Native tongues could get a taste of league table action

15th June 2012 at 01:00
OCR in talks to expand minority languages qualifications

Pupils may be shunning the study of French and German, but plans to create new qualifications in minority languages have been unveiled - if enough support can be found from native speakers.

Charity Citizens UK has been campaigning for immigrant communities to be able to take qualifications in their mother tongues, including Somali, Albanian and Kurdish. Exam board OCR has previously ruled out creating new GCSE courses, but has now said that it could expand its Asset Languages courses - which still count towards the five A*-C GCSE measure - to include a wider range of minority languages.

Ben Pollard, a community organiser with Citizens UK, said there was widespread interest from speakers of minority languages, including schoolchildren, to have their abilities recognised with a qualification. These also include speakers of Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, and Igbo, which is widely spoken in Nigeria.

"We are very pleased with the progress," said Mr Pollard. "We have fought over the past year, from an initial meeting when the exam board said they couldn't possibly set up a new exam, to hearing it would be expensive and difficult, to now negotiating fees and numbers of entrants."

Mr Pollard said that the first language he would focus on would be Albanian, with the charity needing to raise #163;100,000 and get firm commitments from people wanting to take the qualifications to prove demand to OCR.

Mark Dawe, OCR chief executive, said that, to be viable, a new course would need to attract 3,000 pupils over its first three years and then 500 candidates a year after that.

"In principle, OCR can commit to the development of language qualifications that can be sustained by the support of active communities linked by their language within the UK," Mr Dawe said.

"We are a not-for-profit organisation, with a very broad portfolio of qualifications to support, and we strive to keep our costs as low as possible. Critically, the community must commit to providing appropriately qualified language assessors to contribute to development and ongoing delivery."

OCR has said that if the exam receives the required level of support, it would hope to have it ready and accredited with Ofqual within 12 months.

Currently, GCSEs are available in 16 community languages, in addition to Welsh and the main four European languages of French, Spanish, German and Italian.

OCR offers six further languages, including Somali, under its Asset Languages qualification, which can be taken by any age group. The exams are split into 12 grades, covering the national qualification levels from entry (beginners) to level 3 (A level); they can be taken separately in the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Asset Languages qualifications at level 3 are among the few qualifications that can be counted towards the five A*-C GCSE measurement in the 2014 school league tables, although the qualification itself is equivalent to AS and A level.

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