1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Does speaking English really matter?

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by install, May 13, 2017.

  1. install

    install Star commenter

    Just thought I would put this out there: If speaking English does not count towards the final grade in most English Specs do we need to teach it at all?
  2. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Yes, because they still have to complete that component. Such a complete waste of time.
    install likes this.
  3. install

    install Star commenter

    It is the oddest arrangement - I don't know of any other GCSEs where a completion of a GCSE Component counts for nothing towards the Final Grade.
    Dodros likes this.
  4. MissHallEnglish

    MissHallEnglish Occasional commenter Forum guide and community helper

    So frustrating! It is an important skill - as an English teacher we constantly promote Standard English & write with different formality levels. Especially in the teaching of Literature, I certainly promote discussions, presentations and the occasional role play: it's what we do. You're not telling me that the exam boards are paying someone to sit and watch the samples of presentations that we've had to spend precious time recording? Not to mention the time and effort the students have put into preparing them, when they count for nothing. Soul destroying!
    install likes this.
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    it's what's happening with practical work in A level science.
    install likes this.
  6. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    Just because it doesn't count towards the GCSE doesn't mean it doesn't count - they need spoken language skills for life beyond school.
    sabrinakat and install like this.
  7. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    As a retired secondary school teacher of French and German, I find it quite frankly outrageous that the communication skills of Listening and Speaking each accounts for 25% of the marks in GCSE modern foreign languages while neither communication skill accounts for anything in GCSE English.

    I do understand that MFL Speaking Tests can be difficult to organise, the Year 11 Mock versions often encroaching on other subjects' valuable teaching time and requiring extra staffing for invigilation of candidates waiting outside the exam room for their turn to deliver a short presentation and to engage in a brief conversation. However, an individual's proficiency in a foreign language is likelier than not to be assessed in real life through a verbal exchange by word of mouth. When MFL teachers are appointed, for example, candidates may have to prove the fluency and accuracy of their oral skills in the foreign language to the satisfaction of a subject expert during the job interview. I am certain that a panel interviewing English teachers would be eager to use the opportunity to assess each candidate's mother-tongue fluency and accuracy too.

    Returning to the examining of English, what I find even more extraordinary is the absence of a GCSE Listening Test in English, which is surely much easier to organise than a Speaking Test and just as vital. Adults nowadays often complain that our teenagers have poor aural skills and a Listening Comprehension test in English would be the perfect way of proving that assertion right or wrong. You just need a classroom with decent acoustics, and testing will involve candidates answering written questions about texts they hear, repeated twice, on an audio recording. A variety of text types, lengths and contents will ensure that students' ability to skim and scan spoken English passages is properly assessed. A GCSE English Listening Comprehension test could even be administered using digital technology and headphones.
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
    install likes this.
  8. install

    install Star commenter

    Great point Dodros - yes other Languages are examined and count towards the GCSE grade.

    So why not the English Language? Is it less important?
    Dodros likes this.
  9. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    In the past, Speaking and listening has always provided a bit of light relief from the academic stuff. It has given me the chance to get to know students and chat about their hobbies and interests. Role Play and group discussion was fun, we had a laugh.
    This year I have taught utterly incompetent students. Two students went out of the lesson for ALS for an hour every week from December to February in order to plan their Presentations - they can't create powerpoints even with help from learning support assistant.
    Speaking in front of a camera! Endless screams and shouts about how embarrassed they were, arguing for hours that they didn't have the confidence to talk in front of a camera. Come the deadline one candidate went AWOL the other gave a useless 3 minute presentation, but scraped a pass. What a waste of several hours - they refused to work in their own time.
    I gave students the opportunity to create a presentation linked to their vocational subject e.g. work experience which had resulted in them missing 3 weeks of English. Their vocational tutor said that was a silly thing to do as they don't actually do anything on work experience.
    Apparently a visit from our exam board will be triggered because a large number of students refused to do the spoken language par of the course.
    install likes this.
  10. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    This arrangement was used for speaking and listening in GCSE English from 1988 until 1993 (like now, a separate grade appeared on the certificate).
    install likes this.
  11. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    Are people genuinely equating GCSE English with MFL? GCSE English is for first language speakers. Yes, a number of second (or third!) language speakers take it, and all credit to them, but it is primarily designed for those who can understand it at first language fluency ('native', dare I say).

