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French GCSE results AQA Summer 2011

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by cassiopee, Aug 26, 2011.

  1. We entered 20 keen and talented linguists who were almost all predicted A*-C. Their final grades were shocking and when we analysed the four skills, it was always the writing paper which lost significant marks. Several students achieved A*, A, A* then F for writing when we had predicted them an A* for writing.
    We sent back all our written scripts for a remark and only two were changed by one mark. I now have to appeal against each exam mark.
    I have read/heard about many similar senarios from around the country, surely this is a national problem which cannot be overlooked. Many of my MFL colleagues feel so disheartened by this situation and each school is paying vast sums for re-marks.
    Has anyone any good ideas for a successful appeal? Are there any articles I should be reading?
  2. Hi there, I also have concerns about Raw Marks to UMS conversions in AQA GCSE German listening and reading comprehension in summer 2011 and wonder if anyone agees with me? For example in summer 2010 candidates need to score 30 out of 40 raw marks in listening to achieve full UMS marks - in 2011, full UMS marks were awarded only to candidates scoring 40 out of 40. There is a similar variation in the reading comprehension. Whilst I fully expected UMS conversions to be less generous in 2011 than in 2010, I feel that this is too large a variatio. I have taken up this point with AQA but have had no joy - the only response is that UMS conversions are bound to vary year-on-year and that grades Rae awarded over a whole subject, not on individual units. Has anyone else had similar thoughts about this or am I just a daft German teacher who doesn't understand?!
  3. kate2521

    kate2521 New commenter

    I agree completely. We've had the same problem in French and the only way is to keep on complaining, complain formally to Ofqual, get your Head to write a formal letter, and don't give up. It's not good enough to say the UMS conversions are bound to change.
    If anyone can think of a good way to get national coverage on this, then please share it.
  4. Hi, I like you can't believe the mess that AQA have made of these exams. Our Spanish were down though, not the French. The French were a particularly bright cohort though. Our students were affected by the writing paper. Most of ours were down by two grades. To be honest I don't think AQA have a clue what they are doing. This GCSE is a joke. Hope you got them remarked. We did and our first paper back went up a grade. Hope that helps!
  5. veverett

    veverett Occasional commenter

    1. Do we know how many re-marks have been requested from AQA for MFL GCSE this year? I've never asked for any re-marks at GCSE in the last 16 years, until now.
    2. Do we know how many complaints they have received, both before and after publication of results? How can we find out?
    3. When will we know if MFL has been more harshly marked than other subjects - this will come out in Yellis and in the national residuals. Feeling seems to be that it was very harsh this year.
    4. Is there an element of Hoop Jumping required by AQA that we have missed. ie have we been teaching our pupils to write in the TL when we should have been teaching them what boxes to tick for an AQA piece of writing. The secret AQA marker's sheet that has come out on MFLresources forum may hint at this. Also the examiner's report. Focus on the task title, so if it's a diary entry, it has to read like one... Focus on structure/organisation, which maybe we've not given enough thought to, but is there in the criteria... Wording of the task - if you put a broad "Write about your free time" above the task, then anything is considered relevant. But if you put "Holidays and Festivals" as a topic title, they may consider that this is the task title and only give half marks if festivals isn't mentioned.
    5. We know there were far fewer A*s in MFL this year. Why is this?
    6. Many schools were told their speaking marking was in line by the moderator, but their marks were altered. Is this being applied across the board? Very few seem to be getting A*s in speaking, including native speakers.
    7. The standard of pupils' performance in speaking was spectacularly higher than under the old style exam, but the marks seem lower.
    8. Written CA is in tougher conditions than coursework - they actually have to write it from memory/internalised language rather than just copying it out - but the criteria are harder!
    9. The thresholds have gone up for Sp and Wr even though the tasks and criteria are the same.
    10. Thresholds for some L/R exams are crazy. E.g. Spanish F listening was 21/35 for a C on the 2010 new style paper. 2011 it is 28/35. So a pupil with 19/35 last year would just be a D. This year they are an F. And the paper wasn't easy - in fact we complained about the higher Spanish listening at the time because it was more like AS. Thresholds for the H were lower, perhaps because of the complaints. But the F paper, which shares parts with the H, had very high thresholds. Anyone capable of 28/35 would surely have been entered for H tier in the first place!
    What can we do?
    Re-marks. And see if we can find out how many people have requested remarks this year. Schools near us are all unhappy with AQA and requesting remarks. One is getting them for free because of the confusion around what mark was actually given.
    Complain - to AQA, to JCQ, to Ofqual
    Subject association - email ALL and ISMLA. Complete the ISMLA online survey. The subject associations talk to the exam boards, to government and to the press. But they need the evidence.
    Look at national residuals. Maybe there are lots of very happy MFL teachers out there keeping quiet. If on average all is well, then somewhere there are a lot of teachers whose pupils have all scored a grade or two higher than expected. Because I've heard from a lot of people who are not happy.
    Anything else? If not, I'm wondering whether to tell my current Y11s not to bother. Last year's lot were fantastic, worked very hard, focussed on the exam, performed at a level I've not seen in speaking and writing ever... and got at least a grade lower than expected. And our numbers are up in Y10 - three groups for Spanish and a big one for French... Am I going to have to start advising most pupils not to take languages at GCSE the same way we have to at AS...
  6. Excellent post veverett
    Would i advise my own child to risk taking an MFL at GCSE after this? Probably yes, but I would not trust their grade.
    If pupils are heading down the law/medicine etc route a bad GCSE grade can blemish their UCAS form.

