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MFL A-levels accredited

As of yesterday there are now two awarding bodies who have had their A-level specifications accredited by Ofqual. The delay has been a frustration to teachers anxious to be planning for September, but new specifications are never brought in early enough for teachers and Ofqual are certainly fastidious over the detail of mark schemes, question rubrics and specimen papers. the last minute nature of all this has much less to do with exam boards and Ofqual, much more to do with the politicians who set the hurried timetable. Need I say more?

Many teachers will, in any case, now be making their choice of exam board and when gained time arrives in May, then the real preparation can begin. New textbooks should be out by then too if you feel a textbook is useful.

In fact, what has emerged from the boards is much more palatable than the initial vision of ALCAB which was, in my view, too academic and unsuited to the planning of stimulating, communicative lessons (check out that link and you'll see what I mean). Overall, if I were still a HoD, I would not be unhappy about what has been produced. I might even go as far as to say that the new specifications are a fraction better. The boards should be congratulated for this.

In essence, what's new?
  • AS is decoupled from A-level. "A2" therefore no longer exists, but AS can be co-taught with A-level.
  • A whole A-level consists in part of six AS topics ('sub-themes') and six A-level topics. This is far fewer than before, so teachers may feel less pressed to get through a lengthy list of topics as now.
  • Film or literature now features at AS-level. The choice is from a prescribed list the nature of which will appeal more or less to the individual teacher. My guess is that many schools will choose to do a film.
  • Translation to and from TL now features at AS-level. The translation into TL is based on a brief stimulus text which will provide much of the vocabulary, so the translation will focus on skilled use of syntax and morphology.
  • Students have to write a literature or film essay at AS-level, but no general language essay.
  • At AS-level students have to summaries of reading and listening sources.
  • At A-level students do an Individual Research Project, assessed in the oral.
  • Cultural content now forms 20% of the assessment at both levels, so knowledge of the TL culture plays a bigger role than before. Don't worry needlessly over this, however. Depending on the board, much of this assessment is done as part of the film and oral, e.g. the literature and research project. Students will be expected to bring knowledge of the culture to parts of the assessments, but are not expected to be experts - linguistic skill takes priority. I really would not fret over this issue.
So, with next year in mind, the main priorities would be to place a greater emphasis than you may have done before on film/literature and the essay writing associated with it, translation and summary. Look at it this way: you'll be doing fewer topics in greater depth, so it should feel less like GCSE. Expect the standard to be roughly the same as now, with arguably a greater challenge at AS-level owing to the inclusion of film/literature. You'll clearly want to think about how you structure the AS year. I would personally put a film in the spring term where it would take roughly half the lesson time and a fair bit of homework.

My priorities in selecting a specification would be the topics and choice of film and literature. You'll find a good deal of overlap between boards, but enough differences to make a choice significant. Traditionally AQA have been the most popular board, followed by Edexcel/Pearson. Full disclosure: I write teacher support resources and lead training sessions for AQA.

Here are the six AQA AS-level French themes (which are also part of A-level, remember). The sub-heading are for added guidance and are not separate 'sub-topics'. They indicate the boundaries of where assessment material will be drawn from.

The changing nature of family (La famille en voie de changement) 
        Grands-parents, parents et enfants – soucis et problèmes 
        Monoparentalité, homoparentalité, familles recomposées 
        La vie de couple – nouvelles tendances 
The 'cyber-society' (La « cyber-société ») 
        Qui sont les cybernautes ? 
        Comment la technologie facilite la vie quotidienne 
        Quels dangers la « cyber-société » pose-t-elle ? 
The place of voluntary work (Le rôle du bénévolat) 
        Qui sont et que font les bénévoles ? 
        Le bénévolat – quelle valeur pour ceux qui sont aidés ? 
        Le bénévolat – quelle valeur pour ceux qui aident ?
A culture proud of its heritage (Une culture fière de son patrimoine) 
       Le patrimoine sur le plan national, régional et local 
      Comment le patrimoine reflète la culture 
      Le patrimoine et le tourisme 
Contemporary francophone music (La musique francophone contemporaine) 
      La diversité de la musique francophone contemporaine 
      Qui écoute et apprécie cette musique ? 
     Comment sauvegarder cette musique ? 
Cinema: the 7th art form (Cinéma : le septième art) 
     Pourquoi le septième art ? 
     Le cinéma – une passion nationale ? 
     Evolution du cinéma – les grandes lignes 

