Statement to Parliament: Publication of reformed GCSE and A level content for 2017

We are reforming GCSEs, AS and A levels to make sure that they provide students with the best possible preparation for further and higher education, and for employment. We want new GCSEs to set expectations which match those of the best education systems in the world, with rigorous assessment that provides a reliable measure of students’ achievement. The reforms are extensive and represent a new qualification gold standard.

Schools are now teaching some of the new reformed GCSEs and A levels, and we have already published reformed subject content for those GCSEs and A levels to be taught from September 2016. Content for reformed GCSE subjects and for AS and A level subjects can be found on GOV.UK.

The new GCSEs will be more academically demanding and reformed AS and A levels will better prepare students for undergraduate study.

Today I am publishing revised subject content for the final group of GCSEs and AS and A levels that will be taught in schools from September 2017:

Physical education GCSE short course represents half the content of the revised PE GCSE that was published in January 2015. Like the full course, demand has increased with a greater emphasis on theory and use of data. Students will also have the opportunity to develop and demonstrate practical skills and will be assessed in one team and one individual sport/activity.

The more demanding sociology GCSE requires students to develop an understanding of the classical theorists and how their ideas have contributed to the development of current sociological orthodoxies. They will compare and contrast competing theoretical approaches to explain society, drawing connections between the different topic areas, and students will now be required to read and respond to extracts from classic and contemporary sociological texts.

Geology AS and A level content requires students to take a more quantitative and mathematical approach to the study of geology. New content includes the study of geochemistry, the role of fluids in geology, engineering geology and geohazard risk analysis. Fieldwork remains a key part of the subject, and students will carry out relevant and meaningful fieldwork activities that will be assessed across a full range of practical competencies, developed with HE stakeholders, in order to prepare them for further geological study.

The final content for politics AS and A level requires all students to understand a fourth political idea, in addition to their study of conservatism, liberalism and socialism. Students will choose from feminism, multiculturalism, anarchism, nationalism or ecologism, and know and understand the core principles and features of these ideas. As part of this they will study the work of a diverse list of political thinkers who have contributed to each idea. Following consultation we have revised the list of political theorists to make sure that female thinkers are appropriately represented. At A level, students will choose between a comparative study of USA and UK politics and government, which now includes understanding different approaches to comparative politics, or a study of global politics.

The reformed statistics AS and A level requires students to study the statistical enquiry cycle and to perform key statistical calculations such as Bayes’ theorem and 1- and 2-sample non-parametric tests. Students will be required to know and use fundamental formulae, for example to determine the Poisson probability formula and analysis of variance. New content has been added, such as choosing the appropriate hypothesis test to carry out in particular circumstances and calculating the risk of a type II error.

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