Outcomes of Survey

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Survey on GCSE ML severe grading – Nov 17

Over 2,600 ML teachers, middle and senior leaders responded in under a week to show the strength of their concern and the impact of the problem. The survey follows on from a Joint Letter from ALL, ASCL, HMC and ISMLA to Ofqual in July urging that Ofqual address the issue of severe grading in GCSE ML, in the context of Ofqual addressing the issue at AL ML.

This is a historical anomaly whereby, going right back to the time of O-levels, Modern Languages (Fr, Gn, Sp) have been graded, on average, half a grade more severely than other EBacc subjects. This severe grading was accepted in the QCA Report of 2008, and yet the situation is still there. The one-off change needed is within existing marking and grading tolerances and changes which have already happened, so this does not affect standards.

• This survey shows overwhelmingly strong support for such a change, with 98% (over 2,500) urging Ofqual to take action.

• It also shows the devastating impact severe grading has had on the decline in numbers studying the subject, and over 90% reporting in their school the resulting negative perceptions pupils hold about the subject and effect on progression routes.

• As a result, numbers at A-level (both students and schools offering) and at HE are dropping and the subject is under severe pressure.

• Over 80% reported that in their school, severe grading at GCSE has also had a negative impact on the judgements about the performance of the subject within schools and individual staff. Comments made through the survey illustrate the concerns of teachers:

• “We need to ensure Ofqual is aware of the impact of severe grading.” • “An opportunity for MFL teachers to spring into action and share views about GCSE grading.”

• “..so important to get this feedback to Ofqual.”

• “Severe grading issue addressed (to some extent) at A level but not GCSE.”

• “It’s so important to take this opportunity to be heard!”

• “..so important for our wonderful subject and our aspirational students giving it their all currently”

• “Totally agree – the impact of severe grading in MFL assessments needs to be taken seriously and addressed by @ofqual!” (university)

• “This is really important, and for more reasons than we could even get into the new #240characters — health of the discipline at all levels,..” (university)

• “MFL under severe pressure in our school due to lower than desired results (academy in selective area)”

• “The situation is quite disheartening. German is basically dying out at state schools.”

• “This [severe grading] then does have an effect on the number of pupils selecting languages for GCSE and beyond.” (indept)

Contacts / involved in disseminating the survey: Suzanne O’Farrell, David Blow (ASCL), Helen Myers, Annalise Gordon (ALL), Sara Davidson, Nick Mair (ISMLA), William Richardson (HMC)

More information


ASCL hosted survey about GCSE ML grading (open to non-ASCL members as well), circulated via  ALL, ISMLA, HMC etc

Survey opened 5 pm Tues 7th November

By 5pm Friday 10th November (just 3 days later), there were over 2100 responses !!

By end Monday 13th November (close of survey), there were over 2600 responses !!

Massive response shows extent of concern; to give context, the Ofqual Inter-Subject Comparability (ISC) survey in 2016 received 216 responses.

Q.1  Are you aware of severe grading in GCSE ML exam grades?

Yes: 2,540 = 96%,    No: 100 = 4%

Q.2  Do you support the ASCL position statement?
“ASCL supports Ofqual in tackling severe grading in GCSE MFL so that students learning mainstream GCSE MFL should have a reasonable expectation that they will get similar grades across EBacc subjects, without any systematic variation“

Yes: 2,587 = 98%,    No: 52 = 2%


Q.3  Has severe grading had an impact on ML in your school for pupils?

Yes No Total
a) a decline in the numbers studying the subject KS4 81% 2066 19% 498 2564
b) pupils have a negative perception about the subject 96% 2501 4% 108 2609
c) a negative impact on progression routes 96% 2489 4% 103 2592
  1. a) is slightly lower because some schools have maintained a policy of pupils doing a ML irrespective of the grading consequence

Q.4  Has severe grading had an impact on ML in your school for staff including SLT?

Expect a) to be lower than b) and c) as most schools are “good”, and would take a substantial factor to move up or down, although there may be comments in report


Yes No Total
a) impact on Ofsted judgements about performance of school 45% 1141 55% 1373 2514
b) impact on judgements about performance of subject 88% 2314 12% 305 2619
c) impact on judgements about performance of staff 83% 2152 17% 447 2599
  1. Q5

What is your position in school?

Teacher 36% (942); Middle Leader 52% (1368); Senior Leader 13% (330)

Q6 What type of school/college are you?

Independent 13% (356)  State mainstream 78% (2069) Other 8% (216)

Q7 Approximately what percentage of pupils take a GCSE in ML?

0% – 25% 20% 537
26% – 50% 27% 725
51% – 75% 21% 567
76% + 31% 810

Link to Joint Letter sent in July


Link to PowerPoint of presentation which includes slides below:Grading in ML AL and GCSE exams – 29 nov 17 – ppt