Is it a bad thing to NOT take a language for GCSEs in Year 11?

(75 Posts)
vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 13:41:02

Hi All

A letter has just been received from school stating that my nephew will no longer attend French lessons as he is not achieving his potential and is at risk of failing this particular GCSE at end of year 11. All other subjects he is an A/B student. The letter states he will another option to study something else when he returns to school this Jan. He is Year 9 (13yrs).

I am worried. Should my sister insist on him continuing with a Language or is okay to not have a Language as a GCSE?


Crawling Fri 04-Jan-13 13:44:42

Its perfectly fine for him not to take a language in fact I think it would be better to take a subject he is good at rather than get a poor grade in a subject you think will be useful which won't because he will get a poor grade.

HollyBerryBush Fri 04-Jan-13 13:45:59

If he's no good at a subject, then it is pointless taking it as an option.

BackforGood Fri 04-Jan-13 13:48:41

A language is considered a "good" subject to have on your CV, but not getting a language isn't, so, if a pupil is really just 'not getting' MFL, then it would make sense to look at other options.
What I find really strange though, is that the school has sent a letter, "dictating" this, and not spoken to the pupil and parents about what his possible options are. Seems a very odd way of communicationg to me.

BartletForTeamGB Fri 04-Jan-13 13:50:08

I think that everyone should do a foreign modern language at GCSE, although few universities, compared to when I applied I think, actually demand them.

BartletForTeamGB Fri 04-Jan-13 13:51:30

I should have added, that I am also puzzled by how he has been told about this. He is only Year 9, so there is still plenty of time for him to improve.

specialsubject Fri 04-Jan-13 13:52:35

if he is not achieving his potential, why doesn't the school help him to do so? Isn't that their job?

he clearly isn't daft if he is doing so well at other subjects.

It's only PE where the less able don't get help - or so I thought...

LoopsInHoops Fri 04-Jan-13 13:52:54

Sounds like the school is up to something - lost a member of staff recently? What are his levels in MFL? An A/B student across the board should be fine doing a MFL - and the timing is odd. Why on earth would the decide this in the middle of the year without prior consultation? Odd.

Jins Fri 04-Jan-13 13:54:59

A MFL at grade C or above is an English Baccalaueate measurement. It may impact on future university choices but so far DS1s lack of a MFL hasn't made any difference to him.

It's far better to do another subject and get a pass than to fail a MFL, We were told that effectively Russell Group was out without it but evidence this year suggests otherwise

LoopsInHoops Fri 04-Jan-13 13:57:33

Could you clarify, has he chosen his options yet?

Usually they wouldn't at this stage, and would continue all of their subjects until end of y9, then start y10 with the options.

Some schools start a bit earlier, often after y11 have left, but this isn't until May. Suddenly deciding not to continue any class at this stage is really strange, and sounds more like a timetabling issue than an attainment one - if he were doing that badly they could discourage him from choosing French in his options, but to wait until then.

I'm putting my money on a staff shortage in this area.

mrsjay Fri 04-Jan-13 13:59:55

would it not be better he took a subject he could do than a fail a subject he can't, my dd is dyspraxic and never got the option to take french in high school because her English was so poor, she managed to pass all of her exams and I dont think a second language is needed tbh.

wherearemysocka Fri 04-Jan-13 13:59:58

I'm surprised he can drop MFL halfway through the year - usually it's compulsory at least until the end of year 9. I would contact the school as if he's getting As and Bs in everything else he could probably be taught up to a C in French. I'd be suspicious.

CooEeeEldridge Fri 04-Jan-13 14:10:11

I didn't do a language gcse, like your son I was A/B student in everything else but HATED learning languages (still do). Went to a Russell Group uni, and have a job with frequent travel abroad. I've seen the occasional job that requests a language but more like 1 out of 100.

It is embarrassing when all of our clients in Europe speak at least 3 languages, but as everyone speaks English it is fine.

LoopsInHoops Fri 04-Jan-13 14:14:41

The thing is though Coo, things aren't the same as they were only a couple of years ago. Languages ARE being insisted on by top universities. It's a fact.

