Speaking Endorsement

Endorsement - What is it all about?

‘Endorsement’ is one of the latest buzzwords to enter our lives in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, this time, in relation to the OFQUAL decision about arrangements for the GCSE examinations in 2021.

This section will develop over coming weeks to include :

  • The background to the concept of Endorsement
  • Details of the OFQUAL Consultation on Criteria
  • Outcomes and final criteria 
  • Health considerations
  • Speaking - a priority for language learners
  • Speaking - some related articles in Language Learning Journal
  • More on Speaking on the ALL Website
  • Other sections as seem appropriate


The DfE asked OFQUAL to consider ways in which 2021 examination arrangements could be adjusted (without changing content) in order to mitigate the impact of the Lockdown on teaching time, and of other uncertainties arising in 2020, and to maximise teaching time available for examination classes.


OFQUAL consulted on their proposals in July of 2020.

In August they published their decisions:

In his letter to us, the Secretary of State for Education explained that he was not minded to specify changes to the content which forms the foundation for GCSE, AS and A level qualifications, because of the impact this could have on students moving to the next stage of education; he asked us to provide advice on the options for the 2021 exams.


What OFQUAL said:

We understand students preparing to take exams and assessments in 2021, and their parents, carers and teachers, are concerned about the impact coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on their education. We have consulted on proposals for changes to exams and assessments next year, given the disruption and potential for on-going public health safeguards, and developed a package of measures. Overall, these will free up teaching time, reduce pressure on students and allow assessments to be undertaken within current public health restrictions.


For Languages specifically:

changes to how the assessment of students’ spoken language skills is reported in modern foreign language GCSEs – students’ speaking skills will be assessed through a teacher endorsement alongside the 9 to 1 grade. Common assessment criteria will be produced for teachers to use when assessing students’ spoken language skills, so that these can be assessed within teaching, giving centres some flexibility over how they approach the oral component of the assessment


OFQUAL also published Consultation decisions and feedback reports here.

Endorsement is already used in the examining of English for speaking, more information regarding exams and assessments in 2021 can be found here.

Consequences for summer examination 2021 only:

The traditional Speaking Test as part of the GCSE will not take place in 2021.

There will be no official Speaking Test for teachers to use in the classroom.

Speaking will be reported on as a Teacher / School Endorsement.

Teacher assessment will take place across the year as part of teaching and learning.

There is no requirement for recorded evidence, or for exam conditions testing.

The Endorsement is outside the grading system of the GCSE, and will be reported in addition to the GCSE language grade (9-1) but only by descriptors: Pass, Merit and Distinction or not classified.

Consultation October 2020

OFQUAL published on 12th October its proposals, including the criteria they proposed for teachers to use in evaluating their students’ Speaking in the teaching context, for consultation until 26th October.

The ALL Briefing on GCSE 2021 (revised Nov. 2020) contains concise details of the OFQUAL documents, and of the changes to GCSE 2021 of which we are aware.  It also contains links to the full OFQUAL  documents.


ALL hosted a webinar discussing Ofqual's Consultation documents with Rene Koglbauer-Franklin, Jane Harvey, Helen Myers and ASCL's David Blow.  You can watch this here.

At the ALL Zoom meeting to discuss the draft criteria some important points were made and a chart illustrating the strands within the criteria was presented. Please see the meeting notes

Outcomes of Consultation and Final Criteria

Ofqual published the outcome of its consultation on the assessment of MFL spoken language skills in 2021 on 5th. November 2020 … and, following consultation, the criteria teachers must use to assess students’ spoken language skills.




Headline extracts:


‘Given the disruption being caused by the pandemic, teachers may assess their students’ spoken language skills during normal classroom activities or as individual, one-off assessments.


We have confirmed that exam boards will not be required to review evidence of student performance as this would undermine the intended flexibility of the approach, and would be burdensome for centres.


Each school and college will need to provide a statement to its exam boards, to say they have taken all reasonable steps to make sure students have the opportunity for their spoken language to be assessed’.




Detailed extract


  1. a) a 'spoken language assessment' is an assessment of a Learner's ability to speak the relevant Modern Foreign Language effectively, and


(b) a ‘spoken language statement’ is a true and accurate written statement made by a Centre to an awarding organisation which confirms that it has taken reasonable steps to secure that each Learner to which that Centre has delivered the assessments to be taken in a particular assessment cycle for a GCSE Qualification in Modern Foreign Languages which the awarding organisation makes available has had the opportunity to take a spoken language assessment.


Spoken language assessments should, but do not have to, take place during normal teaching and learning rather than during a one-off performance. The criteria set out below are not intended to be used in a formal examination context and there is no requirement to set up Centre-devised speaking tests to arrive at an outcome unless this is a necessary arrangement for specific Learners, e.g. for private candidates.


Teachers may base their judgements on the accumulation of evidence of a Learner's language performance through everyday classroom activities over time. This means Teachers have scope for various opportunities for Learners to demonstrate competence against the criteria set out below. There is no requirement for an awarding organisation to review this evidence.


