Exclusive: OCR exam board drops modern foreign language GCSEs and A levels

Board says it took its decision to pull out of modern foreign languages to give teachers time 'to make a considered choice about new qualifications for this September'

Kaye Wiggins

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The OCR exam board is to stop offering GCSEs and A levels in French, German and Spanish, TES can reveal.

The awarding body, one of the three biggest in England, will withdraw from modern foreign languages (MFL) from September when reformed school exams in the subjects start to be taught.

OCR had put together proposed new GCSE and A levels in the langauge subjects but they have not been accredited by exams watchdog Ofqual for schools to start using from next term.

Today the board said it had taken its decision to pull out of modern foreign languages "reluctantly" and to give teachers time "to make a considered choice about new qualifications for this September".

Anxiety about the slow rate of Ofqual approvals for new GCSEs and A levels has been growing all year as the number of weeks that teachers have to prepare runs out, with many qualifications still awaiting accreditation. 

A statement from OCR reads: "While qualification reform provided an exciting opportunity to innovate and offer new qualifications designed to stimulate language teaching and learning in this country, there is too much work to be done for OCR to achieve accreditation of its new MFL qualifications in time for teachers to make a considered choice about new qualifications for this September."

It added that fewer than 10 per cent of MFL students take OCR’s current MFL qualifications.

'Long-term decline in languages'

The news comes after OCR announced last month that it would stop offering GCSEs and A levels in Persian, Turkish, Portuguese, Dutch, Gujarati and Biblical Hebrew. 

In an article for TES last year, the board’s head of policy, Paul Steer, wrote that unless something was done to arrest the long-term decline in languages then even French and German GCSEs were at risk of being “for the chop”

Today OCR chief executive William Burton said: “We would like to thank all those who contributed their expertise to OCR’s vision for a new style of MFL GCSE and A level for schools. The input of teachers and subject experts from across the wider education community has been invaluable.

"This difficult decision comes from a combination of factors, including our different vision for language learning, the time we would need to prepare a further, highly technical submission, as well as the challenging economic climate in which OCR is operating.

"I believe it is in the best interests of MFL teachers to have clarity about what will be available at a time when they are making crucial decisions on behalf of their students.”

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Kaye Wiggins

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