OP, in my experience the only students who are asked to drop MFL before the end of y9 (end of compulsory MFL) are those who are severely SEN or possibly have dire behavioural issues. Hence my suspicion that this is more about timetabling.

Seems a very odd time to send the letter. Do you think it could be less to do with his ability and more with his attitude? Maybe he spends the whole time messing about and the teacher doesn't want him in class anymore.

What was his end of year 8 report like? Surely he can't have changed that much in a term.

BunFagFreddie Fri 04-Jan-13 14:19:11

What's the point in making someone learn a something that they have no aptitude for, especially if it isn't even a core subject?

People generally excel at what they're are good at and will work harder at it. Secondary school education is dull enough for most kids without forcing them to take GCSE's in subjects they hate. Why not let them do drama, music or something they can be enthusiastic about? People do end up in that line of work and even if they're not the highest paying jobs, they are generally interesting and rewarding.

complexnumber Fri 04-Jan-13 14:20:45

I think it's a shame that a MFL is so often just considered as 'another subject' that can be added to a list of others, with the list of nice shiny A's and B's alongside .

I really think a MFL should be considered a life skill with obvious RL uses (and not just on holiday).

I taught in a school on the coast in E. Sussex for a while and could never understand some of the pupil's attitudes (probably passed down by ill-informd parents). I didn't teach MFL, but I would often hear pupils whine 'What's the point of me learning French? When am I going to use it?' I would point out to the sea (yes! We had a sea view from my classroom window) and inform them they were actually closer to France than they were to London... to no avail.

It is our loss and will continue to be so if this attitude pervails.

vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 14:23:01

The letter arrived this morning stating that they will arrange a meeting with my sister to discuss the matter further. My nephew has in the past expressed concern to me that he is struggling with French. He is bilingual and picks up language relatively easy - he used to love French in his old school and his marks were decent.

He seems to think it's the way it is taught and he just doesn't get it and says the teacher is impatient and snappy. The school is good but has a very large intake in a inner London Borough. There is a fair bit of bad behavior in lessons but he seems to be holding up and has adjusted to the school. He was taught in independent school until end of yr 7.

Fluffy1234 Fri 04-Jan-13 14:24:12

My son got a similar letter in year 9 suggesting he gives up German but he was also studying French so we let him give the German up. Your letter is puzzling, I thought pupils had to study a language up to options.

LoopsInHoops Fri 04-Jan-13 14:27:19

Ah, bilingual? Then they probably will be offering to let him take a GCSE in his native language, therefore fulfilling the MFL mandatory criteria.

vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 14:28:26

Seems a very odd time to send the letter. Do you think it could be less to do with his ability and more with his attitude? Maybe he spends the whole time messing about and the teacher doesn't want him in class anymore.

Hi, he is extremely quiet and all teachers have expressed that his behavior is amazing.

vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 14:32:51

So without MFL, he will not be able to apply to Russell Group? it would be nice to have that option when the time comes.

vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 14:37:44

The letter is extremely annoying as they have already reached a decision before discussing the matter!

We will have to wait until Monday when he returns to school.

SminkoPinko Fri 04-Jan-13 14:54:19

How totally ridiculous of the school to announce things in this way. Very poor. As a parent to 2 pathologically lazy year 9 boys, I would want to challenge this. Year 9 is the worst year. It's very well known to be the year when even quite motivated kids can muck about and have no focus because the novelty and shine of secondary school has completely worn off but they are not yet at the stage where they are studying for anything that counts. They therefore present as lazy little toerags, many of them. It is very difficult to predict how they will do at the end of year 11 with the real exams when they haven't even started the GCSE course yet.

