Written statement to Parliament

Publication of reformed GCSE and A level content

Written ministerial statement on final subject content for further GCSE and AS and A level subjects.

The government is reforming GCSEs and A levels to be rigorous and more knowledge-based and to match the qualifications used in the best education systems in the world.

Schools are now teaching some of the new reformed GCSEs and A levels, and we have already published reformed subject content for those GCSEs and A levels to be taught from September 2016. Content for reformed GCSE subjects can be found here and content for AS and A level subjects here.

The new GCSEs will be more academically demanding and will be qualifications that command the confidence of students, employers, and further and higher education institutions. At A level, our reforms aim to ensure that they prepare students for undergraduate study and the world of work.

Today (17 December 2015) I am publishing revised subject content for some of the GCSEs and AS and A levels that will be taught in schools from September 2017:

  • GCSEs in: astronomy, business, economics, engineering, geology and psychology; and
  • AS and A levels in environmental science, design and technology, music technology and philosophy

The astronomy GCSE requires greater depth of knowledge, for example by expanding topic areas such as the evolution of the stars. The content has also been brought up to date to reflect the latest knowledge, and the mathematical requirements are more demanding.

The business GCSE content has added breadth and depth with new requirements to understand business decision-making in more detail, including business growth and development.

The new economics GCSE content is more demanding and includes detailed requirements for specific mathematical knowledge. All students will now be required to understand more of the essential concepts of economics, and depth and breadth have been increased by adding a number of new topics.

The engineering GCSE has increased demand through a greater emphasis on systems-related content and requiring additional mathematical knowledge. A detailed section on testing and investigation has been introduced which includes content such as predicting performance through calculations, simulations and modelling.

Environmental science AS and A level requires students to know and understand the science behind environmental issues and, in line with other reformed science A levels, to use scientific theories, models and ideas.

The new geology GCSE content has increased demand by requiring increased mathematical knowledge, and the study of new content on planetary geology and a greater number of minerals, rock types and fossil groups. Fieldwork remains a fundamental part of the subject, with students required to spend at least 2 days engaged in fieldwork.

In music technology AS and A level content, students are now required to develop an in-depth knowledge of the principles of sound and audio technology and the development of recording and production technology. Recording and production techniques for both corrective and creative purposes are also included.

Philosophy AS and A level content will enable students to gain a thorough grounding in key philosophical questions and concepts. Students are required to study the ideas of key philosophers.

Psychology GCSE content will require all students to study 5 compulsory topics (development; memory; psychological problems; social influence; and the brain and neuropsychology) and 2 optional topics. The study of these is underpinned by the study of key theories and all students will be required to develop a strong understanding of research methods, including quantitative analysis.

The new design and technology A level will require all students to study the iterative design processes and technical principles that are at the core of contemporary design practice. There will be options in design engineering, product design and fashion textiles to allow students to specialise. Students will also undertake a substantial design and make task at A level.