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OCR to stop offering French, German and Spanish exams from 2017

It came as a major surprise to teachers on Monday that the OCR awarding body will no longer be offering GCSEs and A-levels in French, German and Spanish. This has followed their announcement in April that they would no longer be offering qualifications in lesser-taught languages "for strategic reasons".

First of all, it's very sad for the staff who work in those areas and who, in due course, will have to find employment elsewhere. It's dispiriting too for writers who have been working on resources specifically for OCR. It means, quite obviously, that schools and colleges who have worked with OCR over the years will have to shop elsewhere.

One can only speculate why this has happened.

One aspect may be the simple economic realities of offering exams to dwindling A-level cohorts. OCR is a relatively small player in the field and they may simply not have the capacity to deliver exams to such a small A-level customer base. At GCSE, on the other hand, there is the prospect of rising GCSE entries in the future, if schools follow the government line on the Ebacc suite of qualifications (about 90% doing MFL by 2020?). OCR is, however, far behind AQA in terms of customers and, once again, as exam boards come under greater financial pressure, providing papers for that clientele may not be worthwhile.

I do wonder whether, if OCR had been able to get its draft specifications accredited sooner, they would have continued to offer exams as in the past. But as far as I could make out, their initial A-level drafts were a good distance away from what the DfE and Ofqual were looking for. If this were also the case at GCSE, perhaps they simply failed to fully grasp what was required and fail to take on board what Ofqual wanted at each stage of the accreditation process. AQA and Pearson appear to have been much fleeter of foot in this regard. Pure speculation on my part. Teachers would only have been willing to wait so long for OCR to provide a specification.

Underlying this is the fact that all the awarding bodies are having to cut their cloth at the moment and that schools themselves will be watching their exam entry budgets with a beady eye. AS-level entries will nose-dive next year.


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