 2 areas of law (1 public and 1 private area), and at A level there is a requirement to study 3 areas of law (at least 1 public and 1 private area). There is also a requirement to study the English legal system and nature of law.

Through media studies GCSE students will gain an understanding of academic theories and will be required to apply specialist subject-specific terminology and theory. The subject content is based on 4 central areas of knowledge: media language, representation, media industries, and audiences. Students will learn about media regulation, and the different funding models for media institutions and how they operate on a global scale.

Media studies A level places greater emphasis on academic knowledge and understanding. The study of a wide range of specified theories is now required at both AS and A level. Students will apply their theoretical knowledge and use specialist subject specific terminology to analyse and compare media products and the contexts in which they are produced and consumed. Students will critically debate key questions relating to the social, cultural, technological and economic dimensions of media through sustained discursive writing.

GCSE statistics has new subject content which outlines the key stages of the statistical enquiry cycle. Students are required to have knowledge of key statistical calculations, eg calculating of moving averages to identify trends and, at the higher tier, Spearman’s Rank Correlation Coefficient Formula. There is some overlap with reformed GCSE mathematics content, but the majority of content is unique to statistics. Because of the emphasis on the statistical enquiry cycle in GCSE statistics, much of this knowledge will be applied in different ways from mathematics GCSE.

A level statistics builds upon the statistics and probability components of GCSE mathematics and helps students make sense of data trends and to solve statistical problems in a variety of contexts, supporting progression to HEI in subjects such as psychology, biology, geography, business and the social sciences. The qualification includes study of the statistical enquiry cycle with students required to perform key statistical calculations. The content has been drafted to articulate the mathematics content, while, at the same time, care was taken to avoid too much overlap with the mathematics and further mathematics A level.

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