Nick Gibb – 2016 Statement on Reformed GCSEs and A-Levels


Below is the text of the statement made by Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, to the House of Commons on 4 February 2016.

We are reforming GCSEs, AS and A levels to make sure that they give students the best possible preparation for further and higher education, and for employment. We want new GCSEs to set expectations which match those of the best education systems in the world, with rigorous assessment that provides a reliable measure of students’ achievement. The reforms are extensive and represent a new qualification gold standard.

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 and for AS and A level subjects can be found on GOV.UK.

The new GCSEs will be more academically demanding, and reformed AS and A levels will better prepare students for undergraduate study.

Today 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 ancient history, classical civilisation, electronics, film studies, media studies and statistics.

AS and A levels in accounting, ancient history, archaeology, classical civilisation, electronics, film studies, law and media studies.

Accounting AS and A level requires students to understand and to apply double entry accounting methods. A greater emphasis is placed on the use of accounting concepts and techniques in the analysis and evaluation of financial information. There is also a better balance between financial and management accounting.

The new ancient history GCSE, and AS and A levels will require students to study events, individuals, societies, developments and issues drawn from the period 3000 BC to 500 AD. At GCSE students must study the history of at least 2 societies, at least 1 of which must be Roman or Greek. At A level students must study the history of both ancient Rome and ancient Greece. At GCSE students will have to undertake 1 period study covering at least 50 years, 1 longer period study covering at least 150 years, and 2 depth studies focusing on shorter time spans. At A level students will undertake 2 period studies of at least 75 years and 2 depth studies.

The new archaeology AS and A levels will require students to study 2 archaeological contexts in depth (1 at AS) and what the archaeological evidence can tells us about that society’s social structure, belief system, art and technology. Through 2 breadth studies (1 at AS) students will also study at least 3 different societies in relation to specific issues such as religion and ritual, or economics and material culture.

The new classical civilisation GCSE, AS and A levels will require students to study both Roman and Greek civilisation (and their surrounding worlds). All students will now study literature (at least 30% of the GCSE and A level) and visual/material culture (at least 20% of the GCSE and 15% of the A level), and at A level students will also study classical thought. Students will develop their understanding of the classical world through study of the social, historical, and cultural context of the literature and sources selected.

The new electronics GCSE increases the demand of the subject by increasing the breadth and depth of content students are required to study. The new electronics AS and A levels have improved depth and breadth with new topics such as the principles of semiconductors added. The GCSE, AS and A level content also includes strengthened mathematical requirements and a detailed list of equations that students will be required to know and understand.

The film studies GCSE, AS and A levels will require students to study critically recognised, culturally and historically significant films. At GCSE and AS students will study at least 6 films including at least 1 British, 1 non-English language and 1 independent film and at least 1 historical film made before 1961. A level students will study at least 12 films from at least 3 continents covering pre 1930 to present day, including documentary, experimental and silent film. Overall the content emphasises a more academic approach with greater emphasis on a critical and contextual understanding of film, and at A level of film theory.

The new law AS and A level content will ensure students study a greater number of areas of substantive law. At AS, 1 area of public law and 1 area of private law; and at A level at least 3 areas of law. Students also need to study the nature of law including links to moral concepts, how law interacts with society, and the English legal system.

The new media studies GCSE, AS and A levels will ensure that students have an understanding of the main theoretical concepts underpinning the subject. Students will study media language, representation, media industries, and audiences, and will apply all 4 of these to at least 1 audio visual, 1 print and 1 online media form. Overall, students will study 9 forms of media and all products studied must be culturally, socially and historically significant. The AS and A level also require students to study a wide range of specified theories and theorists.

The new and more demanding statistics GCSE requires students to study the statistical enquiry cycle and to perform key statistical calculations such as interpercentile range and standard deviation. Students will be required to know and use fundamental formulae, for example to determine Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. New content has been added, such as using collected data and calculated probabilities to determine and interpret risk, and interpreting the characteristics of a binomial distribution.