A language is an important qualification and is likely to be considered all the more so in years to come now that Gove has introduced the English Bacc concept. It is now one of the core subjects which will be looked for at every stage of educational and employment development the same way that English, maths and science are already. Your nephew may well lose out against similarly bright and well qualified people in the future on a tick-box "doesn't have a language qualification" basis. And even more importantly, knowing even a smattering of another language is a good thing. My French is terrible but it has enabled me to ask for beer and food in France and make myself laugh speaking Franglais, so not completely useless by any means. Far more useful than most of the other things I studied at that age, in fact! If he was my child I would be pushing for him to continue with French if I thought he had a chance of passing and/or if he enjoyed it. I would also consider getting a tutor to help him, if necessary.

Having said that, if he really, really hates languages and everyone is in honest agreement that he can't possibly achieve a C for some reason then it would probably be better to do something else, as others have said. I just feel slightly doubtful that this can be accurately predicted at this stage.

newyearnewattitude Fri 04-Jan-13 15:01:09

my son is in year 9 and started some of his GCSEs this year (History, ICT and RE) and because he wants to do triple science it means he won't be doing a MFL but has opted to do Latin GCSE as an after school activity. He hated french but loves Latin so that's fine with me, I'd rather his attentions were concentrated on what he loves and is capable of doing than being tortured to do something he hates. My thinking is if he wants to do an MFL there are plenty of evening classes he can attend later to gain a GCSE...

Jins Fri 04-Jan-13 15:02:13

So without MFL, he will not be able to apply to Russell Group? it would be nice to have that option when the time comes.

We were told this was the case but DS1 has friends currently applying with no MFL and they have been given offers to RG universities. However I'm pretty sure the EngBacc was introduced the year after him. RG do tend to put MFL down as requirements but they obviously don't stick to them like glue for the right candidate

Oblomov Fri 04-Jan-13 15:12:31

I too thought that it wasn't just that the RG uni's that would require it, but in time, nearly all would , after the Gove decison.

vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 15:17:35

Thanks for all your help.

How do we approach the school with this? is it ultimately their decision or can it be challenged? have spoken to my sister re extra lessons for him - she will try to find the money for this.

I haven't spoken to nephew as of yet but knowing him (he is a massive worrier) he will not want to give it up.

My sister can be quite timid so hope the school does not bully her into submission.

Can you not speak to anyone at school today? I would have thought most big schools would have someone in (although I guess they may have left by now).

It's the not reaching his potential comment that sounds odd - what does that mean, they think he could get an A but is on line for a C/D? That isn't a reason to give up, but is a reason to call parents in for a meeting.

Can he take a GCSE in the language he is bilingual in? That would give him the MFL, which like other posters I think he should get to keep his options open. I was poor at languages at school, but still had to do an O level in it - I was otherwise reasonably able so just had to apply myself. It wasn't an option not take it (then universities expected bright students to have a language ). I think if he is A/B is other stuff he can at least make a C in French with work.

I do still wonder if it is attitude - it does sound like he doesn't like the teacher and maybe just isn't trying. You mention his marks at his old school - but it's his marks in year 8 that are relevant here. And of course if his cohort is really badly behaved he could still be seen as generally a good quiet student, while still being a bit of a PITA! I have a child who is doing pretty well by most standards in a subject, however his results have slipped since last year and his report in this subject wasn't great. We have told him it does mean they might not take him on for this subject as an option if he doesn't pull his finger out. Ds may still be doing better than 50% of his cohort, but I can see why the teacher might not want him next year!

MummytoKatie Fri 04-Jan-13 15:43:09

Cambridge definitely insists on a MFL. I had friends who had to do GCSE French alongside their 5 A levels. Really not what they needed.

But if he is bilingual presumably he can use that language to get a GCSE?

vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 15:47:12

Thanks Silas. Have just tried ringing but it goes to V/M.

He is bilingual in an African language that is not taught at the school so I doubt he will be be able to take it in GCSE.

You are right, it may be attitude that has let him down. But I just still don't understand how the school has reached this decision without first having a discussion with parent/child! it seems so final.

The letter indicates that a new timetable will be available for him on Monday. It just seems so unfair to do this first without a discussion.

My sister will call on Monday and if she wants, I will write a letter for him to take on Monday. They need to hold off until it has been properly addressed and a mutual decision has been reached.

I think schools sometime bank on the parent/s being inactive/uninterested to be able to pull this kind of stunt.

