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Draft New GCSE Specifications for England

Discussion in 'English' started by CandysDog, May 27, 2014.

  1. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    It could happen (though Labour did reject the Tomlinson Report when they were in power). Having said that, the election is only four months before the new specs are due to be taught, so it'll be too late to change anything. So these specs are happening, but how long for is another issue (though even the longest lasting English GCSE specs (2004–2011) only lasted seven years).
  2. EmmaBB

    EmmaBB New commenter

    Not making any firm decisions yet. Waiting for AQA meetings in last week of term. I suspect we'll stay with them.

    Only firm decision made is to move OMAM and Martyn Pig to Year 9. New KS3 NC is main priority for September, Not enough to distract me from the fear of August's grade boundaries and results though. I have never felt so in the dark about my predictions after pulling out of November entry.

    Tough times.
  3. Totally agree with the idea of the text move, EmmaBB. We were doing our KS3 planning today and actually talked about the move of Mice and Men to Y9 as a good thing... for all the reasons everyone is upset about it going from GCSE. It's such a great way of introducing the skills required for literature study at GCSE and with the advent of the new KS3 curriculum, it seems really logical to put OMAM into Y9. There are lots of positives about having some new texts at GCSE - we're going to have to be careful with the money but at least there is an anthology of stories to get us started! Personally, we were quite excited by the idea of studying the play version of Curious Incident for GCSE; we do the novel in Year 8, so we're really intrigued to see how the play text will work. We're all going off to have a read...
  4. There was something about context in their specimen mark scheme I think, seemed quite an interesting explanation of context (well, better than I've understood it in the past, anyway). I really like the way the AOs are weighted the same on every task - never seen that done before but thought it seemed to reflect the way we teach the texts at GCSE. If I've understood it right.
  5. CandysDog - or anyone - we had someone in yesterday and asked why there was no anthology for poetry allowed in the exam when WJEC are allowing it. They said they didn't think it would be allowed because whole texts aren't allowed in the exam. Have WJEC got it wrong do you think? Or have the others?!
  6. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    I have no idea, but I would suspect that Ofqual hasn't said either way, hence the different interpretations of Eduqas and AQA.

    Only AQA and Eduqas have questions where students get to pick their own poem (OCR names a poem to compare to an unseen poem, while Edexcel (whose spec looks less and less likely to get through every time I look at it) only require students to look at one named poem). Given the current movement is towards students having more ownership of their assessment (and students picking their own poem would do this), one would think Ofqual would encourage this (unless the named-unseen comparison of OCR is their Mecca).

    Named poems (and extracts) are reprinted in the exam. It seems, to me, to be completely unreasonable to expect students to remember all the other poems, so common sense would dictate that all the poems should be allowed. Closed text is fine, but poetry is a different beast from prose and drama.

    I do know that when controlled assessment came in, Ofqual began by saying no texts at all and no notes. After pressure from the exam boards, they allowed poems. Then all texts. And, finally, notes pages. So we only need to get one step down this line for poems to be allowed.

    I'm just glad that Eduqas are trying to get open book poetry. If they hadn't tried, we'd have no chance...
  7. belfasty

    belfasty New commenter

    'These new specs are just for England, of course.'

    Just to clarify: pupils in Northern Ireland can sit the new GCSE AQA Literature Specification.
  8. Honeydew

    Honeydew New commenter

    Candysdog, I was wondering what you thought of the new Language specs. We're having a meeting on which spec to go with and would appreciate your thoughts.
  9. Honeydew

    Honeydew New commenter

    At the moment, most of us are leaning towards WJEC's Language spec. We like the format and mark scheme.

    Forgive me if this sounds stupid, but it seems that the new Language papers for WJEC and Edexcel don't seem to focus on presentational features / images, headings etc. The focus seems to be on language. Or maybe I'm wrong? I've always hated questions on images and headings in the current specs as they always seem to elicit banal comments. Often, there's not much you can say other than the obvious and that gets you little or no marks anyway. I've always hated OCR's presentational features question.
  10. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    Sorry if I too sound stupid, but for some reason I have got it into my head that we can pick AQA for GCSE Lit and then WJEC for GCSE Lang, for example? Is this true or am I just making this up?
  11. Honeydew

    Honeydew New commenter

    As far as I know, you can pick different exam boards for Language and Literature. As it happens though, we may end up going with Eduqas for both.
  12. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    Interesting. Has DENI come to some clear conclusions about the future of GCSEs in Northern Ireland then?
  13. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    My main advice would be not to make any firm decisions yet, as the specs aren't final and could change beyond all recognition.

    Having said that, my current preference is for Eduqas. Both specs are nice and quite familiar (disclaimer: I currently teach WJEC). The range of texts (both unseen for Language and set for Literature) is adequate and the comparisons seem straight forward. The papers seem fairly well differentiated, though still have space for longer answers (which seems to serve students better than you might expect. The writing tasks are accessible as always. The AOs seem quite well mapped and I've always like the extract then essay approach in Literature (though I am not keen on only having one choice of essay question – it was always two before). Students being able to select their own poem for comparison should work well (especially as they have the poems in front of them). The exams are long, but – given they are 100% of the grade – I think I prefer more chances for students to prove their skills.

    AQA comes second. Their last specs were an improvement oh the previous (when many schools deserted them for WJEC) and these are an improvement still. Very nice and definitely the best choice of set texts (though you do, of course, only teach one of each). The Language questions aren't quite as nice as Eduqas's, though they are predictable (though I fear this may mean questions that are based more on convention than the actual text being assessed – not a good move). However, some of the AO mapping, particulary for Literature, seems poorly thought out and AQA do seem to expect students to learn masses of quotations (including stage directions and poems).

