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Ofqual research on effect of native speakers on A-level results

This is long overdue.

Ofqual is finally addressing, as part of its general review of grading, the issue of to what extent native speakers affect the allocation of grades. We know that grading at A-level is relatively tough. We also know that relatively few students get A* grades. When you then factor in that a proportion of those starred grades go to fluent native speakers, it makes it pretty tough for clever non-native linguists to get those prized A*s. This may discourage some students from taking languages at all.

Here is what Ofqual are saying. I have copied part of their blog post. I would urge you to help Ofqual by contacting Rachel Taylor at the email address below.

"Ofqual is set to conduct research on the impact of native speakers on exam results in A level modern foreign languages (MFLs). To ensure our research is as accurate as possible we’re asking for help from schools so that we can gain a greater understanding of the types of students sitting A level MFL this summer.

We’re conducting the research because we know from anecdotal evidence that there are concerns about the potential impact of native speakers on A level MFL results. In particular, there are concerns that the number of native speakers is increasing and that, as a result, students for whom the MFL is a second language are being disadvantaged. These concerns are mainly associated with the largest entry MFL specifications, rather than what are commonly known as community languages.

The research will aim to quantify the number of native speakers sitting A levels in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian this summer. Currently, this information is not readily available at the national level so if we can find out the numbers it will be a great starting point. We also want to explore how native speakers perform on the assessments.

To help our research, exam boards will be providing us with details of the students sitting A level French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian this summer. We’ll then ask all the schools that have entered students to these subjects to let us know if any of their students are native speakers or have native speaker characteristics.

Collecting this information won’t be easy, as there isn’t always a clear definition of a native speaker; their immersion in their native language will vary for a number of reasons. We will therefore be seeking feedback from modern language teaching associations to help us develop a questionnaire for students with the aim of gathering information about language experience and proficiency.

In addition, we will be asking teachers to identify which of their students they believe to be native speakers or possess native speaker characteristics. Again, this won’t be easy, but it will provide us with another piece of information to understand the language expertise of the students sitting these A level MFLs.

So I’ll end on a plea – for those schools that we contact in May: please take the time to support this research by asking your students to complete the questionnaires that we send to assess language expertise and proficiency. With your support, we’ll have a much clearer picture of the type of students sitting these subjects and how they perform. This will allow us to better understand and explore the concerns that currently exist about the potential effect of native speakers on all students’ results."

rachel.taylor@ofqual.gov.uk




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