Jins Fri 04-Jan-13 15:51:54

If there is a GCSE offered in the language you can sit it privately

shrimponastick Fri 04-Jan-13 15:54:35

Sounds odd to me. Particularly to just inform by letter.

DS is in y 10 and HAD to pick a language at GSCE.

Jins Fri 04-Jan-13 15:56:34

If it's on there then it should be possible to take it fairly easily

peaceandlovebunny Fri 04-Jan-13 15:57:02

no time to read the thread, but take a language at GCSE because otherwise you'll look half-educated.

peaceandlovebunny Fri 04-Jan-13 15:57:20

ideally, take mandarin.

I think the school will have to have a pretty strong argument to force him to drop it. I've just done a quick goggle and think it is compulsory in KS3 - it can be not taught over 3 years, but they need to reach the standard expected at the end of a 3 year course. So if he has reached that standard 2 terms early, then he is actually pretty good at French and ought to do well at GCSE!

Another reason they might try to stop him is if English is his second language and they can somehow use this to disapply him from a third language (which I'm not sure would be fair but might be a tactic)

Could you attend the meeting with your sister if you think she might be intimidated - I think it is important that your sister doesn't feel she is forced into a decision that she might regret later. Also check your nephew is fully on board with fighting to continue French - if you (you and sister) fight for him to continue and then they speak to him and he does a teenage 'whatever' and eye roll you will look a bit silly!

MrsTerrysChocolateOrange Fri 04-Jan-13 16:08:19

I sat an O Level in the language I am fluent in 'on my own'. My school made it easy and agreed to to supply someone to oversee it. Very worth it if he can get another A grade.

bruffin Fri 04-Jan-13 16:11:08

Cambridge definitely insists on a MFL

Depends on the subject, my ds is looking at engineering and there is no mfl requirement, nor is it a requirement for other RG. Some of the Cambridge colleges recommend it as a contrasting subject but it is only a few of them.

My ds is dyslexic and made the mistake of taking german and ended up with a D (although his course work he got E, C and B) If he had taken other subjects there would have been a good chance of getting an A, so not very happy about that.

My dd is now not taking an MFL because her subjects clashed and we did look at taking italian gcse out of school, but even though there is a big Italian community in our area we couldnt find any courses.

bruffin Fri 04-Jan-13 16:23:05

Some of the Cambridge colleges recommend it as a contrasting subject but it is only a few of them. Ignore that bit its referring to A levels.

MummytoKatie Fri 04-Jan-13 16:42:51

Bruffin - that's interesting. I guess it's changed in the last 15 years. [old face]

When I went it was a mandatory matriculation requirement - 5 A-Cs including English, maths and a language.

Ps dh did engineering - the big advantage of the Cambridge Tripos is that you don't have to decide on the type of engineering you want to do before you even start as the first two years are general engineering. The big disadvantage is that most people decide fairly soon which bits they hate but have to keep doing it all until 3rd year. [Caveat - again 15 year old data!]

susanann Fri 04-Jan-13 18:07:53

Do you think its related to statistics? eg how many pupils get 5 A-C s in their GCSEs? If he takes it and fails it lowers their percentages

sauvignonismydrug Fri 04-Jan-13 18:20:36

I'm a head of MFL and we simply aren't allowed in my school to turn students away from any of our languages. Of course, we can discourage and point out to students already struggling by year 9 that it will get more difficult, but most schools seem to adopt the attitude that language learning should be encouraged, whatever the ability. And I agree with this too.
It seems odd to me that if your nephew is an A/B student, he wouldn't be able to cope with MFL GCSE. It may be that he is in a difficult group this year (most groups in my school are mixed ability and it has a negative effect on those who are able to be in groups with those who don't see the point in learning). Or it may be that your nephew doesn't see why he should learn French, which makes it difficult to motivate him. And I teach a surprising number of bilingual students who don't get why they should!
Ultimately, parent power is king so if your sister really wants him to take French, she'll win the argument.

crazycarol Sat 05-Jan-13 00:30:33

A friend of my dd was applying to unis (not russell group) last year and got a conditional offer asking for a MFL (any at GCSE eq). She had not studied one at school since year 9 as it was not compulsory. The school queried it with the uni in question and were told that it was considered a good qualification to have. She then did a crash course in Spanish for 5 months but unsurprisingly did not get the required grade. At clearing however she found another uni doing same/similar course.