    Edexcel is third for me, though – as I have already said – I can't see the specs making it through easily. Mostly accessible stuff, though I always fear Edexcel is style over substance. I was talking to a HoD on a course last week who inherited an English department using Edexcel and switched due to poor marking and grade boundaries (and arrogance from Edexcel when challenged). As I said earlier, I've never been a fan of a Edexcel, so I may be biased here.

    I really want to like OCR, but they keep producing specs that look... er, really hard! The unseen texts seem very strangely placed and it all seems a bit dry. I'm not a massive fan of Literatire questions based on an extract but requiring reference to the whole text, as students tend to forget the latter part. OCR has lost so much marketshare in recent years that they must be down to just private schools now (where they've always been the favourite) – maybe that's who they aimed their specs at.

    But, as I said, it's too early to make any decisions until the specs are final. Do get yourself on the 'introduction' (sales pitch!) meetings, though. They're free and you'll learn loads about each spec.
  14. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    You are correct. WJEC has never been big on presentational features. Sometimes a bullet point in a question will ask about them, but they only want one or two points (out of 10). The focus should be on a language.

    WJEC is always focused on the text in the paper. They hate things like AFORREST. They just want students to analyse whatever is relevant to that text.

    I don't know enough about Edexcel to comment fully, but I believe they focus more on language too (though don't seem as keen on students selecting their own points, so they either know what the question is asking or they don't).
  15. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    You can. If has always been possible to do this, though the previous (and, to a lesser extent, current) specifications have made this unattractive due to the crossover between Language and Literature. Now Language and Literature are completely separate, I guess this option becomes more attractive.

    Having said that, I would expect a really compelling reason to use different boards. The common approach/style you get from using the same board fir both usually benefits students.
  16. Honeydew

    Honeydew New commenter

    Thanks CandysDog x

  17. I'm afraid I don't agree at all with this - we had someone from AQA's curriculum team in last week and were totally convinced by their approach to the lit AOs. They've put the same weighting on every text in order to reflect the idea that all literature texts are taught and experienced in the same way. Our department absolutely LOVED this approach and it totally sold us on their spec, to be honest. It's just like A level (we teach both Lit and Lang at our place) and for us, this is the key discriminator between the different boards' specs. No more 'which AO is this question...?' We were a bit worried about the 'learning quotes' thing, but apparently that's not the case at all. You only have to do that when the text is in front of you, they said, and then when they haven't got the text, students can paraphrase / use single word quotes. We found it really reassuring, and I have to say that a lot of the schools in our network have said the same. One colleague pointed out that if they know the poem / book whatever, they should be able to make reference to a handful of short significant quotes anyway...especially when they will be on posters plastered around the classroom!

  18. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    I certainly hope that is the case. I completely agree that spreading the AOs equally across all tasks is a good approach in principle, though I do think certain types of questions lend themselves to certain AOs more (an extract question, for example, suits AO2 more than an essay). Having said that, I always like WJEC's old approach of one mark scheme that was used for all questions, awarding what the student had done, not what they hadn't. It's a shame Ofqual forced them to change it. I do, therefore, hope that AQA are allowed to keep their holistic use of AOs, though Ofqual are liable to ask for AOs per question. If this happens, it's likely to be very hard to spread them completely evenly (due to the maths, if nothing else).

    I also hope that AQA do indeed go for the 'close reference to the text' approach. WJEC have done this since 2005 and it works very well. However, they only do this for AO1 (extracts cover AO2).

    The issue I have (and I only have minor issues with AQA, as I said above ? it's a very good spec) something I hadn't spotted, but others on this thread have highlighted: the mark scheme DOES seem to expect quite a lot of quotations in very precise detail. Stage directions are frequently referred to and one question even refers to the use of dashes!

    Therefore, the mark schemes ? on their own ? point to the AO structure not being that useful and the learning of quotations being very important. When this information is combined with the knowledge that pre-released sections shall be used, you can understand other people's fears.

    I'm glad that the AQA rep seems confident that this is not an issue. However, I'm always wary of people doing sales pitches (and AQA's loss of marketshare last time round is exactly why they are sending reps into every single school). I also worry that, as past form has shown us, Ofqual value the paper document over all else. This isn't AQA's fault, but if their document says something, then they will be held to it...
  19. wigglyworm

    wigglyworm New commenter

    If I may join the discussion, I disagree that the OCR Lang specification looks any harder than the others. It offers tasks clearly stepped in challenge in an attempt to address the issue of lack of tiering.

    I think the AQA specification is misleading in its apparent simplicity - it appears more straightforward than it actually is and I think the OCR spec manages to make it much clearer what the student will be rewarded for. I've had a real issue with the opaque nature of the current AQA spec and I am not at all convinced that this new one is any better. WJEC's paper 1 looks delightful - but the paper 2, not so much.

    For me, clarity in the application of AOs and the ability to clearly explain to a student what they need to do comes top of my selection criteria - I am not certain that AQA will top the bill for me for Language although their Lit looks fine.
  20. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    I agree with Wigglyworm in terms of their Lit looks fine but their Language is just not right for my centre. Which is why I am very much contemplating whether to choose AQA Lit and WJEC Language... And the choices of texts for AQA Lit seems to be way more varied/better than WJEC. Having said that, I do think AQA Lit has a better approach to Lit in terms of what they are looking for, but we are still having trouble of what we have to choose.

    Has anyone been given a deadline to choose what spec to go for? Mine is late November which is plenty time of but I'm concerned as people have said specs might change, but how likely is this?

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