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THIS summer, teachers of modern foreign languages will be using the modified level descriptions to report on the performance of pupils at the end of Year 9 for the first time. Greater emphasis has been placed on pupils' knowledge and use of language and less importance placed on coverage of specific topics at specific key stages.

The most significant change is that the majority of pupils are now expected to attain levels 56 at the end of key stage 3, as in all other subjects. As teachers are aware, some level descriptions have been modified, particularly those relating to the productive skills of speaking and writing. The new descriptions are designed to enable pupils to make more rapid progress through the lower levels.

Teachers are asked to assess which level description best fits a pupil's overall performance at the end of KS3. It is essential to assess across a body of work that the pupil has produced, and to decide which level description best reflects their capability in each of the four skills, and then to make a summative judgment of overall performance.

The level descriptions, however, are not designed to "level" individual pieces of work. The assessment should represent the pupil's sustained level of attainment. One single item of work, which does not represent the pupil's normal level of achievement, should not adversely affect the overall assessment. Equally, one piece of written work, showinguse of past or future tenses or both, does not necessarily provide sufficient evidence of the ability to "refer to past, present and future actions and events" (attainment target 4, level 6, national curriculum documents).

In the summer term, a new QCA website exemplifying standards using pupils' work will be launched. Most of the items in the original Exemplification of Standards booklet will be incorporated into the new modern languages website, with commentaries amended in line with the changes to the level descriptions. New exemplar material will also be used, initially in French, German and Spanish, with other languages coming on line at a later date. It will be possible to access items of pupils' work by language, skill, attainment level, programme of study, topic area and unit in the QCA KS3 scheme of work, and also to save chosen exemplars in a personal folder. We will publish more details in due course.

Most teachers are familiar with the KS3 Optional Tests and Tasks in French, German and Spanish. Some of the pages relating to the assessment schemes and teacher's notes have been amended in line with the changes to the level descriptions. The amendments can be downloaded from www.qca.org.ukcasubjectsmfl and inserted into the booklets.

Kate Green is principal subject officer for modern foreign languages at the QCA, 83 Piccadilly, London W1J 8QA. Tel: 020 7509 5555. Web: www.qca.org.uk

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