French and German GCSEs will be marked less severely amid fears students have been deterred from studying the subjects because they thought top grades were harder to achieve.
Ofqual, the exams regulator, has announced that GCSE grading standards in French and German will be adjusted from next summer.
It comes as the proportion of students taking modern foreign languages (MFL) at GCSE continues to slide, with schools saying the difficulty of the subjects has put pupils off.
Dr Michelle Meadows, from Ofqual, said there was a “sufficiently strong case” for them to intervene and adjust grading standards in French and German at GCSE, but not to Spanish.
But exam boards will not be required to retrospectively re-mark students that took these subjects in earlier years, the regulator said.
School leaders welcomed the move but they also called for grades to be adjusted at A-level to reverse the decline in language learning.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We have repeatedly argued that modern foreign languages are graded too severely and we are delighted that Ofqual has now decided to take action in respect of GCSE French and German.
“The take-up of these subjects has fallen catastrophically over the course of several years and the perception that they are particularly difficult has been one of the drivers of this problem.”
But he added: “We will also continue to press Ofqual to tackle severe grading in A-level languages where entries in French and German have also plummeted.
“It will obviously help if we can improve the numbers taking languages at GCSE but the situation is so grave that we believe there is a compelling case for action at A-level as well.”
Earlier this year, MPs and peers warned that Britain’s dwindling language skills are a “disaster” for the country and they need to be recovered through urgent government action.
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