Changes ordered in modern language A-levels

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Exam boards are to be told to change French, German and Spanish A-level exams after an investigation into falling student numbers and not enough top grades being awarded, the regulator said.

Ofqual launched a probe last year following another slump in the number of young people taking the language courses and concerns about the relatively low number getting top marks.

The exam boards will have to make changes that come into effect in the A-levels sat in the summer of 2015, chief regulator Glenys Stacey said.

“We have conducted that analysis on A-level French, German and Spanish, particularly the design and wording of the exam questions themselves, and the papers and the mark schemes,” she said.

“And we are going to be making a number of recommendations to the exam boards for changes to their approach and the detail of their approach.”

Ofqual launched its investigation last September after A-level results showed a further drop in the numbers taking foreign languages.

Some 11,272 pupils took French last year, down 9.9 per cent on 2012, while 4,242 people were entered for German, an 11.1 per cent drop.

There were 9,087 entries for other modern foreign languages, 49 fewer than 2012. But Spanish bucked the trend, with a 4.1 per cent increase in entries.

In its corporate plan, Ofqual warned that too few teenagers are gaining the very best grades in foreign languages at A-level.

It said “relatively few” A* grades are being awarded in subjects such as Spanish, French and German, when compared with other subjects where a high proportion of A grades are given.

Michael Turner, director general of exam board umbrella group the Joint Council for Qualifications, said: “There is much in the report for those reforming MFL A-levels to consider, including awarding organisations.

“It is important that these new qualifications provide the necessary stretch and challenge whilst also offering a clear pathway from GCSE through to A-level and beyond.”