Skip to main content

Proposed changes to A level exams

Here is the full text of Michael Gove's letter to Ofqual regarding changes to A levels.

I note that he records that university modern language staff complain of students' lack of skills after A level. I wonder how anecdotal and widespread this evidence is. My feeling, backed by over 30 years A level French teaching experience, is that A level has become only marginally easier and that A grade students are pretty much as good as they ever were. They probably have better listening and oral skills than those of the 1970s and, possibly, slightly worse grammar skills than students from that era. Nearly 70% achieve A*-B grade* (more than previously because A level linguists, along with mathematicians and scientists, tend to be relatively more able than most students).

Secondly, Gove writes that private schools routinely teach beyond A level to give their students an advantage. I taught in both the state and independent sector and my feeling is that this is probably not often the case in MFL. Evidence for this may include the fact that take-up for the Pre U examination has been woefully small.

Thirdly, and this perplexes me most, Gove writes:

"I would like the AS level to be as intellectually demanding as an A level, covering half of the content of a full A level and delivered over either one or two years, so that institutions could decide what is best for their students."

This makes little sense in MFL. AS level is now considered an extension of higher tier GCSE and a suitable stepping stone to A2 level. A2 is currently significantly harder than AS and the current system furnishes an appropriate rate of progress for the large majority of students. If AS were to become as intellectually challenging as A2 it would put off prospective students who already find AS enough of a challenge.

I question whether this has been thought through for all subjects. My hope and assumption would be that, during the process of designing new specifications for MFL and of drafting specimen exam papers, common sense will prevail and AS will remain easier than A2. The leap from GCSE to AS level is already tough for many students; making it tougher will, at best, only benefit a minority of students.

If AS level is to be a stand-alone exam, not part of A level, then schools may be tempted to ignore them and we shall be back to where we were before Curriculum 2000. On the other hand, the search for school value added and the desire of students to beef up their CVs, or just explore their interests, may give AS a boost.

* If you follow this link you will see that there is some evidence of grade inflation in French since 1993 (though less than many other subjects), but do not forget that the cohort of students taking languages at A level has changed considerably and is now, on average, a good deal more able.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.

Attitudes16





An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at dolanguages.com, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’(http://pdcinmfl.com). The point i…