Changes for GCSE

6th October 2000 at 01:00
THE QCA is consulting on proposals to change the shape of GCSEs in English. From 2002 we could have two new GCSEs - English language and English literature - creating a clearer divide between the subjects with minimal overlap. The current arrangements have been extended to allow for this consultation and, if the proposals go ahead, the awarding bodies will develop syllabuses for first teaching in September 2002.

The proposed GCSE criteria for English language contain a greater emphasis on literacy. They offer more opportunities to assess candidates' knowledge of grammar and language variation in their analysis of the texts that they read and produce. This is compatible with the initiatives already being developed at key stage 3, and has particular relevance to the communication key skill and the world outside the classroom. Students will work on a specific language study section, which will focus on meaning, structure and form, as well as analysis at word, sentence and discourse levels.

English language teaching will be less dominated by literary texts and therefore more manageable, particularly for post-16 candidates, who often have less than a year to complete the requirements. Students will have increased access to other media and technologies, such as information texts ( including reference material and the internet) and the moving image in television and film. Exended reading, possibly in the context of the candidates' own wider personal reading, will add to this flexibility, inviting both critical and imaginative responses. The purposes and contexts for the assessment of speaking and listening are also more distinct.

The proposed GCSE criteria for English literature maintain the emphasis on the literary heritage, where the cut-off date of 1900 has been moved to 1914 to provide continuity with the national curriculum English Order. In addition, the importance of sustaining the reading habit is acknowledged through the inclusion of recent and contemporary literature, along with literary non-fiction. Here, candidates will encounter a diverse range of genres including biography, letters, diaries, travel writing and science texts. The study of works from different cultures and traditions remains.

This provision is complemented by the continued focus on social, cultural and historical contexts and through clearer guidance on the teaching of connections and comparisons between texts.

See the consultation papers and questionnaire on the QCA website at QCA must receive completed questionnaires by October 23, 2000.

Sue Horner is principal subject officer, English, for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 83 Piccadilly, London W1J 8QA. Tel: 020 7509 5555. Web:

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