My name is Katy Lewis and I am the head of Modern Foreign Languages at Pearson Edexcel. I'm really pleased to be able to share some improvements that we've made to our French, German, and Spanish GCSE qualifications.
Ever since these qualifications came into first teaching in 2016, we have been listening to your feedback about those parts of the qualification that you felt have been working really well for you and your learners as well as those aspects of the qualification that have perhaps not been working as well as we might have hoped.
Upon receiving this feedback back in 2019, we have then looked at all of the data that we have from our examination series, including details on every single question and how each candidate has performed, and really analysed that data with an open mind and in a great deal of depth. We have then pulled that together into a great wealth of understanding about those aspects of the qualification which are perhaps less accessible and more challenging for candidates than we had intended them to be.
Now armed with all that information, as well as your feedback, we were able to develop a trial whereby we created an alternative set of assessments that were taken to six schools across the UK and 400 learners in total. Different kinds of students across French, German, and Spanish, both foundation tier and higher tier, were tested and trialed that alternative assessment model.
Alongside this trial, we also had a control group of students sit the sample assessment materials in their current iteration at the time. Once completed, we were able to mark those exams to determine which group of students performed better as well as to see which group of students found the assessment more straightforward.
We then interviewed several students and their teachers who had been a part of the trial group, to learn about what their experience of the assessment had been like, as we know that just taking a test and getting a grade is not the only important factor in assessment. We want students to have a great experience in the exam hall where they genuinely feel like there isn’t anything there to trip them up and instead just give students the opportunity to show us what they can do.
With the combined outcomes of this trial, teacher feedback and the data we have gathered from our 2018 and 2019 qualifications, we're now able to announce some of the improvements and amendments we'll be making to our qualification assessments from 2021 onwards.
The first thing I want to do is to reassure you that we're not changing any of the qualification content, so anything that you've already covered is still valid and relevant. The area that we are changing is the ways in which the content is assessed in all of the question papers. We have created several detailed documents that cover what those exact changes will be, including our handy guide and FAQs, so please take a look. We have also updated the Sample Assessment Materials, partly so that you can see what some of these improvements are and partly so that you can then test those materials with your students and give them an example and a model of what the 2021 and beyond assessments will look like.
We have made several improvements to our papers, including reducing the number of non-minimum core vocabulary words that we use in the extracts for listening and reading. We have reduced the inference profile in listening and reading, so there are fewer inference questions, and those inference questions are pitched to a slightly more accessible level, particularly true at the foundation tier.
We have also cut back on the length of the context and rubrics in the writing papers whilst also maintaining the bullet points which we found, in our trialing, gave students a really helpful scaffolding to hang their answers upon. For example, the bullet points made it very clear to students what time frames they should be using.
For the speaking portion of Paper 2, we are adding a prompt to ask the students if they have a question. This has arisen from feedback we have received from teachers as well as through examples we have seen ourselves, in which students are required to ask a question, but there’s no prompt on the teacher examiner card. We want to prevent that uncomfortable silence that happens when the student forgets to ask the question and the teacher or examiner doesn’t have a prompt to remind them.
Those are just a few of the amendments that we've made, and I urge you to look at and review the Sample Assessment Materials, the guidance that we have created, and the documentation that we have produced to give you the complete details of what these amendments include.
I hope that you are pleased and as excited as I am about these amendments, and that you agree that these changes are going to have a positive effect on your students’ assessment experience.