Long and thin or short and fat

Martin Workman

Martin Workman outlines the likely options for schools. The GCSE examining groups have submitted around 50 syllabus proposals and specimen assessment material in modern foreign languages for courses due to begin next September.

These have been drawn up to conform to the new criteria for GCSE and the revamped national curriculum, including the new minimum requirement of a short course for pupils entering key stage 4.

Two ways of gaining accreditation for a short course have been approved and will be available from 1996: * as a free-standing, short course * as part of a combined subject GCSE.

SCAA has been working with NCVQ on a proposal for Vocational Language Units to provide the third means of accreditation.

All examining groups have submitted a GCSE (Short Course) proposal in French and most have also submitted proposals in German and Spanish. A modular submission has been received for French from SEG and there are proposals from ULEAC for French, German or Spanish and Business Studies as a Combined subject GCSE.

The approval process should be completed this year and syllabuses should be available from examining groups early in l996 ready for teaching from September 1996.

The two Areas of Experience to be covered by the short course may either be predetermined by the awarding body or there may be an element of choice. Teachers with clear views on the Areas they wish to work on with their pupils should check carefully before deciding which particular syllabus to follow.

It will be for schools to decide which patterns of study and examination entry is in the best interests of their pupils and how much study time they wish to allocate to a short course. It will be possible to complete the short course requirements in one year or over two years.

If accreditation through GNVQ units is made available, the units will operate at two levels (Foundation and Intermediate), which together would cover the grade range A* to G. GCSE short course exams will be also be graded. on the scale A* to G, as for the full GCSE.

Short courses will cover less content than full courses, but the level of intellectual demand made on candidates will be comparable, so that pupils of very wide ranging ability can be appropriately challenged.

Schools who are keen to start short courses in 1996 with a view to candidates being assessed at the end of one year should check with their chosen examination board to ensure that they intend to offer exams on the short course in 1997. Accreditation of the full new GCSE will not be available until 1998.

Martin Workman is a subject officer for modern languages at the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority

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