Bon chance

Move set to en­cour­age take-up of sub­jects and cre­ate more lan­guage teach­ers

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - EDITORIAL - Eleanor busby

MFL grades will be higher in a bid to halt the de­cline of lan­guages

THE NUM­BER of top grades awarded in mod­ern for­eign lan­guage A lev­els is likely to in­crease this sum­mer, af­ter a change brought in by Ofqual to help non-na­tive speak­ers.

Exam boards have been asked to in­crease the pro­por­tion of stu­dents ex­pected to achieve a grade A and above by one per­cent­age point for French, Ger­man and Span­ish A lev­els.

The exam reg­u­la­tor de­cided to in­ter­vene af­ter car­ry­ing out re­search that showed na­tive speak­ers were far more likely to achieve A* or A grades than non-na­tive speak­ers.

If the abil­ity of this year’s co­hort is con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous years, the up­lift will be ap­plied to the three A-level sub­jects.

How­ever, rel­a­tively few can­di­dates look set to ben­e­fit: a Tes anal­y­sis of last year’s A-level re­sults sug­gests that an ad­just­ment last sum­mer would have re­sulted in around 200 ex­tra A and A* grades be­ing awarded.

The move from Ofqual has been widely wel­comed across the sec­tor, but head­teacher or­gan­i­sa­tions ar­gue that it should not be the last word in solv­ing what they see as a long­stand­ing prob­lem.

‘A vi­cious cir­cle’

“We wel­come any change that will deal with what we call ‘harsh grad­ing’ of mod­ern lan­guages and one of the fac­tors that im­pacts on the grad­ing is na­tive speak­ers,” says Mal­colm Trobe, deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary of the As­so­ci­a­tion of School and Col­lege Lead­ers.

He adds: “It’s still more dif­fi­cult to get high grades in mod­ern lan­guages than in other sub­jects. This has im­pli­ca­tions for the take-up of lan­guages. It is a vi­cious cir­cle be­cause if we are not pro­duc­ing enough mod­ern lin­guists, then we’re not pro­duc­ing enough lan­guages teach­ers.”

Last week, new anal­y­sis from the Press As­so­ci­a­tion re­vealed that ap­pli­ca­tions for de­gree cour­ses linked to Euro­pean lan­guages have fallen by al­most a quar­ter in the past five years.

The num­ber of en­tries for French and Ger­man A level dropped by more than a quar­ter be­tween 2011 and 2016 (French was down by 26.7 per cent and Ger­man was down by 25.6 per cent). At GCSE, there has also been a fall in French and Ger­man en­tries.

David Blow, head­teacher at Ash­combe School in Sur­rey, who has worked on lan­guage grad­ing for ASCL, be­lieves that more still needs to be done.“they need to look at GCSE grad­ing now. GCSE is the big anom­aly and we re­ally ur­gently need to ad­dress that,” he says.

Ofqual has in­vited the MFL com­mu­nity to sub­mit ev­i­dence on whether a sim­i­lar ad­just­ment should be made at GCSE level.

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