Lesser-Taught Languages

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:57 pm on 24th March 2015.

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Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith 6:57 pm, 24th March 2015

I congratulate Nick de Bois on securing the debate. I am glad that we have a few more minutes than are normally available for Adjournment debates, so that some of his colleagues can comment on this important issue.

The debate highlights the changes proposed by examination boards in England, but the issue also affects my constituents very directly. Many people in Scotland, in my constituency and elsewhere, want to take exams in the so-called lesser-taught languages but cannot do so, because, even now, the Scottish Qualifications Authority offers a very limited range of subjects. People do take exams in subjects offered by examination boards elsewhere in the United Kingdom, but they have to pay the fees and travel to the approved centres because they cannot take them in Scotland. The only subjects offered by the SQA are Cantonese, French, Gaelic, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish and Urdu—and a small element of Polish in what is not a full national course. If exams in lesser-taught languages can no longer be taken in England, people from Scotland—and, presumably, in Wales and Northern Ireland—will not be able to gain these qualifications either.

Polish is my particular concern. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is the second most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, and is one of the foreign languages that have the most speakers in the UK. There are a great many Polish speakers in my constituency, which contains the largest number of Polish-born people in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK. Obviously, I have a certain personal interest and experience as well. I have been approached by members of a Polish community and others in Scotland who have been campaigning for the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish authorities to ensure that Polish is included in Scottish national examination courses, both at national 4 and 5 and at a higher level. That campaign is on much the same lines as the one described by the hon. Gentleman.