OCR drops MFL exams, but other boards vow to keep developing unaccredited subjects

Exam boards have today reaffirmed their commitment to delivering reformed GCSEs and A-levels yet to be approved by Ofqual after one board announced it will no longer develop new modern foreign languages qualifications.

It was revealed earlier today that exam board OCR will be withdrawing its proposed new qualifications in French, German and Spanish.

In a statement sent to Schools Week, the board said there was “too much work to be done” to achieve accreditation from Ofqual in time for teachers to choose for September.

Despite only two months left before schools break up for summer, specifications in another six qualifications are yet to be signed off for teaching in September.

But exam boards behind those subjects have told Schools Week they are committed to delivering the new qualifications.

OCR has yet to have its GCSE drama specification approved, but the exam board said it is preparing to enter a new submission later this week.

Submissions have to be assessed by a panel of subject experts appointed by Ofqual before either being accredited or rejected.

The other two of England’s big three exam boards are also both waiting on specifications to be approved.

AQA said it is expecting to enter a fourth submission for its new geography A/AS-level specifications “very soon”.

Pearson (Edexcel) has yet to have its religious studies GCSE approved, but told Schools Week it has no plans to withdraw the qualification.

The WJEC exam board still has to gain approval for its religious studies GCSE, and modern foreign languages (MFL) GCSE and A/AS-levels.

A WJEC spokesperson said they “remain fully committed” to developing the qualifications.

Exam boards have come under fire for the delays, which are said to be leaving teachers with “no time at all” to prepare for the new subjects.

As previously reported by Schools Week, this also has a knock-on effect on textbooks being ready for September.

But the WJEC spokesperson added: “Our modern foreign language specialist team is hosting a series of training courses across the country to support teachers in the introduction of our new specifications.

“In addition, we are currently producing a comprehensive and complementary suite of textbooks and free digital resources to support these new qualifications.”

OCR said it “reluctantly” made the decision to scrap its new languages qualifications so “teachers can make alternative plans for the next academic year”.

A spokesperson for the exam board added: “We will be working with schools to support them through these changes.”

William Burton, OCR’s chief executive, said: “This difficult decision comes from a combination of factors, including our different vision for language learning, the time we would need to prepare a further, highly technical submission, as well as the challenging economic climate in which OCR is operating.

“I believe it is in the best interests of modern foreign languages teachers to have clarity about what will be available at a time when they are making crucial decisions on behalf of their students.”

The final GCSE and A-level assessments for the current MFL qualifications will be in summer 2017, with the last resits for A-level only in summer 2018.

The exam board said fewer than 10 per cent of pupils take the languages qualifications. Its sister exam board, Cambridge International Examinations, will continue to offer alternative MFL qualifications.

OCR has already withdrawn from offering a number of other language qualifications, including Portuguese and Turkish.

Ofqual said it is up to each exam board to make decisions on what they submit for accreditation and that it is up to them to choose to withdraw.


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