Bad taste of oral grading

7th November 2003 at 00:00
I was very interested to read the item on the unusually low marks achieved by foundation-tier pupils in AQA's French and German oral examinations last summer (TES, October 24).

For two months I have been struggling to understand why only four of my candidates gained grade C, and why the oral marks for every candidate were so much lower than their marks for the other three elements of the exam.

I have been teaching German for 17 years, and was an examiner for the AQA speaking test for 13 years. I decided not to mark last year, as the board had produced a mark scheme which could most charitably be described as bizarre. Initial training sessions on the new specification were conducted by teachers who did their best, but any enquiry regarding marks was met with a recommendation to ring the board. I did indeed ring the board last November, at a loss over how to convert marks into grades for mock examinations. I was told to apply last year's mark scheme, as things would come out more or less the same - the standard would not alter.

I was devastated by the results in August and I assumed this was my fault, that I had let my pupils down badly. My department head and headteacher have been supportive, but they have a right to an explanation and an assurance that I will ensure that next year's results will be better.

Four candidates' work was re-marked which has taken six weeks, and it seems that far more is expected in the speaking test than we had been led to believe. This is not driving up standards, but making languages less attractive. AQA needs to look at its communication with teachers, and at its grade boundaries.

Marlaine Delargy 15 Lacon Close Cleobury Mortimer Worcestershire

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