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Last update: 27/05/2012


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Joint Press Statement issued by ALL ASCL and ISMLA in response to QCA report 'Grade standards in GCSE modern foreign languages' 

Link to download this press release

Languages report does not go far enough

The latest government report does not go far enough in tackling the reasons why fewer students are taking modern languages.

The Association for Language Learning (ALL) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have both expressed disappointment that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has failed to recommend to Ministers a way to address the ‘severe grading’ of modern languages at GCSE which is of concern to so many teachers of languages in secondary schools and to head teachers.

The QCA report "Grade standards in GCSE modern foreign languages" released today recognises that, when you compare pupils of similar prior attainment, languages GCSEs are graded more harshly than some other GCSEs (paragraph 12 of the report ).

However, the QCA fails to take the next step of recommending that MFL GCSE grading be brought in line with other subjects.

Dr John Dunford, General Secretary of ASCL said:

"The main problem is that modern language GCSEs are graded more severely than other subjects and it is extremely disappointing that the QCA, while recognising the problem, does not intend to bring the grading of GCSE languages into line with mathematics, or other similar subjects."

"The report clearly accepts that it is more difficult to get a good grade in a language GCSE. Students and their parents have known this for years and it is therefore no surprise that the number of students taking languages has plummeted since they were made optional."

The problem with language GCSE grading was brought to the government’s attention in Lord Dearing’s report into languages, which identified it as one of the key issues to be addressed. For this reason, it is all the more disappointing that the QCA has not acted to redress this imbalance."

Helen Myers, President of ALL said :

"We are pleased that the QCA acknowledges that there is ‘severe grading’ in Modern Languages and so for pupils, teachers, head teachers and others involved in schools, there is a definitive statement that pupils of similar prior attainment will on average gain a lower grade in languages than mathematics. Such a clear statement is a vindication of the efforts of ALL, ASCL and others to bring awareness of this situation to a wider public."

"Whatever QCA argues, there is an implicit and explicit assumption that a C in one subject is worth the same as a C in another. For example, the QCA’s own points scheme states that a C grade in all subjects is worth 40 points. The league tables published each year by the DCSF are based on the same assumption."

"It is unsurprising, in a national climate of performance tables, and severe grading in ML, that pupils have reacted by dropping the subject now that it has been made optional."

"The loss of 50,000 pupils gaining an A*-C grade in MFL in 2007 (as compared with 2002) indicates that many who could get a 'good' (A*-C) GCSE grade have dropped the subject."

"The report correctly states that a complete change to the grading system would not command public support. But this is no reason for not addressing the most glaring anomaly in GCSE grading, which is discouraging pupils from studying languages post 14 and leading to situation where the majority of pupils aged 14-16 have dropped modern languages.