And the other six A-level themes:

Positive features of a diverse society (Les aspects positifs d'une société                 diverse) 
      L'enrichissement dû à la mixité ethnique 
      Diversité, tolérance et respect 
      Diversité – un apprentissage pour la vie 
Life for the marginalised (Quelle vie pour les marginalisés ? ) 
      Qui sont les marginalisés ? 
      Quelle aide pour les marginalisés ? 
      Quelles attitudes envers les marginalisés ? 
How criminals are treated (Comment on traite les criminels) 
      Quelles attitudes envers la criminalité ? 
      La prison – échec ou succès ? 
      D'autres sanctions
Teenagers, the right to vote and political commitment (Les ados, le droit de          vote et l'engagement politique) 
      Pour ou contre le droit de vote ? 
      Les ados et l'engagement politique – motivés ou démotivés ? 
      Quel avenir pour la politique ? 
Demonstrations, strikes – who holds the power? (manifestations, grèves – à         qui le pouvoir ? ) 
      Le pouvoir des syndicats 
      Manifestations et grèves – sont-elles efficaces ?  Attitudes différentes                   envers ces tensions politiques 
Politics and immigration (La politique et l'immigration) 
      Solutions politiques à la question de l'immigration 
      L'immigration et les partis politiques  
      L'engagement politique chez les immigrés 

Here are the French books and films:

• Molière, Le Tartuffe 
• Voltaire, Candide 
• Guy de Maupassant, Boule de Suif et autres contes de la guerre 
• Albert Camus, L’étranger 
• Françoise Sagan, Bonjour tristesse 
• Claire Etcherelli, Elise ou la vraie vie 
• Joseph Joffo, Un sac de billes 
• Faïza Guène, Kiffe kiffe demain 
• Philippe Grimbert, Un secret 
• Delphine de Vigan, No et moi 

• Les 400 coups, François Truffaut (1959) 
• Au revoir les enfants, Louis Malle (1987) 
• La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz (1995) 
• L’auberge espagnole, Cédric Klapisch (2002) 
• Un long dimanche de fiançailles, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2004) 
• Entre les murs, Laurent Cantet (2008) 

There's plenty for you and the students to get their teeth into there. Much of it is not dissimilar to the current specifications, which is to be applauded.

There will be three exams at AS-level:

Paper 1 - Listening, Reading , Writing - 1h 45 - including translation into English.
Paper 2 - Writing 1h 30  Translation into TL and an essay on film/lit
Paper 3 - Speaking - 12-14 minutes plus 15 mins prep

A-level exams:

Paper 1 - Listening, Reading, Writing - 2h 30 - including translation both ways
Paper 2 - Writing - 2h - two essays on film/lit
Paper 3 - 21-23 minutes, inc 5 mins prep - includes IRP presentation/discussion

I mentioned earlier that the new specs may be a little better than the already satisfactory ones. This is because the number of topics is lower, film/lit features at AS-level, the Personal Research Project is a bonus and the prescriptive lists of texts may make assessment more consistent across schools (erratic marking is a frequent complaint). I also like the fact that some 'lightweight' GCSE-style topics such as holidays and healthy living have gone, but regret that the environment does not feature at all. However, the IRP is a 'catch-all' where students can choose something they want, with advice from the teacher.

Here is the AQA spec:

For comparison, Edexcel/Pearson's offer:


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