ALL full response to Ofqual GCSE MFL assessment proposals
The Association for Language Learning (ALL) has as its raison d’être the encouragement and promotion of learning languages, and the development in those learning a language of a broader world view or Weltanschauung embracing an understanding of and respect for other cultures.
As such, our members welcome proposals or initiatives to increase the take-up of pupils learning languages. However, in the context of the current review of GCSE content, many members are concerned that the proposals, although well-intentioned, will have the opposite effect and lead to a lowering of standards and fewer pupils choosing to study GCSE MFL. This response comments on the proposals as put forward by Ofqual and the DfE and consciously is not putting forward alternative proposals, because ALL believes strongly that the whole consultation should be halted, and a wide discussion held with the language community and stakeholders. This would be the time for other proposals to be made.
As outlined in our publicly available response to the MFL Subject Content Review, we understand the importance of the Ofqual consultation informing future assessment.
Questions 1 &2 – assessments objectives.
ALL disagrees with the mixed skill Assessment Objectives. These have been forced by DfE specifying the requirement to have reading aloud + comprehension (Q19) and dictation (Q20).
ALL strongly disagrees with the overall approach of the DfE proposals which do not require themes and topics and do not require an Awarding Organisation to provide themes and topics to be examined.
There was very strong support from members that students know for exams the range of contexts / themes / topic from which they are going to be tested. This is because if students do not know for exams the range of contexts / themes / topic from which they are going to be tested, the questions would not be valid and reliable across students from different schools. There should be agreement between exam boards for a common set of themes so as to promote collaboration, comparison of standards, transferability of textbooks, etc.
Questions 3, 4 & 5 – tiering
ALL agrees that there should be overall tiering, i.e. to have both Foundation and Higher Tiers.
ALL recognises that there are very mixed views about not splitting the tiering, with some feeling that this can be fairer for those students with varying strengths across the four skills. However, if there are only two AOs, this makes split tiering very awkward anyway. ALL recognises that split tiering for different parts can be a complex issue from a technical perspective, and so it is probably fairer and more secure to not have split tiering.
Questions 6 – 8 – NEA
ALL strongly supports the general principle of testing speaking in NEA.
ALL supports the principle that all 4 skills should be similarly weighted, and therefore would support keeping the weighting for NEA to be at least 25%. Because the NEA as proposed involves spoken responses and interactions and comprehension it is thus mixed skill testing (reading aloud, answer questions on the text). So if the maximum for the NEA is 25%, speaking cannot be 25%.
Questions 9 & 10: Equality Impact – Students with protected characteristics
ALL believes that Ofqual has not identified that the proposed subject content, and in particular, the vocabulary list is biased / discriminatory e.g. for French, ‘French’ and ‘Christian’ appears within top 2,000 words while ‘Muslim’ and ‘African’ do not appear within the top 2,000. Therefore, any assessment on the biased and discriminatory list will itself be biased and discriminatory.
However, because the subject content has been specified by the DfE, ALL does not believe that there are any mitigations which Ofqual could take that would remove the bias and discrimination.
Questions 11 & 12: potential costs or burdens that we have not identified
ALL believes that Ofqual has not identified that the proposed subject content, and in particular, the replacement of themes by a tightly prescribed vocabulary list, would have a significant cost, and place a substantial burden on schools. There will be the cost of new textbooks, other resources and training. There will be the burden of planning change at a time when the system is overwhelmed as a result of COVID, as well as the highly demoralising requirement to discard many years of work which have gone into preparing theme-based materials.
However, because the subject content has been specified by the DfE, ALL does not believe that there are any mitigations which Ofqual could take that would remove these additional costs and burdens.
The widely held view was that the proposals set out by the DfE would have a very negative impact in many ways and would be damaging to the take-up of GCSE MFL. As a result, we strongly recommend that the consultation should be halted, and wider discussions held to find a way forward which commands the confidence of the MFL community and will benefit the students taking GCSE MFL.
Association for Language Learning
17th May 2021