What I am saying is that it is certainly a useful thing to have but not always essential. You need to do a bit of reseach. What does he plan to do (if he has any idea!!) and what are the required or recommended qualifications.

Startail Sat 05-Jan-13 00:53:40

I didn't, 7As and a C would have spoilt my certificatewink

Seriously I'm useless at languages and our only competent teacher went on maternity leave.

Many of my class didn't, we checked prospectus carefully and went to RG universities quite happily.

DD1 isn't, she's dyslexic she can't write in English. School is also aware her Y8/Y9 set rioted and learnt nothing.

soontobeburns Sat 05-Jan-13 01:53:02

I did GOML does anyone know if that is any use for my ucas application? Level 1 im Spanish and level 2 in french.

Damash12 Sat 05-Jan-13 02:17:05

If he is good in all other subjects then I wouldn't make an issue. What does he want to do when he leaves? Does it require a language? I took French in my exams and have never used it since, I. Can probably remember 10 words/ phrases. If you do't use it you lose it but can't say I've lust sleep over it.

LoopsInHoops Sat 05-Jan-13 02:32:02

Those saying it didn't matter for them are missing the point. Times have changed. Good unis are now insisting on it, and will be increasingly so.

MrsTerrysChocolateOrange Sat 05-Jan-13 03:53:33

I'm interested to hear that some people think they are 'useless at languages'. Presumably they speak their first language passably... I firmly believe that there is no reason people can't learn two or more languages very easily with good, regular tuition. One of the reasons I believe this is that I was mediocre at languages then moved to Italy. I was fluent withing six months. Bad method is the issue. humans are pre-programmed for language so baring brain injury, LD or other learning issue, anyone can learn a language.

ravenAK Sat 05-Jan-13 04:08:34

I would say that a generally A/B student should be taking an MFL.

No-one's quite sure where we're going with all this Ebacc malarkey, so for an able dc, aiming at University, it's daft not to take one.

It's a very odd stance for school to take, as 'number of students achieving Ebacc' is quite high profile atm, so it's in the school's interest, in terms of published achievement, for your dnephew to scrape a C in French rather than getting an A* in Drama or for that matter in a second Humanity subject.

(Not saying I agree with this - I don't - but it's how the beans are currently being counted.)

I would be smelling a rat re: staffing (is the school struggling to recruit/retain MFL teachers?) or classroom management.

Tbh, I'd be strongly suspecting that your dn is being a little sod & creating a level of disruption whereby he's being removed from the teaching group for the good of the others - if it were just a case of him slacking & underachieving I'd expect him to be being told to pull his socks up, not bounced out entirely.

Might be doing him a complete injustice there though! I'd definitely suggest his parents contact school on Monday to express their dissatisfaction/ask for clarification.

madwomanintheattic Sat 05-Jan-13 04:22:45

We moved to Canada a few years ago. I have o levels in French and German but am by no means fluent. I have a first from a UK university. I am currently unable to return to any Canadian University unless I prove my current proficiency in two languages (one of them either English or French).

No one graduates from uni without a second language. My children's schools do not insist on a second language. If I hadn't found out myself that uni entry was impossible without, I would never have known to insist that the dcs continued a language (the last school they attended did not offer a language option until y9, and then it was a remote taught class via video link. <sigh>

I have to say, I would be calling the school and finding out wtaf. And then working out a way for him to get a grip and I prove his grades to stay in the mfl class.

I have one son who graduated Uni recently and everywhere he applied insisted on a language as part of the admissions, he didn't have to take it once in Uni, he had French, Ds #2 also did French, and struggled through but with some extra help at home he managed to get through, just in case he decides to go onto Uni at some point.
If he's struggling with French maybe do Spanish, I found it to be a whole lot easier than French and it's very useful.