    There is no need for a separate listening comprehension exam, and I find the very thought of it absolutely absurd. Listening exams do exist, but these are for Second Language IGCSE students, or others who are studying ESOL.

    I have mixed feelings about Speaking and Listening not counting towards the English Language GCSE, but, rather like accurate spelling, punctuation, and grammar, this area is not solely the responsibility of English teachers.

    All the more reason for this to be part of an embedded whole school strategy, if necessary, rather than something shoved at the English department. Surely being unable to listen to adults is a failure of the school's behaviour policy more than anything else...

    English teachers are under enough pressure as it is. The new SATS in Primary, reformed GCSE and Progress 8 in secondary, having to cover the English Literature course (another full and reformed GCSE) in the same class but probably with much less time, and surely more media and public scrutiny than any other subject - I've seen very few social media posts about the Maths SATS, for example, but all sorts of rants about the new English. That's endurable, and part of the job - even the SLT pressure! What makes it worse, however, is moans from teachers of other subjects who seem to think that just about anything to do with the English language (spelling, punctuation, grammar, handwriting, listening skills, speaking, handwriting - we're probably supposed to teach them typing/word processing too!) is the sole responsibility of English teachers. So much for solidarity!
    install and blueskydreaming like this.
  12. install

    install Star commenter

    I wonder how this works in other countries - ie do French native speakers do a French Speaking exam in France?
    jarndyce likes this.
  13. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    I am sorry that my words have struck a raw nerve with an English teacher, which was not my intention. My criticism was with the powers that be who insist that a speaking assessment score should appear on a GCSE certificate when there is no formal assessment of speaking conducted anywhere in the curriculum other than in MFL.

    Before the early 1960s, MFL teachers would not have entertained the idea of oral and aural skills being vital either. Then came a realisation that these skills were important as access grew to greater international contact by ordinary people, foreign travel and aural media such as radio. In the UK's educational systems, there's a traditional belief that what is not examined isn't taught as rigorously as whatever is formally assessed. This is why listening coimprehension tests were introduced and oral tests boosted in importance. I am still concerned that mother-tongue listening skills are taken a little too much for granted.

    I completely agree with you that all English communication skills - listening, reading, speak and writing - are not the sole preserve of the English department. The MFL department is also involved now that translation between the mother tongue and the foreign language is being tested. This skill involves knowing English well.

    As in my response above, I agree with you. Listening is a cross-curricular skill. My statement "Adults nowadays often complain that our teenagers have poor aural skills" was intended to draw attention to the ability of some students to comprehend and recall teacher instructions due to poor vocabulary knowledge and weak working memory, which is why classroom assistants spend much of their time rewording teachers' instructions when working with students with SEN.

    I am completely is solidarity with you when it comes to the huge workload you have to shoulder. I worked in my later career as a SEN teacher and I wondered why all students with learning difficulties had to be privy to even the most esoteric literary terminology and devices just because the examiners required it. Every subject is under pressure and as a retired French and German teacher, I feel for my MFL colleagues whose contact time has been progressively reduced over decades while being expected to maintain standards. I remember a few decades ago when the MFL department spent a lot of time teaching English grammar to support the understanding of French, German or Spanish grammar, so the MFL department also did its bit to complement what was being taught in English lessons. You mention Maths and it's interesting that the SATs in Maths have had a mental maths component, which inevitably tests listening comprehension as well as number skills. Literacy matters in Maths too when you have to read and understand rubrics and language-based problems. So, if there's anything to come out of all this, I do share many of your concerns and I support your conviction that the burden of communication skill development should be shared more evenly across the curriculum. And to answer Install's point, continental schools in my experience do test aurally and orally far more than we do in the UK. Perhaps the answer is to be honest and drop the "Speaking" assessment score from the GCSE certificate altogether because it can't be traced to a set of formal speaking assessments.
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
    jarndyce and install like this.
  14. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    A very detailed and kind response to my hissy fit. :)
    install and Dodros like this.

Share This Page