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The new P8 accountability measures and MFL

The table below was published by Phillip Collie of Schoolzone.co.uk. It summarises the current state of play for GCSE. It is reproduced with permission.

Performance Eight (P8) is the new value-added accountability measure on which floor standards are to be based. Students and schools will be judged on their performance across eight subjects, each one having a specific weighting. It is not yet clear which subjects will still be offered as GCSEs.

P8 weighting
Permutations
(total = 8)
Tiering
Teacher-assessed
SPaG
Exam time minimum
Maths
2
Included for all students
Yes
No
0
3.5 hours
English Lit
2
One of
No
Speaking, but not as part of grade
20%
3.5 hours
English Lang
2 (if Lit is counted as 1  - below)
No
0
3.5 hours
Sciences
(single award
to be scrapped)
1 each (DA=2)
Three of
Eg DA science + geography
or
French, Spanish and history
Yes
10%
0
3 hours
6 hours (DA)
Computer Science
1
0
3.5 hours
Geography
1
No
No
5%
3.5 hours
History
1
No
No
5%
3.5 hours
Languages
1 each
No
No
5%
3.5 hours
Other subjects (inc Eng Lit)
1
Three of
RE: 5%
3.5 hours
 

For us as linguists, a few points come to mind.

At present it is still the intention not to have separate tiers as we do at present. There has been talk of extension papers for the most able, but, as far as I understand it, this has not yet been decided. If there is no separate provision for the less and more able student, I believe this would be a mistake. I still cannot see how one could provide an exam paper appropriate for the whole ability range.

In terms of accountability, MFL remains an EBacc subject, but Ebacc has now become a "soft" accountability measure. P8 will become the key measure schools are judged by. This means that schools will take it less seriously, so any recent gains in take-up brought about by the EBacc are likely to be temporary. On the other hand, the fact that a language is to be weighted the same as a science may encourage schools to raise the status of languages. Ofqual have also said that they are looking at taking account of the relative severity of grading of subjects when drawing up the final details of the P8 measure. This could work to the advantage of languages, but I wouldn't hold your breath on that one.

You will also note from the table that the amount of time for exams (3.5 hours) will increase when compared with the pre-controlled assessment regime. If you compare with the controlled assessment era you could easily argue that assessment time will be considerably reduced. Currently students do a listening test of 40 minutes, a reading test of 50 minutes, at least two hours of writing CA and who knows how many minutes of speaking CA? The new exams are likely to include at least 30 minutes of listening, 50 minutes of reading, possibly combined with over an hour of writing. The set-piece oral will most likely take at least 20 minutes including preparation and will be marked, it seems, externally.

All this is somewhat speculative, but we have been told that the weighting of skills will return to 25% per skill (writing thus continuing to play too great a role, in my view.) The SPaG percentage for MFL is given as 5, which would presumably be covered in the writing mark scheme.

What should be welcomed is the fact that teachers will be doing less assessing (good for teacher workload and good for the reliability of marking, notwithstanding the failings of exam boads in this regard). Gone too will be endless CA retakes, back will be full scale mock exams.

On the other hand, the new system may work against girls who, it is often claimed, do better on coursework, and the less able. The latter are likely to do less well on written papers which rely on quick thinking, sound technique and memory. Mark schemes will need to take this into account. In MFL, orals will have to be carefully structured to allow weaker pupils some success and to allow the most able to extend themsleves. Again, tiering or extension would make sense.

Just as a reminder, the teaching of the new GCSE is due to begin in September 2016.

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