Teachers may share the criteria with their Learners, as well as their 'working at’ level, if they wish, to enable them to discuss, monitor and assess their own progress and to identify strengths and areas for improvement.


Teachers should arrive at judgements taking into account a Learner's strengths and weaknesses in performance across a range of contexts, themes and activities with different purposes.


Themes are those broad themes which will be taught in order to cover the requirements for Listening, Reading and Writing as outlined in the awarding organisation's specification.


Speaking activities can be integrated into the teaching and learning of these skills in order to develop the skill of speaking in its own right as well as supporting the development of the other skills.




Different purposes may cover for example, conversations, presentations, transactions, formal and informal settings, descriptions and narrations. These suggestions are neither prescriptive nor exhaustive. Learners can demonstrate their speaking skills in relation to different purposes in a whole class context, working in pairs and groups or in a one-to-one interaction with the Teacher.


To be awarded a Pass, Merit or Distinction a Learner must –


(a) take part in different tasks that are varied across different themes,


(b) use language for different purposes, and


(c) meet all of the criteria at the level for the Communication and interaction aspect and all of the criteria at the same level for at least two of the three other aspects of assessment with one aspect permissible at the level below. This includes awarding a pass to Learners who fail to meet the criteria for one of Range of language, Accuracy or Pronunciation and intonation.


(A Learner who does not meet the criteria to be awarded a Pass, Merit or Distinction, or who has not been exempted on grounds of disability from the assessment but who does not take it, is issued a result of 'not classified'.)




The criteria below are to be applied to Learners entering at either the foundation or higher tier.


The criteria are not intended to be a mark scheme  …


The criteria for Pass, Merit and Distinction do not relate to specific tasks, but are designed to be used across a range of contexts, purposes and teaching situations.


The key focus is on competence in Communication and interaction which is mandatory at the level to be awarded. To be awarded that level the expectations for Communication and interaction and two of the other aspects must be met in full. One of the other aspects may be one below the level to allow for a range of performance.


The criteria allow a Learner to present a ‘spiky profile’ in performance ...


Table 1: The criteria for Pass, Merit and Distinction

Grade Communication and interaction Range of language Accuracy Pronunciation and intonation

To be awarded a pass, the Learner

• gives some relevant information in generally short responses.

• conveys simple opinions.

• asks some straightforward questions.

• may not always understand questions asked, but responses to those which are understood are comprehensible.

• demonstrates a basic level of interaction.

To be awarded a pass, the Learner

• uses mostly simple grammatical structures.

• uses a limited range of familiar vocabulary and expressions.

• makes reference to present and past and/or future events with occasional success.

To be awarded a pass, the Learner

• is mainly correct when using familiar vocabulary and simple grammatical structures.

• is likely to make errors, which sometimes impede communication.

To be awarded a pass, the Learner

• uses pronunciation that is mostly understandable.

• makes errors that sometimes impede communication.

• there may be frequent native language interference.


Grade Communication and interaction Range of language Accuracy Pronunciation and intonation

To be awarded a merit, the Learner

• conveys mainly relevant information with occasional longer responses.

• expresses opinions with some simple justification.

• asks some varied questions to obtain information.

• responds to questions and develops some answers.

• demonstrates a good level of interaction.

To be awarded a merit, the Learner

  • manipulates straightforward grammatical structures with some variation and occasional complex structures.
  • uses relevant and some varied vocabulary and expressions.

• is generally successful in making reference to present, past and future events.

To be awarded a merit, the Learner

  • uses a generally good level of accuracy when using straightforward vocabulary and grammatical structures.

• is likely to make errors, particularly when more complex language is attempted. Such errors sometimes hinder clarity of communication.

To be awarded a merit, the Learner

• uses generally good pronunciation and intonation but with some inconsistency.

• makes some errors that occasionally impede communication.

• there may be some native language interference.


Grade Communication and interaction Range of language Accuracy Pronunciation and intonation

To be awarded a distinction, the Learner

• communicates detailed and relevant information, including extended responses.

• expresses a variety of opinions with justification.

• asks a variety of questions using a range of question forms.

• responds to a variety of questions, often developing their answers.

• demonstrates a very good level of interaction.

To be awarded a distinction, the Learner

  • manipulates a variety of grammatical structures including some complex structures.
  • uses a range of relevant vocabulary and a variety of expressions.
  • is mostly successful in making references to present, past and future events.

To be awarded a distinction, the Learner

• uses predominantly accurate language using a range of relevant vocabulary and some complex grammatical structures.

• is likely to make errors that are usually minor or occur when complex structures and/or less familiar vocabulary are attempted. Such errors rarely hinder clarity of communication.

To be awarded a distinction, the Learner

• uses pronunciation and intonation that are overall accurate and intelligible.

• makes errors which rarely impede communication.

• there may be only isolated native language interference.

We are grateful to Helen Myers, who has created a document which shows these criteria in Strands.

Helen has also suggested some ways of managing Speaking in the classroom in light of the OFQUAL requirements.

