This year’s A and AS Level results were published on 18 August 2016 by the Joint Council for Qualifications.
Following pressure from ALL, ISMLA, ASCL and HMC, Ofqual published a report in September 2014 regarding the relatively low proportion of A* grades in Modern Languages with actions for exam boards to take (Exploration of Assessment Quality Issues in A Level Modern Foreign Languages – Technical Report). These actions were implemented in June 2016, which has resulted in the proportion of A* grades relative to A* + A grades being increased to be comparable with other facilitating subjects whilst maintaining overall standards (i.e. the total A + A* percentage has been consistent). In French, 8.8% of students achieved an A* in 2016 (up 0.7% on last year, and a figure which represents 24% of those students who achieved A*-A). In German, 9.6% achieved an A* (up 1.3%, and representing 24% of combined A*-A), and in Spanish, 8.4% achieved an A* (up 0.3%, and 24% of combined A*-A).
As a counter to this positive news, there continues to be a decline in the number of entries at both A and AS Level. The number of A Level entries in Modern Foreign Languages have continued to decline in 2016: French entries are down by 6.4%, German by 4.2%, Spanish by 2.7% and other Modern Languages by 1.8%. Some, but not all, of this decline can be attributed to the reduction in the cohort overall.
At AS Level, total UK entries are down by 13.7% compared with last year, but total UK results have increased overall (at grade A by 1.1% to 21.3%, and at grades A-E by 0.7% to 90.1%). At A Level, total UK entries are down by 1.7% (compared to an overall 3.1% decline in the number of 18 year olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).
In order to address this decline, there must be action regarding severe grading at GCSE as part of the Ofqual Inter-subject comparability review. Separately, students should now have more confidence in the chance of getting an A* grade, and this should help stem the decline in the most able students taking modern languages at A Level.
ALL President René Koglbauer commented on this year’s results, “Firstly, on behalf of the Association, I would like to congratulate all AS and A Level students and their teachers for achieving such a great set of results. I am particularly pleased to see that there has been an increase in the A* grade across all three major languages. We will have to work closely with our members and school leaders to analyse the data in more detail to ensure that reduced 6th form funding will not be affecting the viability of language courses at AS and A Level in the future any further. Today, however, is to be a day of celebration for all those successful students, many of which will continue using their languages in their further studies or their working life.”
- Joint Council for Qualifications: Press release and full A, AS and AEA Results
- Department for Education: Statement from Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb on AS & A Level results
- Ofqual: Exam Matters update
- ALL London: How do grades in languages compare with grades in other subjects?
- UCML: A and AS trends in languages 2016 published
- Gov.uk: A guide to AS and A level results, summer 2016
- BBC: Record university offers as top A-level grades slip
- Guardian: Pupils shun English and physics A-levels as numbers with highest grades fall