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

See the OFQUAL consultation outcomes here 

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.

Exam boards have published ‘Additional guidance on range of language’ for Speaking Endorsement. The guidance is the same for each Board.   


Edexcel guidance, by individual language e.g.


Eduqas guidance, by individual language e.g.


Outcomes from the Sharing Webinar - December 2020

GCSE Speaking Endorsement Sharing webinar Presentation

Links mentioned in the webinar : ALL OFQUAL Speaking webinar links

Webinar Recording:

Guests at the webinar shared a range of ideas which are collated in this Sharing Menu  and this Checklist


Outcomes from the Sharing Webinar - February 2021

GCSE Speaking Endorsement Sharing webinar 2 Recording: http://www.all-london.org.uk/site/index.php/webinars/all-speaking-endorsement-sharing-webinar-2/

Documents shown in the webinar, generously shared by Helen Myers:

Checklist of questions for teachers and managers

Endorsement criteria form for gathering information

Range criteria illustrated for French

David Blow's summary of Awarding levels

Samples that could be used in training in awarding overall levels

Sample script for explaining the situation to pupils

These documents are also available in Word on the ALL London website above, along with further ideas from Helen for purposeful Speaking activities, and knowledge organisers shared by Nolwenn Burkey - in French.

Guests at the webinar shared a range of ideas which are collated in in this Sharing Chat


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.

An ALL Party Parliamentary Group for Oracy has published a report on the importance of developing this aspect of Cultural Capital at https://www.oracyappg.org.uk/ 


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.



































The ALL Connect KS2 Speaking module is still available here: 


The ALL Connect KS3 Spontaneous speaking module  is still available here: 


The ALL Speaking wiki is still available here: 




Celebrating Speaking

In this section we list events we are aware of which focus on Speaking activities for language learners in celebratory or motivational forms. 


Celebration of Speaking 2021

 January 2021 - launch of a national Celebration of Speaking involving ALL and many of our brilliant partners at the British Council and the cultural and linguistic bodies in the United Kingdom!

As a community dedicated to supporting motivation for language learning as well as the professional development of teachers this informal partnership project aims to give everyone something positive to look forward to, at this gloomy time of the year and in the complex situation where we all find ourselves.

The idea is : Celebration ! The context is : Online ! The principle is : Open to all ! and the light-hearted task is : make a digital clip of yourself speaking a language other than English, no longer than 90 seconds. These clips will be collated online to share the love of speaking another language (one you are learning, one that is part of your family history, etc.)

Entrants could choose from:

  • recording a short presentation about something they are interested in 
  • reciting a short text – a poem or song lyric?
  • performing with someone else a roleplay, sketch, dialogue
  • or something else!

(Entrants of school age would, of course, not film themselves, but speak over an image, an avatar or a screen they have created.)

The project partners plan to each select a favourite clip (just based on personal taste; there are no criteria) which we plan to celebrate publicly at an event in March. The celebration will be called : Express yourself !

Express Yourself North East Festival of Languages 2021

        Steven Fawkes, Chair of ALLNE, writes Back in the 1990s , long before lockdown and online and Brexit, ALL’s sister charity was the Festival of Languages  (and Young Linguists Award)  which did what that title suggests; there was a biennial...

Teachers of Spanish can find  a report on a 2020 Consejeria Workshop on Speaking in the Spanish Zone (Vida Hispanica) https://www.all-languages.org.uk/research-practice/language-zones/vida-hispanica/

The VIII Hispanic Theatre Festival will take place on 16th March (this year, via Zoom). Xiomara Yedbury at NLCS (North London Collegiate School) is in charge.

Hackney Spanish Speaking Competition in 2021

Hackney launches this initiative in January 2021 for its schools which will hold heats in school and send winners to the Grand Finale in the week beginning 12 July. It may inspire others!

The aims are:

  • To ensure that pupils are given every opportunity to practice and develop their Spanish speaking skills
  • To organise a high quality event which will raise the profile of Spanish in Hackney
  • To provide an opportunity for pupils to show off their talents and to have fun doing so

Pupils can enter individually, in a pair or as a group and can recite a poem, sing a song, do a role play or performance.

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