    It can all be so disheartening.

  7. Thanks for this comprehensive analysis of GCSE summer 2011. I am especially sad as I felt genuinely positive about the new GCSE - I feel that Controlled Assessments do encourage candidates to become more independent learners and am hopeful that the range of topics and vocabulary covered will feed into AS and A2 much better than the previous specification did. I'm just confused that candidates seemed to perform better than under the old spec and yet got worse marks. My headmistress doesn't want me to pursue this, but it seems that there are many of us with similar concerns so I will go back to her and ask again. Thanks again for the time taken to compose your post.
  8. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Good post, Vincent. I have had most of the 12 re-marks back for Unit 4 now. Most went up by a little and our A*/A% has gone up a little on ERA (apparently it appears there first before the exams officer gets the info). At A* the standard still looks harder to me.
    The national figures show that there has been no progress on the severe grading issue. JCQ figures show A* rate fell from 10.9 to 10.2, though the principal examiner at AQA wrote to me to say that their A* rate was higher at 12.9%.
    Why on earth are there well over 3000 fewer A* grades?
    With a falling cohort of 22 000, we should have seen a rise in the % of A*s and A's, In fact, the A*/A percentage rose by 0.1% - not enough.
    I have been exasperated by all this and would love to hear something from Ofqual or AQA. After all, our schools pay their salaries and my taxes fund Ofqual.
    In the meantime, we have to go back to those mark schemes, read the examiner's report again, and do whatever it takes to try and raise those grades.
    On raw/UMS conversions for L and R, I do accept that these have to vary, but whereas before I had a lot of candidates getting maximum UMS on R and some on L, now this is nearly impossible.
    I suspect we know relatively little about the dark arts of number crunching at Ofqual and a little transparency would be appropriate. What I do know is that the goalposts have moved, and in MFL they moved in the wrong direction.
    And then there's A* at A-level.

  9. Hi veverett ! Is there any chance you could please send me a link to the marker's sheet you've referred to in your post (I've tried to find it on the resources section but can't at the moment) ? In light of all the problems with marking this year, I'd really like to see this before we start preparing our first cohort of students for French next year. Thank you so much !
  10. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Here is a copy of the email letter I have just sent to Ofqual and AQA, if it is of interest to anyone:

    To whom it may concern

    I am one of many modern language teachers who have been dismayed by some of the issues around grading in this year's GCSE and GCSE examinations. Your modern language specialists will be aware, no doubt, of disquiet expressed in staffrooms and on internet forums.

    As a a very experienced head of department who has followed grading issues for many years, I would welcome some response from someone on two issues:

    Firstly, why is the percentage of A* grades for A-level MFL so low in comparison to nearly all other subjects? In view of the high ability profile of MFL candidates one would expect a relatively high number of A* grades, just as we get a relatively high number of A grades. I would like to ask whether Ofqual factor in the influence of native speakers when it comes to grade distributions.

    Secondly, it is clear to me that, despite the best efforts of Ofqual, it has become harder over a number of years to obtain an A* at GCSE in MFL. I am absolutely certain of this fact, having taught for 23 years in a grammar school where the ability intake is almost the same every year. In particular, why, in 2011, were there fewer A* grades in French than in 2010 when the cohort was 22 000 students higher? When one studies the cohort size for MFL over the years and the percentage of A* grades awarded it looks clear to me that not enough account has been taken of the changed ability profile of GCSE linguists.

    These two points, along with the chronic issue of severe grading in MFL at both GCSE and A-Level, are a serious cause for concern to language teachers. Students are short-changed, MFL is seen as less attractive in these days of league tables, and it should be relatively easy to put these things right.

    Finally, I would welcome some more transparency on how grades are arrived at. As a taxpayer I help fund Ofqual and my school funds the examination boards, yet we are not informed about how grades are arrived at. All I have read on this in the press has been a bland statement about cohorts varying and subjects varying. This is not very enlightening.

    I hope someone is able to find the time to reply to my message.

