Over the last 20 years numbers of students taking GCE language qualifications have been on the decline. Against this historical backdrop it comes as no surprise that the 2016-17 academic year evidenced another 3% fall in the size of the languages A-Level cohort. Despite the introduction of a new curriculum, the decoupling of AS levels from A levels has resulted in fewer, not more, learners choosing to take a language at A-Level.
During this year, Ofqual researched the impact that native speakers were having on the attainment levels of other learners and found that, on top of the 'harsh grading' arguments of many years, non-native speakers of languages were additionally being disadvantaged by their native speaker peers able to perform at the highest levels. Ofqual promised action on this year's results.
Significant changes were seen in the results, with an average of around 2% more students reaching A* and A grades in French, Spanish and German. It will be interesting to see whether this will encourage greater numbers to continue with A-level languages – it may take the outcomes of next year's learners, having completed the new curriculum, to be known before any reversal of trend can be anticipated.
Chartered Institute of Linguists and IoL Educational Trust