Languages: Education

Department for Education written question – answered on 7th February 2022.

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Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to encourage the uptake of foreign languages in schools.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education)

Increasing languages take-up is a key priority for the department. In September 2014, a statutory requirement for all key stage 2 pupils to study either an ancient or a modern foreign language was introduced to the national curriculum. The department has also taken steps to increase the uptake of languages at GCSE. GCSEs in all modern and ancient languages have been part of the English Baccalaureate performance measure for secondary schools, first introduced in 2010.

The department also recently completed its review into the subject content for French, German, and Spanish GCSEs – the most popular languages at this level. Although the new GCSE will not be available for first teaching until September 2024, the intention is that more pupils will want to study languages at GCSE level and encourage them to continue with this study to post-16 and beyond. The department published the government response to the consultation alongside the revised subject content in January 2022.

The total number of pupils in state-funded schools in England entered for examinations in at least one language GCSE has increased from 231,224 in 2010 to 253,379 in 2019. This amounted to an increase among all key stage 4 pupils from 40% in 2010 to 47% in 2019. With GCSE examinations due to recommence in 2022, the department will return to publishing, as far as possible, our usual range of English Baccalaureate entry and attainment measures.

The department also provides funding for several programmes to improve teaching quality and take-up in specific languages. These are:

  • The Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Pilot led by the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy at the University of York,
  • The Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) led by University College London Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council, and
  • Modelled on the MEP, the department also recently announced a £4 million Latin Excellence Programme to increase uptake and attainment in Latin in secondary schools from September 2022 onwards.

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