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Details of reformed GCSEs and A levels announced

The government publishes new subject content for citizenship studies, drama, food preparation and nutrition, and religious studies.

New GCSE content backed by experts and designed to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain has been published yesterday (12 February 2015).

The government has already reformed a number of qualifications to provide pupils with the knowledge and understanding that employers and universities demand.

Yesterday, the final content for GCSEs in:

along with A levels in drama and theatre, and religious studies are published.

The key changes to the reformed qualifications are:

  • a citizenship studies GCSE which will require students to develop more detailed knowledge of citizenship, including knowledge of democracy and government, the legal system, society and the public finances. Students will be required to undertake at least 1 in-depth, critical investigation leading to a campaign or other similar activity
  • new religious studies (RS) qualifications which will provide students with a broader and deeper knowledge of religion
  • in GCSE RS students will spend at least half of their time developing knowledge and understanding of 2 religions, with the option to spend up to three-quarters of their time studying 1 of the 2. Students will also be able to study texts and learn about critiques of religion and other non-religious beliefs through the study of philosophy and ethics
  • in A level RS students will study at least 1 religion in depth. They will also be expected to read and understand the works and arguments of key theologians, scholars, philosophers and/or ethicists
  • a new drama GCSE and A level which are more rigorous and require greater breadth of study. At GCSE students will study at least 1 play in depth including its social, cultural and historical context, and 2 extracts from a second play. In the A level students will study at least 2 plays in depth, as well as 3 extracts from other plays and 2 theatre practitioners (individuals or companies)
  • a new GCSE in food preparation and nutrition that draws and builds on the best of current food-related qualifications. This GCSE will place a greater focus on knowledge, including scientific knowledge of food and nutrition, and will enable students to apply this when preparing and cooking meals

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said yesterday:

Our plan for education is ensuring all pupils leave education with the knowledge and skills they need for a wide range of jobs and to succeed in a competitive global market.

The new, high-quality, more academically rigorous A level and GCSE content published today will further raise the bar so that more young people can benefit from the high quality of education they deserve.

The content for each subject has been prepared with close involvement of subject experts.

Commenting on the new food preparation and nutrition GCSE, Myles Bremner, of the independent school food plan, said:

This qualification is another big step forward for food education in this country following the introduction of cooking as compulsory in the curriculum this term for all children up to the age of 14. I particularly like the new emphasis on understanding and enjoying English and international cuisines and encouraging students to develop their own recipes.

It is a serious qualification that will be another step towards creating a healthier and happier society.

The new GCSE and A level in religious studies is supported by a wide range of faith groups.

Jo Backus, Network of Buddhist Organisations representative to the Religious Education Council, and Munisha, Clear Vision Trust representative to the Religious Education Council, said:

We support the changes in the GCSE subject content; in particular the move towards greater diversity of Buddhist teachings and traditions represented, which should lead to greater academic rigour.

Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service, said:

We welcome the new criteria for GCSE and A level, which provide a real opportunity for Catholic religious education. In both examinations schools will be able to make a thorough study of Catholic Christianity in greater depth than has been possible before.

The new examinations will increase students’ engagement with the scriptures, with the core doctrines of Catholicism and with the writings of Catholic theologians. We also hope that the increased rigour of the new specifications will improve the academic standards of this vital subject in all schools.

The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Reverend Nigel Genders, said yesterday:

We were pleased to work closely with the Department for Education in the development of these proposals.

Looking at the world today, it is hard to overstate the importance of equipping the young people of this country with a challenging and rigorous education which includes religious literacy. That is why it is so important that we have a broad, demanding GCSE.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Movement for Reform Judaism, said:

I welcome the publication of final content which equips students with religious literacy and enables them to be part of a diverse Britain with knowledge, understanding and joy.

Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary Hindu Council UK, said

On behalf of the Hindu Council UK, I would like to say that we welcome and completely support the changes to be made to both the RS GCSE and A level subjects.

We hope the new qualification will help pupils across England to understand a much wider range of faiths and beliefs. We also applaud the education department that they have consulted widely on how to shape the syllabus for religious studies.

Muslim leader Maulana Muhammad Shahid Raza OBE said:

I am pleased to learn that the updated subject contents for religious studies GCSE and AS/A levels is now being released. I would like to extend my appreciation to all those involved in the process of developing a balanced and appropriate syllabus.

I hope that this will provide a greater opportunity for children to understand their own faith and the faiths and beliefs of their classmates on a broader scale. I believe that Muslim children will greatly benefit from this provision and hope that in their future lives they will accordingly play a fundamental role in the creation of a cohesive British society.

Notes to editors

  1. See details of the content for all GCSE and A level subjects.

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