Analysis of grading patterns for modern foreign language GCSEs suggests that Ofqual’s decision yesterday to align grading for French and German GCSE with GCSE Spanish may not have gone far enough.
Yesterday, the exams regulator revealed that French and German GCSEs had been graded more harshly than other subjects for over a decade. To address the issue, Ofqual said it would change the way it graded French and German, bringing them into line with the marking of GCSE Spanish.
However, in a blog published today, Dave Thomson, a statistician at FFT Education Datalab, suggests that Ofqual has not done enough.
Mr Thomson acknowledged that Ofqual had considered other criteria when making its decision, for example the fact that GCSE and A-level entries have been increasing in Spanish.
GCSE languages 'still severely graded'
But when analysing 2018 GCSE data for state-funded mainstream schools, Mr Thomson found that more entries were graded at below grade 4 – considered a standard GCSE pass – in all three MFL subjects, including Spanish, than in English and maths. So Spanish was also out of kilter.
Furthermore, the most common grade – or modal grade – in Spanish was a grade 3.
Mr Thomson then compared Spanish grading in 2018 with geography and history GCSE, to cover the possibility that “perhaps English and maths don’t form an appropriate comparison group, given that they take up more curriculum time” .
He found that students were more likely to be graded 5-2 in GCSE Spanish than history or geography, so the subject was still graded comparatively harshly.
Mr Thomson concluded that the decision by Ofqual to adjust grading in French and German, while “welcome”, “perhaps does not go far enough”.
“Bringing them in line with Spanish will still leave MFL more severely graded than other subjects, particularly if Ofqual is only going to consider grades 4 and above,” he said.
“Pupils are more likely to achieve grade 3 or lower in MFL than in English and maths and that applies to Spanish as much as French and German."
Ofqual said it was unable to comment because of general election purdah.