MrsTerrysChocolateOrange Sat 05-Jan-13 06:09:50

True MadWoman. I got points on my immigration into Canada knowing French. I didn't know at 16 that I would need GCSE French. Turns out my teachers were right. I needed French.

Summersbee Sat 05-Jan-13 06:46:16

Hi. I've had my head down for months producing lots of opportunities for children to listen to French having seen how much harder it is for my youngest to learn another language based in England compared to my older two who had total immersion abroad. My blog is called a green mouse and is free, and although your son is at the top end age wise, it might help to look at some of the topics with him over the weekend before you make any decisions. Some of them such as 'prepositions' or 'avoir for kids' are quite hard, but then there's a fun one called 'je m'appelle Billy' which might cheer him up.
Good luck with it all.

LoopsInHoops Sat 05-Jan-13 07:23:50

Thanks so much summersbee, your website looks great, a few of my classes will be using it. smile

bruffin Sat 05-Jan-13 08:59:19

They are not neccesairly usless at language, just useless at the style of exam that mfl require. It is memorizing passages whether written or spoken. My ds is an A student with dyslexic type problem, he really struggled.

I good at working out languages but not good at exams for mfl either. I did german back in the 70s but could do the difficult grammar but could never remember if the noun was der,die or das.

BackforGood Sat 05-Jan-13 11:54:41

MrsTerry - the relevant point here though, is that 99.9% of the population don't get to live in a country and be immersed in the language in order to learn it. I think it was fairly obvious that people are talking about "In my experience of being taught MFLs at school, I'm hopeless at languages", in the same way people say they are hopeless at spelling, or maths or PE. They are not saying there is no method that could possibly get them through, they are saying, 'comparing all the subjects I am learning/ have learned at school, I found MFL difficult'.

Clary Sat 05-Jan-13 12:05:32

I agree with others, this is very odd. Good post from RavenAK.

There is no point studying to GCSE a subject you will not do well in; but a child who is at A/B level everywhere else is clearly pretty bright and I would expect them to pass an MFL GCSE at least.

The timing is odd, he hasn't I presume chosen his options yet? Some schools it is true filter out some subjects at end of year 8, but it doesn't sound as if this is the case here. I would ask for a meeting witht he school to explain the reasons tbh.

I would certainly recommend a student who is clever enough to get As and Bs to do an MFL as it could be crucial in future years (we don't really know what impact the Ebacc will have). I write this as a teacher of MFL btw.

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 05-Jan-13 12:07:55

Not doing it at all is marginally better than doing it and failing.

There's no point doing any subject if it's highly likely it will result in failing.

cumfy Sat 05-Jan-13 12:34:18

he used to love French

Then French he should do.

mumandboys123 Sat 05-Jan-13 13:26:02

I'm an MFL teacher so feel free to ignore anything I say as I'm very obviously biased!

a) 'everyone' does not speak English. There is huge evidence and therefore concern that Britain misses out on billions in business annually as a result of our inability to do business abroad. Even with a Masters degree under your belt and years and years of work experience, you absolutely never know when having that GCSE in French might just give you an edge. Engineer looking for a job - company just won a contract in French speaking Africa. Who gets the job - the one with the GCSE in French or the one without it? Who gets to ask for more money in that situation - the one who can begin to take on additional responsibility because of their language skills or the one who passes the phone to their colleague when a foreign accent is heard?

b) it is true that some courses at some universities require an MFL GCSE. It is also true that some of the more popular courses where demand is high and the course admissions tutors can pick and choose , 'good' candidates will be selected on the basis of their 'all roundness' and 'quality of education'. If there is serious concern about university with/without a GCSE in one of the MFLs, talking with the child concerned about how they see their future, having a look at course outlines online and, if necessary calling/e-mailing a few admissions tutors to get an idea of whether or not it may affect future options is the best way to go.

