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Last update: 29/09/2013


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“Severe grading” at GCSE.  Summary.

The outline proposal from ASCL, ALL and ISMLA is that grading in GCSE ML should be brought broadly into line with that in Mathematics (and thus also with other subjects such as Science, History and Geography). 

“Rule of thumb”

Judging from the ML forums, the numbers and results in ML continue to be source of much anxiety and concern, incl. how they are judged.  A further thought to help fair judgement would be to publicise a “rule of thumb” arising from the QCA report (Feb ’08): if all pupils took Fr (or Gn) and Maths, to get the cohort % who “should” get A*-C:

  1. Take the Maths A*-C cohort rate e.g. 70%
  2. take the Maths C grade percentage e.g. 30% ( and so 40% had A*-B), and  halve it e.g. 15%
  3. Add this to Maths A*-B rate e.g. 40% + 15% = 55% to get the French cohort %

 Clearly if ML is optional, then this needs to be adjusted, esp as those choosing ML are likely to be better at it, but at least it is a quick “rule of thumb”



·    Recommendation in Dearing Review (Mar ’07) to investigate and establish facts at GCSE

·    Dr Robert Coe ( CEM Durham University ) (Mar ’07) presents at ASCL Annual Conference “Are some GCSEs harder than others?)

·    Guardian article (12 Mar 2007) David Willetts, Conservative education spokesman, said:  "If there is evidence modern languages is tougher than other GCSEs, then that is something that has to be corrected. They should be the same level of challenge as traditional academic GCSEs."

·    Alan Johnson asks (Jun ’07) the QCA to conduct a review and is awaiting their advice on whether or not to change grade boundaries.

·    QCA report 'Grade standards in GCSE modern foreign languages' published Feb ’08 accepts the reality of “severe grading” – see paragraphs 11-15

para. 12    To test its practical application we asked AQA, Edexcel and OCR to calculate what changes there would be to their 2007 GCSE French results if the grades were based only on the relationship between candidates’ key stage 3 test scores and their results in GCSE mathematics. The analyses indicated that the changes would be marked at the higher grades. About half the candidates presently awarded a grade B would gain a grade A as the threshold mark or performance standard for a grade A would have to move down by about half a grade width. There would be a similar effect at grade C.

·    Ofqual hold their first Inter-subject comparability seminar (Oct  ’08) with representatives from a range of organisations.  Presentations from ML, STEM and English subject representatives.  Issue of “severe grading” formally recognised, but different views about “next steps”.