Languages: GCSE

Department for Education written question – answered on 28th September 2020.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many secondary schools have dropped teaching of one or more foreign languages at GCSE in response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with (a) school and (b) university leaders on the effects of reduced numbers of students being offered a GCSE in a modern foreign language as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to increase the number of students who study a modern foreign language to (a) GCSE, (b) A-Level, and (c) undergraduate degree level.

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

The guidance for the full opening of schools makes clear that, for pupils in Key Stage 3, the curriculum should remain broad so that the majority of pupils are taught a full range of subjects over the year, including languages. In Key Stage 4 and 5, the majority of GCSE, AS and A level students are expected to continue to study their examination subjects, including those who are due to take examinations in languages, to support them towards their preferred route to further study.

In exceptional circumstances, schools may consider it appropriate to suspend some subjects for some pupils to support catch up. Schools should be able to show that this is in the best the interests of these pupils and this should be subject to discussion with pupils and parents during the autumn term.

Since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate performance measure, the proportion of GCSE entries from pupils in state-funded schools in a modern foreign language (MFL) has increased from 40% in 2010 to 47% in 2019. The Department is due to publish GCSE entry data for 2020 later this year.

The Government has every confidence that GCSE entry in MFL will continue to improve over the coming years. No specific discussions have taken place between Ministers with schools or university leaders on the take up of GCSEs in a MFL since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Department are continuing to invest in a range of programmes to further increase uptake of languages at GCSE. Our £2.41 million MFL Pedagogy Pilot commenced in December 2018 and is designed to improve uptake and attainment in languages at Key Stages 3 and 4. In May 2020, the programme was extended to December 2021, receiving an additional £1.45 million funding.

A review into the subject content for GCSEs in MFLs was announced on 5 November 2019. The review will seek to align the subject content with the recommendations of the 2016 MFL Pedagogy Review, making languages more accessible at GCSE and encouraging more students to study a foreign language at A level and undergraduate level.

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