The New French GCSE in the UK – What’s Changing?

So you’ve heard that GCSE are changing soon… from 2017 for Maths and English, from 2018 for the other subjects including MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) and so French too.

The exams will be linear, taken at the end of the year, and the grades from 9 to 1 instead of A* to F.

But those are not the only changes.

The exam will still consist of Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking but all we now weigh 25% of the overall grade (instead of 30% for Writing and Speaking and 20% for Listening and Reading).

All 4 Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking will be tiered (instead of just Listening and Reading as it is now) and a child will have to be entered in the same tier for all 4.
There will be 2 tiers: Foundation (grades 1 to 5) and Higher (grades 4 to 9).

The content of each exam will also be more challenging. At the moment, the GCSE French exam revolves around a lot of learning by heart, preparing known subjects and questions in advance in class with their own teachers and being able to regurgitate it all well. The children are very well prepared to take the test – far better than they are to actually speak, read, write, understand the language itself outside of the realm of the test.

The objective of the new GCSE is for students to actually learn the language, “develop their ability and ambition to communicate with native speakers in speech and writing. The study of French should also broaden their horizons and encourage them to step beyond familiar cultural boundaries and develop new ways of seeing the world.”

It’s an ambitious plan, one that I think will require a new way of approaching the teaching of French.

To help with this, AQA (the Exam board) has produced a GCSE Grench Specifications Booklet detailing not just the structure of the exam but also nice little lists of words, questions, vocabulary by subject, grammar points that should help prepare all 4 Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking exams. It’s a useful resource and starting point for teachers to elaborate their new course.

I personally welcome the changes because they hopefully will mean the children will learn French and not just what it takes to have a good grade at GCSE French.

If you’re a teacher faced with these changes, a parent, a student, please leave comments below.
What do you think of the changes? Were they needed? Are they welcome? How easy do you think it will be for the students to rise to the challenge? For the teachers to teach?

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