Welsh consultation on GCSE content: extracts from the consultation document
Qualifications Wales has recently (16 April 2020) closed its consultation on:
- the GCSE subjects that should be available in the future;
- the other made-for-Wales qualifications that should also be available.
under the title : Qualified for the future: The right choice for Wales
These extracts are to inform readers’ wider thinking about content reform. Text in italics is ours.
Introductory background and rationale:
The Senedd is currently considering draft legislation that will establish a new Curriculum for Wales Framework.
The Framework requires each school in Wales to design its own school curriculum and explains what each School Curriculum must cover.
A School Curriculum must enable learners to realise the Four Purposes of the Curriculum for Wales. This means supporting them to become:
- ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
- enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
- ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
- healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
A School Curriculum must be broad and balanced and reflect the six Areas of Learning and Experience as described in the Curriculum for Wales Guidance. The six Areas are:
- Expressive Arts
- Health and Well-being
- Languages, Literacy and Communication
- Mathematics and Numeracy
- Science and Technology.
The proposals for Languages (other than English, Welsh and BSL) are in Sections 4 and 5:
4. Review and reform made-for-Wales GCSEs in French, German and Spanish.
This proposal would give schools a choice of reformed GCSEs in the three international languages that are most taught in Wales.
Feedback from stakeholders suggests that there is a case for substantially revamping the content and assessment of the current made-for-Wales GCSEs in these languages. The approach to international languages described in the Curriculum Guidance also suggests there is a case for reconsidering the model for teaching and assessing languages. The long-standing decline in the number of learners studying international languages up to 16 is well documented. Some additional challenges that schools face in reversing this trend include:
- limited availability of qualified teachers for languages other than French, German and Spanish
- decreasing learner demand making it less viable for schools to maintain language-teaching departments
- relatively high assessment costs per candidate for awarding bodies
Continuing to offer schools a choice of reformed GCSEs in French, German and Spanish will build on existing capacity and competence in the system to teach these languages. It also offers an opportunity to fundamentally rethink how language GCSEs are designed and assessed.
We will work with practitioners to make sure the new qualifications are more accessible, relevant, engaging and appealing. In doing so we will make sure they continue to represent meaningful achievement and support progression for those learners who want to go on to study these languages at AS and A level.
Introducing better use of digital technology to enhance language acquisition and assessment could also have a positive effect on the perception and experience of learning and exploring languages.
The qualifications should be mapped onto an internationally-recognised language referencing framework such as the CEFR, so that learners can see how their achievements relate to other language qualifications.
Viability of language GCSEs is not a challenge unique to Wales. Similar difficulties are faced in England, where the majority of language GCSEs are only offered by a single awarding body, owing to the relatively low numbers of learners taking the qualifications. Having carefully explored the possibility, we have concluded that it will not be viable to increase the range of languages available as made-for-Wales GCSEs. French, German and Spanish remain the most certificated international language GCSEs in Wales, and the declining numbers of learners already poses a potential risk to their long-term viability.
The relatively low demand for GCSEs in other languages would not be sufficient to support the development of a made-for-Wales GCSE in those languages.
Currently, schools and learners can access all designed-for-England GCSEs that are available in international languages other than French, German and Spanish. It is encouraging to note that each year nearly all of these qualifications are taken by at least some learners in Wales. We will seek to ensure that these qualifications remain available so that schools can continue to have the flexibility to select qualifications to reflect their School Curriculum and meet the needs of learners. We know, for example, that for some learners, these qualifications offer an important opportunity to develop skills in, and gain recognition for, a language they use outside school.
5. Create a set of small, made-for-Wales qualifications in a range of international languages to support engagement and progression in language learning.
Creating a range of small qualifications alongside the GCSEs will enable schools to develop flexible programmes of language learning tailored to the needs of individuals or groups of learners.
These qualifications will be offered in a range of languages and will be used to encourage more learners to continue studying international languages up to the age of 16, without having to commit to a full GCSE. This approach could help reverse the decline in the number of learners studying languages by giving them a taste of different languages and igniting their curiosity and enthusiasm for language learning.
Offering learners a chance to study multiple languages post-14 will help them to see and learn from the connections and relationships between different languages. This will offer schools a way of enabling learners to engage with the first Statement of What Matters in this Area (‘Languages connect us’). It will also help to change perceptions by allowing learners to see themselves as multilingual.
Results could be presented as a language profile to indicate learners’ relative strengths in speaking, writing, reading and listening. This could be done through positive statements of what a learner can do in various contexts or for specific purposes. This approach would reflect how the CEFR describes language acquisition and would allow for a clear mapping of these qualifications on to that framework. This could give learners a sense of the progress they have made and help them consider how to progress further and build on their learning. Studying a broader range of languages is also likely to have a positive impact on learners’ Welsh, English and plurilingual communication skills.
It will be important for schools to continue offering learners the option of taking an international language GCSE, to support the depth of learning required to progress to study at AS and A level. But these smaller qualifications will also help to support progression, by offering learners an opportunity to explore multiple languages. This can help strengthen learners’ grasp of how languages work and spark an interest that could offer an alternative route to engaging with international languages post-16. If we adopt this proposal, we will work with stakeholders to develop proposals for the content and assessment of these qualifications. A useful starting point would be to review the existing Language Pathways qualifications. This will allow us to build on the good practice that already exists. We will engage further with stakeholders on the proposed range of languages and the qualification designs before making any final decisions.
Initially, we could focus on one or two languages, to help trial the approach and agree a design that is manageable for schools and viable overall. The full set of small qualifications could be developed and introduced later than September 2025 without in the meantime impacting on schools’ ability to design and adopt their own School Curriculum.
Related consultation questions:
4. How far do you agree or disagree with our proposal to review and reform made-for-Wales GCSEs in French, German and Spanish?
5. How far do you agree or disagree with our proposal to create a set of small, made-for-Wales qualifications in a range of international languages to support engagement and progression in language learning?
Link to the full documentation : https://qualificationswales.org/english/qualified-for-the-future—have-your-say/