The reformed National Curriculum makes it compulsory for pupils in maintained schools to be taught a foreign language in Key Stage 2, and the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) performance measure, which includes languages, has seen the proportion of GCSE entries from pupils in state-funded schools in a modern foreign language (MFL) increase from 40% in 2010 to 46% in 2018.
Recruiting MFL teachers is also a priority. Generous financial incentives are offered for languages teaching, including scholarships in modern foreign languages worth £28,000, and tax-free bursaries, typically worth up to £26,000. The Department is also working in partnership with Spain’s Ministry of Education and Vocational Training to deliver Spain’s Visiting Teachers Programme to provide schools with access to a pool of qualified teachers from Spain who are able to teach MFL. For the 2019/20 academic year, the programme will be open to secondary schools and also (as a pilot) to primary schools. The Department also has a Teacher Subject Specialism Training programme which aims to improve the subject knowledge of non-specialist teachers and returning teachers in MFL and to increase the number of hours taught.
The Department has recently launched the new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, which will attract new teachers to all subjects, including MFLs.
A £4.8 million MFL Pedagogy Pilot commenced in December 2018. It is managed by the newly appointed MFL Centre for Excellence and is run through nine school-led hubs, to improve uptake and attainment in languages at Key Stages 3 and 4. A pilot project in MFL undergraduate mentoring for secondary school pupils has been launched to drive up participation in the subject, specifically targeting areas of high disadvantage to extend access to languages for all pupils.
The Department recently published and promoted a guidance leaflet for parents, which explains why studying a language, as part of the EBacc, broadens opportunities in both education and employment. In February, attention was drawn to the benefits of studying a language among 13-14 year olds through a social media campaign.