This year’s GCSE results were published on 25 August 2016 by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). 

ALL President René Koglbauer commented, “Firstly, on behalf of the Association, I would like to congratulate all GCSE students and their teachers on their results, and recognise how much hard work goes into achieving these grades. I would also like to thank language assistants for their continued efforts and support of language teaching in this country. I invite students to keep using their languages and not simply regard them as just an exam subject, but as a vital life skill and, at times, a survival skill!”

Summary of information presented at a JCQ briefing on Thursday 25 August, on this year’s GCSE results, presented by Michael Turner. ALL members attended the session and posed questions to the presenter.



Overall, this year’s cohort of 16 year olds is 3.1% smaller than last year. In comparison to 2015, for languages specifically the number of entries overall is down from last year. French and German have fallen by 8.1% and 7% respectively, whilst Spanish entries have actually risen by 2.1%, though there is an overall 3.1% drop in the cohort. Entries for other modern languages are broadly similar to last year.



Overall UK outcomes in all subjects for 16 year olds (i.e. essentially end of Year 11) show that the grade A* is down very slightly (0.1 percentage points), grade A*-A down 0.6 percentage points and grade A*-C down 1.3 percentage points.

Michael Turner drew attention to the drop in % A*-C in Spanish by 2.3 percentage points to 70.9%, suggesting it was likely to be linked to the rise in entries and a more varied ability cohort.

When stating that both French and German A*-C outcomes were down (French down 1.1 percentage point to 69.7% and German down 0.6 percentage point to 74%) and also that the entries had dropped, members of the Association queried the cause of this (since the ongoing decline in entries, particularly from lower-attaining students has led to a consequential ongoing rise in the % A*-C). Michael suggested this could be attribute to individual school policy on entries in the light of the new accountability measures (Attainment 8 & Progress 8).

Attention was also drawn to various factors which make it less straightforward to interpret GCSE entries and outcomes:

  • More entries for Maths and English as post-16 students are required to take them
  • ‘First entry counts’ has reduced the numbers taking GCSEs early
  • New performance measures affect centre policies on exam entry (e.g. Progress 8 and Attainment 8 as opposed to the threshold “%5 *A-C incl En+Ma” measure)
  • Wales and Northern Ireland offer a winter series in more subjects (not just English and maths).

Final reaction from ALL’s President, René Koglbauer, “Following on from last week’s news of the decline at A Level, the continued decline in numbers at GCSE reinforces the urgent need for Ofqual to act on the issue of severe grading, which is widely recognised as one of the major contributory causes, particularly with the introduction of the new accountability measures. In addition, the results demonstrate that policy makers’ expectations of an upwards trend in language entries as a consequence of the EBacc measure have not been met”.


Further Information

Joint Council for Qualifications: press notice and exam results

Ofqual: Exam Matters update A Guide to GCSE results, summer 2016

ALL London: How do grades in languages compare with grades in other subjects?

Department for Education: Statement from Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb on GCSE results

BBC: GCSE results show record decline

Guardian: A*- C grades in dramatic decline as GCSE results are published

TES: GCSE results- Computing entries rocket as languages and creative subjects plummet

JCQ publishes GCSE trends in Modern languages for 2016

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