The issue of "severe grading" is well-known to language teachers in England and Wales. At GCSE French is roughly 0.4 of a grade harder than subjects such as maths and English and about a whole grade easier than certain subjects. At A-level, French and German almost the hardest, with just biology, physics and general studies being a little harder (based on 2004 data). English literature and geography are about half a grade easier and busines studies easier still.
The government acknowledged that this is the case, but decided not to do anything about it, largely for political reasons.
Helen Myers of the London branch of the ALL (Association for language Learning) has kindly posted an update with regard to the latest situation on grading and numbers. If you are interested here is the link:
In particular, there may be an issue with the number of A* grades awarded at A-level French. Only 7.7% got an A* this year, a lower figure than for nearly all subjects if you consider the percentage of those getting A* of the total A/A* percentage. Look at the link below and you'll see from the right hand column how marked the discrepancy is between French and other subjects. Something went wrong, exam boards.