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New, ‘real-world’ French GCSE receives Ofqual approval as Pearson leads accessible and inclusive approach to language learning

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A new future-focused French GCSE, designed to better equip all students for life and careers in a global setting, has received full approval from Ofqual for first teaching in 2024. 

The reformed qualification from leading awarding body Pearson Edexcel, has been developed in close partnership with schools, language experts and multilinguists to reduce the continued decline in language uptake at GCSE and A level.

Paving the way for updates to Pearson’s language GCSEs in German and Spanish, the new French qualification (for first assessment in 2026), is specifically designed to be more inclusive and accessible to students, with real-world content that reflects and represents the diverse backgrounds, experiences and abilities of young learners today.

The student-centred specification will encourage all pupils to develop their language skills by combining clear, concise and straightforward assessments with engaging, meaningful and relatable content. Key features include:

  • Engaging and inclusive contemporary topics that enable students to speak and write about the things that interest them including equality, physical and mental wellbeing, the environment, social media and gaming.
  • Content and assessments based on familiar experiences or pre-known settings in the target language culture, with no expectation that students travel abroad for their holidays.
  • Extending existing knowledge on familiar concepts i.e. friendships, food and drink, school, shopping, and relevant travel.
  • Content and assessment that broadens cultural knowledge, with supporting images or glossing to ensure no barriers to shared understanding.

Ofqual’s approval follows the release of recent findings that show more than three-quarters (73%) of UK adults who speak just one language wish they could speak another, while more than half of monolinguists (54%) have faced difficulties in life as a result of not being able to do so. At the same time, almost half of all UK adults (45%) think it is more important to speak another language today than it was 20 years ago and yet, the number of learners choosing to study a language at GCSE and A level continues to decline.

When respondents to this Pearson research were asked what would most encourage young people to study a language today, the top five responses were: showcasing the benefits to their future lives, making the subject more interesting, learning about different cultures and lifestyles as well as vocabulary, making content more relevant to young people’s lives and more accessible – all features of the new Edexcel French qualification.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Katy Lewis, Head of MFL at Pearson, said:

“Ofqual’s approval of this new French GCSE marks a significant shift in language learning for students. We want to eradicate perceptions that learning languages is too hard or only for a certain type of student, and this inclusive, real-world set of language GCSEs can help us do just that.

“Having trialled our draft French, German and Spanish specifications with over 800 students of all abilities, across a wide range of schools, we believe that we have developed meaningful qualifications that are fit for the future. We are proud of the ethos behind the new GCSEs and we look forward to helping a new cohort of students connect, communicate and understand new cultures in our increasingly diverse world.”

Teachers reviewing the specification referred to the changes as “encouraging,” “considered and thoughtful” and a “great relief for both teachers and students” with hopes that as a result, they “should be able to increase the number of students taking languages at GCSE and beyond.”

For more information about the new language GCSE specifications, along with Pearson’s nationwide More than words campaign, visit here.

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