Teacher survey on the DfE’s proposal for new GCSE content in Modern Foreign Languages

Suzanne Graham

In November 2019, the Department for Education (DfE) announced the appointment of an independent panel of experts to review the subject content for GCSEs in modern foreign languages (MFL), in French, German and Spanish. The panel’s proposals were published by the DfE in March 2021, and at the same time the DfE launched a public consultation on the proposed changes. The proposals included some very fundamental changes to the GCSE examination, which would have far-reaching consequences for teaching of languages from primary level up to GCSE and potentially beyond.

Research suggests that the successful implementation of any curriculum reform needs to involve teachers from the earliest stage, and critically to be based on an assessment of ‘whether change is desirable and whether the education system is ready and able to take on the burden of implementation’ (Wall, 2000: 506). We therefore sought to investigate teachers’ views on the proposed changes, as a follow-up to our earlier examination of teachers’ perspectives on the MFL curriculum, pedagogy and assessment reform at GCSE (Woore et al., 2020).

This document summarises the key findings from a questionnaire completed by 140 MFL teachers and trainee teachers concerning the proposed changes to GCSE. The majority were currently practising as teachers; 90 worked in state schools (overwhelmingly with a non-selective student intake), and 27 in the independent sector.

The questionnaire summarized the proposed changes in the new GCSE specification, and asked for respondents’ views of the impact of these on their teaching and on different categories of students (e.g. students overall; students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND); students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds).  The next section reminded participants of the broad, stated aims of the new GCSE in Modern Languages, and asked about how compatible these stated aims were perceived to be with the proposed changes to the examination content.  The final section asked about the envisaged impact of the proposed GCSE changes on other phases of language learning (Key Stage 3, A Level and primary school). 

Findings – Effects of the proposed changes on teaching and learning

Download the findings >>

Read Creative Multilingualism's response to the DfE's consultation on proposed new GCSE subject content for MFL (French, German, Spanish) >>