    Yours sincerely

    Steve Smith

    Head of MFL
    Ripon Grammar School
  11. veverett

    veverett Occasional commenter

    The AQA GCSE written CA markers' tick sheet for Spanish was accidentally sent to one school with their scripts. It was posted on the mflresources forum, but I don't think I can link to it unless you are registered with mflresources. Then someone else managed to get the board to send them the German one. Apparently for French they don't use one, just the published markscheme.
    There are a couple of things that worry me and make me wonder if results are being kept low:
    1. The changes in thresholds (especially in sp/wr ca) can only be linked to the numbers getting each grade, not the criteria. Otherwise they wouldn't have changed.
    2. Schools who have been told their speaking marks were in line by the moderator, but whose marks have been altered.
    3. Schools who have found that the marks on ERA and the pupils' final printout do not match up.
    It would seem possible that the grades have been changed after the actual marking took place, with pressure to make sure that there were not "too many" pupils doing well.
    The speaking meant the task was more defined than before, but our pupils responded with performances (and level of language) I've never seen before. But worse grades than usual.
    The writing was in tougher conditions - exam conditions, but seems to have been marked more harshly than the old "copy it out" style coursework...?
    Still 25% of pupils don't get a C in Spanish. How many schools are putting in large numbers of lower ability pupils for Spanish?
  12. Well said Steve. Have been talking about this since 2005 when, strange coincidence, just when MFL became optional, our writing results fell from 25 % A* to 5% A*. And then there were the three Oxbridge MFL applicants who, despite impressing at interview, either missed an A grade in the A2 oral or in the case of one of them just got an A (and then got special mention at Cambridge for end of year oral exams).

    However, having done OCR GCSE CA this year our writing results have gone up to pre-2005 values. Not sure why this is except, contrary to what others have done we put our candidates in for speaking and writing at the end of year 11 and treated it as a terminal exam telling them it counted like hell. the result was i think, the best came at the end and they really took it seriously. will be doing this again next year.
  13. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I suspect there is more to this than meets the eye, Julia and Vincent. I have been told by a senior history examiner at A-level that Ofqual use previous performance data, even that from KS2, when formulating the number of students who pass at each grade. This has little if anything to do with a grade representing a particular performance level (i.e. criterion referencing). I would just like to know how they do it and I don't know why they are so secretive about it.
    Bottom line:it is now a bit harder to get an A*. High-flying independents might not see it so much. Take a look at KCS Wimbledon's outstanding grades, for example, but in a provincial grammar school like ours the change has been evident, especially in the last two years.
  14. kate2521

    kate2521 New commenter

    I thought my Oral marks had been changed but they were lower because of the change in UMS boundaries/marks to points. I don't know how we were expected to mark them without an accurate mark scheme and I don't know how they can justify changing them once we'd marked and sent off the Orals. I gave several pupils 35 marks, which should have meant 54 UMS and a C, to find they'd only got 53 (D) because of the changes. For other pupils the difference was as much as 3 UMS points, which, together with the change in the Writing boundaries, adds up to quite a few UMS points.
  15. Although I had no issues with CA marks, in fact, the writing was marked more generously than I had, the overall organization was a shambles, The moderator for speaking lost things, sent us sheets back from other schools when we tried to sort it
    out and the there were problems with the CDs for listening. What can I say? A total shambles!
  16. I agree with you entirely, especially as we marked book in hand with AQA recommendation! After 20 years of teaching GCSE French, I have been rather spot on by 1 or 2 marks, but this time they lowered most of the marks up to 9 points and some bilingual pupils who were not wonderful, got A*. we've asked for remark without much hope unless it is done by a qualified French examiner!
  17. gsglover

    gsglover Occasional commenter

    Even though we have passed the deadline for remarks/remoderations, this thread goes on. I cannot accept the criticism expressed here about the quality of examiners/moderators, most of whom are well qualified and experienced and do an excellent job. The sheer volume of complaints, notably about writing cannot be explained easily so there must be underlying issues for every board. May I venture to suggest that the marking may not have been perfect and there are signs within my own school that there is a difference in the severity of marking between our French and Spanish writing scripts, but other issues need to be addressed. Someone needs to make as many people as possible aware of the fact that the ability profile of cohorts of MFL students has rocketed since the compulsion to study a language was removed. THis does not seem to have been accepted. Secondly, whilst QCA insisted that writing should be externally assessed and speaking internally marked, the expertise of examiners has been wasted as most were used to moderating writing and prime marking speaking- a recipe for disaster if ever I saw one. The boards do not want this any more than the teachers! However, marking aside, grade boundaries are also an issue and perhaps these have more influence than any other factor in the final decision on grades at the end of the process. There may be other things to consider like online standardisation which all boards seem to favour. I personally think that face to face meetings achieve better results. The problems with writing noted in this thread would appear to back this up!
  18. At the risk of stirring things up I'm afraid I do have an issue wiht the quality of SOME examiners. Undoubtedly there are many experienced campaigners who know exactly what they are doing and do a good job and I think we struck lucky with these in all languages this summer as our results were more or less as we expected/hoped. However when I looked recently on AQA and Edexcel websites they are advertising for examiners - 3 terms experience I think required for AQA and applications from PGCE students welcomed with Edexcel. Whilst listening and reading tick box things would be fine with inexperienced teachers I'm sorry but there is no substitute for experience in writing and speaking and I would be horrified if my students' efforts were marked by someone who hadn't even taught the syllabus yet. Apologies to those of you who are experienced and competent but the vast array of complaints on here makes me think that the quality of the marking must have been one factor amongst others in some cases.I don't think students results should depend upon the luck of the draw. I'm not usually controversial but I do feel strongly about this.
  19. Hi
    Please could you let me know if you have had any luck finding the marker's sheet - it sounds very useful.

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