Portsmouth headteacher criticises “baffling” modern languages results

James Priory
James Priory

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A Portsmouth headteacher has said students are being put off studying languages at university because of harsh grading.

James Priory, from Portsmouth Grammar School, told fellow heads pupils had been left disappointed after receiving grades well below expectations.

He was speaking at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, a meeting of nearly 300 independent heads from across the UK.

Mr Priory said: ‘We have seen unpredictable language results this year.

‘A number of students predicted B grades, for instance, have received grades below expectation, with the result that they are no longer set on studying languages at university.

‘Just as baffling, high-achieving bilingual students are performing less well in the oral than those whose first language is English.

‘We have reached the point where the marking and grading of our International Baccalaureate linguists is becoming more reliable year on year than those of those students sitting language A-levels.’

Conference members said poor exam results were “sapping (students’) confidence”, while entries in A-level Spanish, German and French are all down on the previous year, by 2.7%, 4.2% and 6.4%, respectively.

William Richardson, HMC general secretary, said: ‘It’s not just a sickly subject, but really getting towards intensive care now.’

It comes as the HMC announced a new Government-backed national teacher training centre to encourage greater take-up of the subject.