Wednesday, 27 February 2019

BBC Languages Survey 2019

The BBC has conducted a survey into language learning, and today they published their report on their website.

Points I made in in the secondarymflmatters Facebook group:

Be prepared for BBC coverage of this today.

And can I urge language teachers not to take the blame for it or believe those who say it is down to our teaching skills. Of course we are not complacent. Just as those in other subjects, we are constantly reflecting, seeking to improve our skills. But we are not on a level playing field. We have one hand tied behind our back. Whatever metaphor you want to use, pupils taking a language are at a disadvantage because of severe grading.

The over-riding issue facing modern languages in schools is the severe grading of French, German and Spanish at GCSE. Going right back to the days of O-level, there is a historical anomaly that pupils from similar starting points putting in similar effort achieve on average over half a grade less in ML than in History and Geography ( i.e. other comparable EBacc subjects, "traditional academic" subjects). There should be a level playing field.

In the survey ASCL / ALL conducted in Nov 2017, over 2500 people responded in a week which is in itself a matter of significance. Colleagues from Higher Education are very strongly supportive of a one-off adjustment, Ofqual are currently undertaking a review and I would urge everyone to support ALL, ISMLA, ASCL and many other organisations in pressing for this one-off adjustment

Severe grading of ML is fundamentally unfair, and is misleading for pupils and teachers, undermining public confidence in the grading and hence the examination system itself.

Sorting severe grading will be enable us to be enthusiastic and innovative without effectively having one arm tied behind our backs.

BBC Radio Essex interviewed David Blow and me.  Here is a link to the recording (thanks Carol Hughes!)  if anyone is interested.  The points we made in response to their questions:

  • The main issue is severe grading (see above).  This combined with the climate of harsh accountability in the last 15 years has led to the dramatic decline in French and German.  Although Ofsted and DfE have recently said that they will focus on the quality of education rather than simplistic performance data, the damage has been done. 
  • It's an issue of fairness to resolve and make grading comparable in Fr/Gn/Sp to Hi/Ge
  • Teachers make lessons enjoyable - interactive - use of technology
  • It is very worthwhile learning languages at school.  You never know which one you will need in adult life, and having learnt one or two, you can more easily learn the basics of another one.  (You have learnt how to learn a language).
  • French, German and Spanish are good languages to do at school.  They share roots with the English language, and it is feasible to visit the countries.  Mandarin is more of a 'niche' language.  It is harder to learn (different sounds, different script, no link with English).  We encourage keen students to learn it and they have had experiences in China which are 'life-changing'. But we need hundreds of thousands to be doing French, German and Spanish

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