Languages: GCSE

Department for Education written question – answered on 18th June 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Coussins Baroness Coussins Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the reduction in the number of pupils taking a modern language GCSE as a result of their school compressing Key Stage 3 into two years and making languages optional after the age of 13.

Photo of Lord Agnew of Oulton Lord Agnew of Oulton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Languages are now compulsory at key stage 2, and since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate in 2010, language take-up at GCSE has increased from 40% to 46% last year. Ofqual’s recent provisional data for the summer 2019 exam series showed that overall entries to modern foreign languages (MFL) summer GCSE exams increased by 4% compared to last year.

Under Ofsted’s new framework, which will be introduced in September, inspectors will be alert to signs of curriculum narrowing at key stage 3. If a school has a shortened key stage 3, inspectors will look to see that the school has made provisions to ensure that pupils still have the opportunity to study a broad range of subjects, commensurate with the national curriculum, in years 7-9.

The department is supporting schools to increase the number of pupils taking GCSEs in languages through several programmes. These include the £4.8 million MFL pedagogy programme, an undergraduate digi-mentoring scheme, the £10 million Mandarin Excellence Programme, and targeted communications activity at key points in the school year to encourage pupils to study languages.

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