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Written Statements

Volume 599: debated on Thursday 10 September 2015

Written Statements

Thursday 10 September 2015


GCSE and A-level Subject Consultation

Today 10 September 2015 I am launching a public consultation on revised subject content for 6 GCSEs and 9 A-levels which will be taught from 2017.

We are reforming GCSEs and A-levels to be rigorous and more knowledge-based and to match the qualifications used in the best education systems in the world. Our objective is to ensure that young people leave our education system equipped to compete with the best performers across the globe.

The reforms aim to ensure that GCSEs are more academically demanding and will be qualifications in which students, employers, and further education colleges and universities can have confidence. At A-level, our reforms aim to ensure that they prepare students for undergraduate study.

A priority in the development of the new qualifications has been to ensure that subject experts, particularly university academics in the relevant subjects, are involved in determining the subject content.

The subject content documents being published today set new expectations which all awarding organisations’ specifications must meet. Awarding organisations have drafted the content, working with subject experts, the Department for Education and Ofqual. An additional consultation will be published in the autumn with content for Government and politics and geology A-levels.

This consultation is an opportunity for all those with an interest in these subjects to provide their views which will be considered when redrafting the content for final publication.

Summary of changes to subjects

Accounting A-level retains the current requirement for students to acquire a solid knowledge of, and the ability to apply, double entry accounting methods. There is also an increased emphasis on the use of accounting concepts and techniques in the analysis and evaluation of financial information.

Ancient history GCSE requires the study of the history of at least two ancient societies drawn from 3000 BC to 500 AD. Each ancient society must constitute 20% or more of the qualification, and at least one of them must be Roman or Greek. Students will have to undertake: one period study covering at least 50 years; one longer period study covering at least 200 years; and two in-depth studies focusing on substantial and coherent shorter time spans.

Ancient history A-level requires the study of ancient history drawn from 3000 BC to 500 AD. A-level students must study both Roman and Greek history, with each constituting 20% or more of the qualification. At AS-level, students must study at least one of either Roman or Greek history, which must constitute 50% or more of the qualification. Students will have to undertake: two period studies covering at least 75 years; and (at A-level only) two in-depth studies focusing on substantial and coherent shorter time spans. Students will have to study ancient historical topics from a span of at least 400 years.

Classical civilisation GCSE provides much greater detail on the requirements to be studied for literature and visual/material culture, which consists of architecture and/or artefacts and artworks. Literature must form at least 40% and visual/material culture must form 20% or more of the total qualification. There is also a comparative, thematic study, which must form 20% or more of the total qualification. Both Roman and Greek civilisations must be studied, forming at least 20% each of the total qualification.

Classical civilisation A-level provides much greater detail on the requirements to be studied for literature, visual/material culture and philosophy and thought. All three of these areas must be studied at A-level. At AS-level literature plus one of the other two options must be studied. Literature must form at least 40% of the total qualification at both AS and A-level.

Electronics GCSE sets out the detailed knowledge and understanding required by students. The content increases the demand of the subject by increasing the breadth and depth of content required, including demanding mathematical requirements.

In the electronics A-level, the depth and breadth of the content has been reviewed. A number of new topics has been added and depth has been increased by including additional content in current topic areas. The content also strengthens the mathematical requirements. New mathematical requirements have been added and the formulae to be recalled and used are clearly identified in the subject content, adding to the overall level of demand.

In the film studies GCSE, students have to study at least six films, of which three must have been produced in the US (an independent film, a film produced between 1930 and 1960, and a genre film), one must be British, one must be an English language film produced outside the US and one must not be in the English language. All films studied have to be specified by the awarding organisation and must be critically recognised and culturally and historically significant.

At A-level, film students must study an historical range of films, compare two films and must study at least two major movements or stylistic developments. For AS, students have to study at least six films and for A-level at least 12 films. All films studied must be specified by the awarding organisation and must be critically recognised and culturally and historically significant.

