Written statement to Parliament

Qualifications and curriculum reform

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announces the next steps on GCSE and A level reform.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan

I am today announcing next steps on reform of the national curriculum, and consultations on new GCSEs and A levels. We want these reforms to ensure that all young people can achieve their potential, by studying a curriculum and qualifications that support them in progressing into further study and employment, and set expectations which match those of the highest performing countries.

GCSE and A level subject content to be taught from 2016

The government has already published subject content for GCSEs in English Baccalaureate subjects and for the first group of A levels to be reformed.

Today, I am publishing, for consultation, new subject content for a further set of GCSEs and A levels. These subjects will be first taught in 2016. The content for these subjects will prepare students better for further and higher education and employment. GCSE content will provide young people with more fulfilling and demanding courses of study; new A level content will encourage development of the skills and knowledge needed for progression to undergraduate study.

There are 2 parts to the consultation. The first part seeks views on content which awarding organisations have developed, working with subject associations and other stakeholders. At GCSE these subjects are art and design, computer science, dance, music and physical education. At AS and A level, the subjects are dance, music and physical education.

The second part of the consultation seeks views on content for AS and A levels in modern foreign languages, ancient languages, mathematics, further mathematics and geography. The proposed content reflects the recommendations of the A level Content Advisory Board, which is publishing its reports to me today. Ofqual is consulting in parallel on the assessment arrangements for all these subjects.

This consultation is an opportunity for teachers, further and higher education, employers and all those with an interest in these important subjects to provide their views. We intend to listen to those views in shaping our final proposals.

In September, we will consult on content for the remaining subjects to be taught from 2016, citizenship studies, design and technology, drama and religious studies.

We want the reformed content for the subjects I am consulting on today to lead to more ambitious qualifications with more stimulating courses of study.

In art and design, there is a greater focus on creativity and new emphasis on drawing.

In computer science, students will be expected to develop deep knowledge and understanding of key principles and concepts including data representation, boolean logic and different data types.

In dance, there is new theoretical content including critical appreciation, knowledge and understanding of professional works.

In music, there are new expectations for performing and composing and for students to apply knowledge and understanding in making critical judgements. At GCSE, students will need to write (as well as read) staff notation and understand chord symbols.

In physical education, rigour has been increased by sharpening the definition of what is expected of students and emphasising the theoretical knowledge needed to underpin physical activity and practical performance.

In modern languages, there is more stimulating A level content with new requirements to engage critically with literary works and carry out independent research, presenting findings.

In ancient languages, the new A level content has increased focus on developing strong interest in the literature, history and culture of the ancient world. Students will be required to read and understand in depth literary texts in the original language.

In mathematics, requirements are specified in more detail and the A level has new emphasis on problem solving, interpretation and testing so that students’ deep understanding of mathematical concepts is strengthened.

In further mathematics, A level content provides greater specification of the areas which need to be covered and new minimum requirements for matrices and complex numbers within the AS.

In geography, A level content provides a better balance between physical and human geography, with new emphasis on fieldwork and geographical skills needed at this level.

The consultation on reformed subject content for these GCSEs and A levels will be available later today at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations. Ofqual’s consultation on assessment arrangements will be available on its website at http://ofqual.gov.uk.

Publication of key stage 4 English and mathematics national curriculum programmes of study

On 11 September 2013, the government published the new national curriculum for all subjects except for English, mathematics and science at key stage 4. The department consulted on the draft programmes of study for key stage 4 English and mathematics from 2 December 2013 to 3 February 2014 and, from 14 May until 13 June this year, on the draft Order and regulations that will give effect to the new programmes of study.

I am publishing the final programmes of study for English and mathematics at key stage 4, which will be taught in schools from September 2015 alongside the new English and mathematics GCSEs. Last year, the government published the new GCSE subject content for English language, English literature and mathematics. It is important to consider these programmes of study in tandem with the GCSE subject content to ensure that the curriculum and qualifications are fully coherent.

We are currently consulting on the key stage 4 science programme of study which will be introduced from September 2016, alongside first teaching of the new science GCSEs.

Copies of the new programmes of study for key stage 4 English and mathematics will be placed in both House libraries.

Published 16 July 2014