Outcomes from the Sharing Webinar - December 2020

Information will be available shortly.

Health Considerations

There is to date no specific advice from Government on the Language classroom or the aspects of Speaking in that context. Related advice for Music might be relevant:



Schools should note that there may be an additional risk of infection in environments where you or others are singing, chanting, playing wind or brass instruments or shouting. This applies even if individuals are at a distance.


Updated September 2020:

Additional mitigations, such as extended social distancing, were previously required for singing, and playing of wind and brass instruments given concerns that these were potentially higher risk activities. Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has commissioned further scientific studies to be carried out to develop the scientific evidence on these activities, which has allowed the government to reconsider appropriate mitigations and further research is continuing.

Singing, wind and brass instrument playing can be undertaken in line with this and other guidance, in particular guidance provided by the DCMS for professionals and non-professionals, available at working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19): performing arts. However, these studies have also indicated that it is the cumulative aerosol transmission from both those performing in and attending events is likely to create risk. DCMS is continuing to develop a more detailed understanding of how to mitigate this potential aggregate risk, but in that context, organisations should follow the guidance set out below.



Updated October 2020:

Singing, wind and brass playing should not take place in larger groups such as choirs and ensembles, or assemblies unless significant space, natural airflow … and strict social distancing and mitigation as described below can be maintained.

Social distancing

In the smaller groups where these activities can take place, schools should observe strict social distancing between each singer and player, and between singers and players, and any other people such as conductors, other musicians, or accompanists. Current guidance is that if the activity is face-to-face and without mitigating actions, 2 metres is appropriate.

Seating positions

Pupils should be positioned back-to-back or side-to-side when playing or singing (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible. Position wind and brass players so that the air from their instrument does not blow into another player.


Use microphones where possible or encourage singing quietly.



Language teachers say:

Face masks are required in Secondary School contexts; there is an argument for Language teachers to wear visors rather than masks – for lip reading purposes (both for Language learners and for EAL pupils, or hearing impaired children.)

Speaking - a priority for language learners

Speaking in the Language classroom has, of course, a much larger role than simply preparing for examination. In this section ALL Members share their thoughts on the importance of speaking for

  • motivation
  • sense of progress
  • vocabulary building
  • grammatical manipulation
  • memory work
  • and spontaneous interaction


Greg Horton reminds us that Speaking ' ... is the essence of our subject; the element that sets us apart from other subjects and gives us a distinct identity'. 


Crista Hazell says ' ... the power of learning how to speak in an international language gives an innate sense of progression and confidence, whilst giving every learner a skill for life'  and describes practical ways of maintaining the profile of Speaking in the current restrictive context . 


Vincent Everett's 'first memory to do with language learning was my parents explaining to me that although they had learned grammar thoroughly, they had never been taught to speak or say anything useful.'  


Joe Dale considers how technology can help teachers and learners, particularly  in a remote teaching context.


In Helen Myers' chart she matches her thoughts on classroom planning which tally with the structure of the OFQUAL proposals. 

Speaking - some related articles in Language Learning Journal 

What do learners' beliefs about speaking reveal about their awareness of learning strategies?

Angela Gallagher-Brett

The Language Learning JournalVolume 35, 2007 - Issue 1

Published Online: 02 Jul 2007



The impact of expanding advanced level secondary school students' awareness and use of metacognitive learning strategies on confidence and proficiency in foreign language speaking skills

Karen Forbes & Linda Fisher

The Language Learning JournalVolume 46, 2018 - Issue 2

Published Online: 27 Feb 2015



The perceived value of videoconferencing with primary pupils learning to speak a modern language

Magda Phillips

The Language Learning JournalVolume 38, 2010 - Issue 2

Published Online: 23 Sep 2010



Achieving student autonomy in speaking through the use of interactive video

Hilary McColl

The Language Learning JournalVolume 5, 1992 - Issue 1

Published Online: 06 Aug 2007



Speaking spontaneously in the modern foreign languages classroom: Tools for supporting successful target language conversation

Colin Christie

The Language Learning JournalVolume 44, 2016 - Issue 1

Published Online: 11 Oct 2013



The combined effect of task repetition and post-task transcribing on L2 speaking complexity, accuracy, and fluency

Hsiu-Chen Hsu

The Language Learning JournalVolume 47, 2019 - Issue 2

Published Online: 18 Jan 2017



The link between vocabulary knowledge and spoken L2 fluency

Heather Hilton

The Language Learning JournalVolume 36, 2008 - Issue 2

Published Online: 27 Oct 2008



Teaching communication strategies to beginners

Angela Gallagher Brett

The Language Learning JournalVolume 24, 2001 - Issue 1

Published Online: 06 Aug 2007



A longitudinal comparative study of the use of target language in the MFL classroom by native and non-native student teachers

Helen Aberdeen

The Language Learning JournalVolume 46, 2018 - Issue 4

Published Online: 28 Sep 2015

More on Speaking on the ALL Website

These links are to articles on themes to do with Speaking to be found elsewhere on this website.
































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