c) I would suggest any student who is otherwise pulling A/B predictions and has an interest in business, politics, history, art, drama, English, engineering, that kind of thing, would do well to try and get a language under their belt. Anyone likely to do some kind of 'year in industry' as part of their course will likely benefit as well. It is also worth younger students looking at university courses now - they may have an idea they want to study 'business' but if they start to look at courses, they may suddenly see a year in a foreign country gaining business experience as something they are really interested in. This kind of option isn't uncommon - and the doors can be closed to students who don't have a GCSE in languages. I, for example, studied Spanish at university from scratch as part of my course - but I wouldnt' have got on that course without my 'O' Level (I'm old!) in French.

d) ultimately MFL is viewed as an 'academic' rather than 'soft' or 'easy' option (hence inclusion in the EBacc) which obviously needs consideration, depending on how you see yourself and your future.

Hope that helps, rather than confuses further!

bruffin Sat 05-Jan-13 13:41:30

My dh is an engineer and travelled all round the world without a language is a non issue.
Then again, you pick and find yourself working for a german company as dh did.

Cambridge say on their website they are not really looking at gcses as they find average ums % a better indicator of degree potential than gcse results.
Unless you are really immersed in a language it is very difficult to get proficient in it enough to function at a work level anyway.

It depends on the teen.

My DD dropped French and went on to do a Child Care Level 2 (no SN), as she wanted to be a Midwife or work in Early Years provision.

She then had a plan put together to do one day a week practical work (in a nursery) and left school with Level 3, equivalent to an A level.

She is now on an edvanced apprenticeship, which is needed to get onto a MW BA these days (the practical side on top of academic qualifications).

Education is thankfully more flexable in some schools, as one size doesn't fit all.

Every adult learning centre in my city do language courses,day and evening, it is easy to learn to speak another language, in some cities.

LynetteScavo Sat 05-Jan-13 13:52:46

OP, your nephew sounds very much like my DS (also Y9)...I'm very surprised the school has taken this attitude. My DS tells me he isn't even going to go into his MFL exam, but it's over two years away, so I'm not worrying about that yet.

Yes, he will probably get a low grade (being an A/B student does not necessarily mean you could cope with a MLF, not all DC are the same, so some people need to get over their surprise. We are just grateful he's not at a school where his grades would mean he had to study two MFL in Y8 & 9)- DH and I did briefly consider asking if he could drop his MFL, but I think part of the problem is DS not making an effort because for the first time in his life he has found something difficult. Sometimes you have to deal with difficult things you don't like in life.

IAmLouisWalsh Sat 05-Jan-13 13:55:01

The idea that you can't get in to a Russell Group university without GCSE MFL is a red herring. For some courses, at some universities in the group, it might be used as a deciding factor - eg X and Y have the same A Levels and GCSEs, but X has French so he gets in. But that is a big might.

mumandboys123 Sat 05-Jan-13 15:22:00

with all due respect, this is the problem! yes, it is possible to travel everywhere and 'get by' with English (or almost everywhere). Most professions don't require that you have a basic grasp of any other language than your own. That's a fact and I accept it, wholeheartedly.

But...we live in an increasingly shrinking world. Business is not only conducted in English. British business - of all possible types and varities - requires that people work within it who are able to pass the time of day AT LEAST in another language. The loss of business in cash terms to the British economy when a company is unable to communicate is enormous. That's jobs for people in this country being lost. Today. Every day. Not because we couldn't handle the contract or find the finance or don't have the expertise. It's because we lack the skills to communicate with the people we need to be communicating with to push us forwards.

If we think in an insular and 'it's OK, they can talk to us so it doesn't matter' way (which, generally, we do), we continue to miss out on opportunities at all levels of society. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box. It's not about 'I'll never need to use it 'cos I don't want to be an interpreter/linguist/work for the UN/travel', it's about opening our eyes to the wider world, communicating, getting stuck in, learning. Young people need to get a grasp of that if they are to 'get on' in the future.

gets off soap box !!!

bruffin Sat 05-Jan-13 15:40:00

But the point is you are not going to get by in any language on gcse level are you.
Ad mentioned above you only get efficient enough by immersing yourself in the language. Even ifyou learn a language as a young child you dont necessarily retain it if you dont use it for a while. I could speak greek until i was 9 most of it is forgotten now.
If you are learning english there is a whole culture of tv,film pop music readily available. A lovely dutch girl we met told us she actually learnt most of her english in that fashion.
Who decides what is right language to learn. My dd did french and italian, my ds french and german. Why not chinese or japanese.

