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Implications of new accountability measures

I wonder whether we have all taken on board the possible implications of the DfE's new accountability measures due to come into force in 2016.

I quote from my ALL newsletter:

There is an additional new measure which will be the floor standard, and which will be published in league tables. This records the percentage of pupils receiving a ‘pass’ in English and mathematics, along with pupils’ average scores across a suite of eight qualifications consisting of English and mathematics; three further English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects; and three other high value qualifications: EBacc, other academic, arts or vocational. 

The original EBacc attainment measure remains unchanged as a soft accountability measure, and will be reported in performance tables. This consists of A*-C grades in each of: English, mathematics, two science subjects, history/geography, a foreign language. 

Now, there is no doubt that the EBacc accountability measure had a positive effect on the numbers taking a modern language GCSE examination this year (2013). There was a significant increase in linguists, though maybe not quite the game-changing figure some may have hoped for. Numbers rose back up to their level of 2010, no better than that. If the EBacc is now to become a measure of secondary importance, it is highly likely that MFL numbers will flatten or even fall away again. Minds will be focused on maths, English and the other six subjects - three of these must be Ebacc subjects, but not necessarily a language (i.e. sciences, history and geography).

It is also worth noting, in passing, that the Ofqual is reveiewing the status of some GCSE subjects, so it remains possible that pupils will not be able to count, for example, drama or PE as GCSEs.

We do not have enough young people studying languages at 16. Well under half of pupils take a language at GCSE. This figure should be higher if we are to give young people more opportunities and provide the linguists for the nation's needs.

I have always been of the opinion that, in the UK, a languages for all policy at 16 may not be the best solution. Teaching a foreign language is a hard sell and I am prepared to accept that some pupils may be better served doing something else.

However, there are plenty of potential linguists who are missing out on opportunities.

How we address this (given the political consensus about lack of compulsion at KS4) is another matter. To raise the status of MFL one possibility would be to encourage some universities to make a GCSE in MFL a minimum requirement for entry. This alone would have a dramatic effect on GCSE take-up.

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