Law A-level content will ensure students study a greater number of areas of substantive law. At AS-level there is a requirement to study two areas of law (one public and one private area) and at A-level there is a requirement to study three areas of law (at least one public and one private area). There is also a requirement to study the English legal system and nature of law

Through media studies GCSE students will gain an understanding of academic theories and will be required to apply specialist subject specific terminology and theory. The subject content is based on four central areas of knowledge: media language; representation; media industries; and audiences. Students will learn about media regulation and the different funding models for media institutions and how they operate on a global scale.

Media studies A-level places greater emphasis on academic knowledge and understanding. The study of a wide range of specified theories is now required at both AS and A-level. Students will apply their theoretical knowledge and use specialist subject specific terminology to analyse and compare media products and the contexts in which they are produced and consumed. Students will critically debate key questions relating to the social, cultural, technological and economic dimensions of media through sustained discursive writing.

GCSE statistics has new subject content which outlines the key stages of the statistical enquiry cycle. Students are required to have knowledge of key statistical calculations, e.g. calculating of moving averages to identify trends and, at the higher tier, Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient formula. There is some overlap with reformed GCSE mathematics content, but the majority of content is unique to statistics. Because of the emphasis on the statistical enquiry cycle in GCSE statistics, much of this knowledge will be applied in different ways from mathematics GCSE.

A-level statistics builds upon the statistics and probability components of GCSE mathematics and helps students make sense of data trends and to solve statistical problems in a variety of contexts, supporting progression to HEI in subjects such as psychology, biology, geography, business and the social sciences. The qualification includes study of the statistical enquiry cycle with students required to perform key statistical calculations. The content has been drafted to articulate the mathematics content, while, at the same time, care was taken to avoid too much overlap with the mathematics and further mathematics A-level.


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs Council

I will attend the EU General Affairs Council (GAC) on 14 September. The Council will be held in Brussels and be chaired by the Luxembourg presidency.

The GAC is expected to focus on: the Luxembourg presidency Work programme; preparation of the agenda for the European Council on 15 and 16 October 2015; and the 2016 Commission Work programme.

Luxembourg presidency Work programme

The GAC will discuss the Luxembourg presidency Work programme. Luxembourg has set out seven “pillars” for its presidency: stimulating investment to boost growth and employment; deepening the European Union's social dimension; managing migration, combining freedom, justice and security; revitalising the single market by focusing on its digital dimension; placing European competitiveness in a global and transparent framework; promoting sustainable development; and strengthening the European Union’s presence on the global stage.

The UK shares many of the priorities of the Luxembourg presidency, particularly those based around supporting growth and European competitiveness.

Preparation of the October European Council

The GAC will prepare the agenda for the 15 and 16 October European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The draft October European Council agenda covers: migration; economic and monetary union; and an update on the UK’s EU renegotiation, including the state of play of technical talks and intentions for the process ahead. The European Council may also consider external relations issues.

2016 Commission Work programme

GAC Ministers will hold an exchange of views on the Commission’s letter of intent for their 2016 Work programme.



Foods Standards Agency (Triennial Reviews)

I am today announcing the start of the triennial review by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of the six Scientific Advisory Committees for which the FSA is the sole or lead sponsor. The six Committees are:

the Advisory Committee on Animal Feeding Stuffs;

the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food;

the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes;

the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment;

the General Advisory Committee on Science; and

the Social Science Research Committee.

The triennial review programme ensures that all Government Departments review their non-departmental public bodies on a regular basis.

Reviews are conducted in two stages. The first stage will examine the continuing need for the functions provided by each committee, and whether the organisation’s form, including operating at arm’s length from Government, remains appropriate. If the outcome of this stage is that delivery should continue, the second stage of the review will assess whether the bodies are operating efficiently and in line with the recognised principles of good corporate governance.

The FSA is reviewing all six bodies as a cluster, which will provide for a more efficient review process, and allow the review to consider any gaps or overlaps in the committees’ functions and opportunities for efficiencies in their operation,

The FSA will consult widely with relevant stakeholders, including: the Select Committees on Science and Technology for both the House of Commons and House of Lords, on Health, and on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Government Departments and their agencies; the devolved Administrations; and others with an interest in the work of the committees. The FSA will also launch an open call for evidence so that all those with an interest can contribute.

