German could face ‘extinction in schools’, heads warn

The Telegraph, 07.10,15, Head teachers have warned of a "crisis in modern foreign languages" as new figures show inconsistencies in grading have become more pronounced. Peter Hamilton is quoted.

German could face extinction in the classroom as renewed worries emerge over inconsistencies in grading following reforms that were meant to tackle the issue, leading head teachers have said.

The warning emerged as school leaders said they are even writing to admission offices at leading universities to let it be known that they no longer have confidence in the grading system, which is seeing some top students unable to achieve top grades.

They warned of a "crisis in modern foreign languages" - particularly German - as new figures show that inconsistencies in grading seemed to have become more pronounced than ever this year.

This comes after reforms implemented by Ofqual, the exams regulator, were meant to address poor design of questions in German exams. However, teachers said they are "no clearer" about the reasons why top students struggle to get top grades in modern foreign languages and are less confident than before.

Head teachers also warned British students face "drifting into oblivion" because their Indian and Chinese rivals are better equipped with modern languages to face the world of business.

A report by the Headmaster's and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) and the Independent Schools Modern Languages Association (ISMLA) revealed no school was entirely happy with its results this year, with a "flawed" grading system usually seeing the most able students the most penalised.

Peter Hamilton, chairman of HMC's Academic Policy Committee, warned that the UK had been "shot in the foot and shackled" by the decline in modern languages and that it risked its global competitive advantage.

He said: "For a number of years now there has been a decline in the major languages.

"The bottom line is, this country is in great danger of not producing any decent linguists at all in the future.

"Picture this – an international school in Beijing, a young lady there with a Korean father, French mother, being educated in English and of course in Mandarin.

"Those are the sorts of people that our young children are going to come up against in the future.

"We have found ourselves in a parlous state in this countrywhere we are struggling to make the numbers, even in German.

"It puts us at a great disadvantage globally...We will just drift into oblivion."

Mr Hamilton said teachers who know their pupils language ability very well from speaking to them and examining them internally "find that the person you thought was top usually comes near the bottom and so on and so forth".

"It really is a higgledy-piggledy mess."

The report, which surveyed 76 private schools, said: "German is now vulnerable to withering away completely."

It said the inconsistency of grading "seems to be more pronounced this year" with "almost no school" unable to understand the rank order of their results across all languages. It also said an improvement in pupils getting an A* "seems patchy".

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