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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?


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.

SquinkiesRule Sat 05-Jan-13 05:38:18

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.

Birdsgottafly Sat 05-Jan-13 13:50:17

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

Link for UCL:

Russell Group 'Informed Choices' Booklet:

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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