I will inform the House of the outcome of the review when it is completed and the findings of the review will be published.


Home Department

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department is today laying before Parliament the 2014-15 annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, copies of which are available in the Vote Office. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the search power to support the measures in the Act to seize and forfeit cash used for criminal purposes.

The report gives the appointed person’s opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. I am pleased that the appointed person, Mr Douglas Bain, has expressed satisfaction with the operation of the search power and has found that there is nothing to suggest that the procedures are not being followed in accordance with the Act. He has made no recommendations in his report this year.

From 1 April 2014 to the end of March 2015 over £75 million in cash was seized by law enforcement agencies in England and Wales under powers in the Act. The seizures are subject to further investigation, and the cash is subject to further judicially approved detention, before forfeiture in the magistrates’ court. These powers are a valuable tool in the fight against crime and the report shows that the way they are used has been, and will continue to be, monitored closely.



Inquests into Deaths of Service Personnel Overseas

My hon. Friend, the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, and I now present the latest of our joint statements on the progress of coroner investigations into the deaths of UK service personnel on active service overseas. We wish to express the Government’s and the nation’s continued deep sense of gratitude to the brave members of the armed forces who have served on our behalf. We particularly acknowledge the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in this service and the loved ones they have left behind.

This statement provides details on the progress of investigations conducted by the senior coroners for Oxfordshire, for Wiltshire and Swindon and for other coroner areas in England and Wales as at 26 August 2015.

There is also additional information to supplement this statement in tables which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and which give details of all cases, including whether there has been or will be a service inquiry—formerly known as a board of inquiry.

The defence inquests unit of the Ministry of Defence continues to work with coroners—including the specially trained cadre of coroners—to make sure that investigations are thorough and that inquests are timely and effective. Section 12 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 now allows investigations to be held in Scotland, where appropriate.

We offer our sincere thanks to those who support and assist bereaved families; to coroners and their staff who conduct thorough investigations with such families at their heart; and to the Chief Coroner who provides leadership and oversight of the coroner service.

Our two departments have provided funding for the additional resources required by the coroners in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire and Swindon since 2007 as service personnel who have lost their lives overseas have been repatriated to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. This has enabled the coroners to conduct investigations into these deaths while still dealing with their local case load.

Current status of inquests

No further inquests have been concluded into deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan since our last statement on 4 June. Therefore the total number of inquests into the deaths of service personnel who have died on active service in Iraq or Afghanistan, or who have died in the UK of injuries sustained on active service remains at 624. Three deaths of injured service personnel did not lead to a formal inquest although two of these were taken into consideration at inquests into other deaths which occurred in the same incidents. The third death was of a serviceman in Scotland who made a partial recovery but later died from his injuries, and a fatal accident inquiry was not held.

Coroners’ investigations which remain open

As at 26 August, there remain seven open coroner investigations into the deaths of service personnel in Afghanistan. Five of these relate to the Lynx helicopter crash on 26 April 2014 and have been retained by the senior Oxfordshire coroner. A pre-inquest hearing for this case is scheduled for 24 November 2015 with an inquest scheduled for 7 to 18 March 2016. The other two outstanding investigations, into the death of Lance Corporal James Brynin on 13 October 2013 and Sapper Adam Moralee on 5 March 2014 are being conducted by the senior coroners for West Sussex and for Gateshead and South Tyneside whose courts are closer to the next of kin. A pre-inquest hearing date of 2 October 2015 has been confirmed for Lance Corporal Brynin. Hearing dates have not yet been listed for Sapper Moralee.

An investigation is also open into the death of Private Jamie Sawyer who died while serving on the UN peace- keeping mission in Cyprus. This investigation is being conducted by HM senior coroner for Birmingham and an inquest has been scheduled for 1 to 2 December 2015.

We will continue to inform the House of progress.

A table detailing inquests into service deaths can be viewed online at: