Skip to main content

The new P8 accountability measures and MFL

The table below was published by Phillip Collie of It summarises the current state of play for GCSE. It is reproduced with permission.

Performance Eight (P8) is the new value-added accountability measure on which floor standards are to be based. Students and schools will be judged on their performance across eight subjects, each one having a specific weighting. It is not yet clear which subjects will still be offered as GCSEs.

P8 weighting
(total = 8)
Exam time minimum
Included for all students
3.5 hours
English Lit
One of
Speaking, but not as part of grade
3.5 hours
English Lang
2 (if Lit is counted as 1  - below)
3.5 hours
(single award
to be scrapped)
1 each (DA=2)
Three of
Eg DA science + geography
French, Spanish and history
3 hours
6 hours (DA)
Computer Science
3.5 hours
3.5 hours
3.5 hours
1 each
3.5 hours
Other subjects (inc Eng Lit)
Three of
RE: 5%
3.5 hours

For us as linguists, a few points come to mind.

At present it is still the intention not to have separate tiers as we do at present. There has been talk of extension papers for the most able, but, as far as I understand it, this has not yet been decided. If there is no separate provision for the less and more able student, I believe this would be a mistake. I still cannot see how one could provide an exam paper appropriate for the whole ability range.

In terms of accountability, MFL remains an EBacc subject, but Ebacc has now become a "soft" accountability measure. P8 will become the key measure schools are judged by. This means that schools will take it less seriously, so any recent gains in take-up brought about by the EBacc are likely to be temporary. On the other hand, the fact that a language is to be weighted the same as a science may encourage schools to raise the status of languages. Ofqual have also said that they are looking at taking account of the relative severity of grading of subjects when drawing up the final details of the P8 measure. This could work to the advantage of languages, but I wouldn't hold your breath on that one.

You will also note from the table that the amount of time for exams (3.5 hours) will increase when compared with the pre-controlled assessment regime. If you compare with the controlled assessment era you could easily argue that assessment time will be considerably reduced. Currently students do a listening test of 40 minutes, a reading test of 50 minutes, at least two hours of writing CA and who knows how many minutes of speaking CA? The new exams are likely to include at least 30 minutes of listening, 50 minutes of reading, possibly combined with over an hour of writing. The set-piece oral will most likely take at least 20 minutes including preparation and will be marked, it seems, externally.

All this is somewhat speculative, but we have been told that the weighting of skills will return to 25% per skill (writing thus continuing to play too great a role, in my view.) The SPaG percentage for MFL is given as 5, which would presumably be covered in the writing mark scheme.

What should be welcomed is the fact that teachers will be doing less assessing (good for teacher workload and good for the reliability of marking, notwithstanding the failings of exam boads in this regard). Gone too will be endless CA retakes, back will be full scale mock exams.

On the other hand, the new system may work against girls who, it is often claimed, do better on coursework, and the less able. The latter are likely to do less well on written papers which rely on quick thinking, sound technique and memory. Mark schemes will need to take this into account. In MFL, orals will have to be carefully structured to allow weaker pupils some success and to allow the most able to extend themsleves. Again, tiering or extension would make sense.

Just as a reminder, the teaching of the new GCSE is due to begin in September 2016.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Tell stories


How can we make listening more enjoyable and effective for pupils? How can we turn it from a potential chore to something more memorable (and therefore more likely to stick in their long term memories)? I am of the opinion that since humans are "wired" to engage in personal listening and speaking (the expression "social brain" has been used in this context), they may be more interested and attentive when the message comes from a real person rather than a disembodied audio source. (This may or may not be relevant, but research has been carried out which demonstrates that babies pick up phonological patterns better when they listen to a caregiver rather than listen to a tape or watch a video - see here for summaries of research into this area by Patricia Kuhl.)

One easy way to make listening stimulating for pupils is to tell them easy stories in the target language. I was reminded of this while reading Penny Ur's book 100 Teaching Tips (reviewed here

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

Preparing for GCSE speaking: building a repertoire

As your Y11 classes start their final year of GCSE, one potential danger of moving from Controlled Assessment to terminal assessment of speaking is to believe that in this new regime there will be little place for the rote learning or memorisation of language. While it is true that the amount of learning by heart is likely to go down and that greater use of unrehearsed (spontaneous) should be encouraged, there are undoubtedly some good techniques to help your pupils perform well on the day.

I clearly recall, when I marked speaking tests for AQA 15-20 years ago, that schools whose candidates performed the best were often those who had prepared their students with ready-made short paragraphs of language. Candidates who didn't sound particularly like "natural linguists" (e.g. displaying poor accents) nevertheless got high marks. As far as an examiner is concerned is doesn't matter if every single candidate says that last weekend they went to the cinema, saw a James Bond…