Languages: GCE A-level

Department for Education written question – answered at on 16 September 2016.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the potential effect of the decreasing uptake of languages at A-level on (a) the uptake of language courses at university and (b) the number of language graduates training to be language teachers.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The decline in the study of modern foreign languages started in 2004 when the former Government removed the compulsory study of languages from the Key Stage 4 curriculum. By 2010 fewer than half – 43 per cent – of pupils took a GCSE in a modern foreign language, down from 76 per cent of pupils in 2000. The inclusion of a modern foreign or ancient language in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) increased the number of students studying at least one language at GCSE between 2010 and 2015. This has increased the pool of students able to progress to study languages at A level and beyond. The Government will publish their response to the EBacc consultation in due course and is already incentivising the take-up of language A levels in the 16-19 performance tables through the facilitating subject measure.

To support prospective students’ choice of degree we are making improvements to the information they can access, particularly on the employment outcomes they can expect from their Higher Education (HE) studies. This should allow students to understand better the advantages of studying a language at university. Furthermore, provisions in the Higher Education and Reform Bill, currently before Parliament, will allow Government, in future, to instruct the HE regulator to incentivise or protect the supply of courses, such as language courses, which are economically and culturally important.

We are also encouraging the best language graduates to enter the teaching profession, through financial incentives such as a bursary of £25,000 for trainees with a first class or 2:1 degree in languages.

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