Summersbee Sat 05-Jan-13 17:16:44

Most English children will find it much easier to learn Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese way before tackling Chinese or Japanese.
As it is easier to learn other second languages once you have got to grips with the first one, I think it is much better to start with an easier European language, and then keen linguists could move on to Chinese etc.. if they want to.
A great struggle for language teachers is how to combat general negativity on the part of parents. If more parents could be enthusiastic it would make such a difference. There's a whole world out there to explore.
With the internet and a shrinking world so much is available if we can just be bothered.
Thank you LoopsInHoops for visiting my agreenmouse blog. I'm about to upload a free listening recipe with pictures on how to make a Three Kings' Day Cake - une galette des rois - (6th Jan of course) if anybody is interested. (you'll have to wait an hour or two though)

Andro Sat 05-Jan-13 17:46:45

Personally I would encourage anyone to study a MFL.

A GSCE or higher was a requirement when I went to university but more than that, I found that you can learn so much about a culture from its's a joy.

A bad teacher/teacher you just don't get on with can be a nightmare though.

AgathaTrunchbull Sat 05-Jan-13 18:38:31

As it stands the ONLY university requiring a GCSE in an MFL for entry is UCL. However, languages (including Latin and Greek) are on the list of 'facilitator' subjects for RG universities, i.e. they're looked upon favourably as proper academic subjects.

Given your nephew is in Y9, it's strange for the school to be saying he'll not be able to get a decent grade with another 2 years of study. I think this needs to be probed more closely. It's very early for him to be given up on entirely.

AgathaTrunchbull Sat 05-Jan-13 18:41:49
lljkk Sat 05-Jan-13 19:44:59

I wonder if OP's nephew is supposed to be doing French as one of his options, if the school runs GCSEs over 3 years and he was supposed to complete this option this year. There is no room in regular timetable for him to complete French GCSE in y10 or y11. However there would be room for it to be completed as a twilight subject (taking classes after regular school hours).

I agree it doesn't really matter unless he was a very high flyer in other areas & wanted to try for one of a few very competitive courses (top 1% of school leavers).

mumandboys123 Sat 05-Jan-13 19:48:11

I agree summersbee...parents are the biggest hurdel to overcome in MFL. If I had a pound for everytime a parent had laughed and said 'well, I was never any good at French so we're not expecting him to join the UN anytime soon' I wouldn't need to work!

It would of course be useful, bruffin, to teach other languages in school. I agree both Chinese and Japanese are globally relevant, as is Arabic. Russian is also quite popular. You will find that some schools do teach these already, usually as optional extras. It is more usual to take up these more difficult options at university, however. And again, that would usually be dependent on a student having studied and proved themselves in a language already. You are right, you don't get fluent by being taught a couple of hours a week for a few years in school but you can learn an awful lot and it doesnt' leave you (although can get buried). And the foundations are there for more learning later, particularly if you suddenly find you have work and travel options. It is a far more...mature? intelligent? responsible? option than just saying 'well, everyone speaks English so it's not my problem'. There is also much to be learnt about your own language in the process, the mental discipline of the learning etc. etc. etc. I could go on...!

bruffin Sat 05-Jan-13 19:56:39

I am not saying they shouldnt teach languages at school, just it shouldnt be a requirement at gcse.

bruffin Sat 05-Jan-13 20:08:46

Look I am not anti mfl

I paid for my dcs to have french lessons at 3, they did more french in the latter years of primary, i also payed for french club for dd. They both did french at secondary for ks3. Despite being very bright children they couldnt even start to hold a conversation in french.

My dd would love to learn BSL and Makaton, its a pity they dont offer that as an alternative.

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