6 September 2019 (TES)
Applies to England
A recent AQA examiners’ report on GCSE German has highlighted middle-class biases in modern foreign language exams, teachers have said.
Ruth Wilkes, principal of Castle Newnham School in Bedford, posted a photograph of the AQA examiners’ report for a GCSE German oral exam, where it was reported that: “Some students struggled to state advantages and/or disadvantages of a skiing holiday.”
Ms Wilkes said the question would put students from poorer families who did not take foreign holidays at a disadvantage.
“Pupils who’ve experienced a ski holiday are much more likely to be able to infer the answer to that particular question than those who haven’t, whatever their proficiency in the language, making such a question particularly unfair,” she said.
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27 August 2010 (MEITS)
Since the 1960s, the implementation of primary languages learning in England has been subject to a number of false starts and has tended to be localised, vulnerable to change and variable in quality (Burstall 1974; Wade and Marshall 2009; Cable et al. 2010). For the first time in the history of language learning, the review of the National Curriculum in 2012 set out to include the teaching of a foreign language to children aged 7 to 11 as a statutory requirement. The new foreign language programme of study (2013) stipulated that children should make substantial progress in one language, either a modern language or an ancient language such as Latin or Greek. The choice of which language to teach was left to individual schools.
21 August 2019 (British Academy)
As nationwide GCSE results are published, the British Academy today responds to the modest rise in students choosing to study a language in England.
A rise of 4% in entries for language GCSEs has been driven by growth in French and Spanish, although in entries in German continue to decline.
The British Academy highlights these positive signs in language take-up, but cautions that there is still a long way to go to turn around the long-term decline in language-learning in the UK, noting that 10% fewer pupils took a language GCSE in England this year than in 2014.
The fall in language GCSEs has knock-on effects for take-up at A level, which declined 5% in 2019 compared to last year, and subsequently affects the provision of modern languages in higher education, where at least 10 language departments have closed in the last decade.
While French and Spanish GCSE saw increases in entry numbers, rates of entry for other language GCSEs continued to show a small decline, suggesting that more pupils could be encouraged to take exams in languages that are a vital part of the vibrant multilingual heritage of Britain such as Polish, Arabic and Urdu.
15 August 2019 (TES)
Spanish has overtaken French as the most popular modern foreign language at A level for the first time, figures show.
A total of 8,625 candidates were entered for Spanish A level this year, compared with 8,355 entries in French. In Spanish, the number of entries increased by 4.5 per cent compared with last year, while in French, the number of entries fell by 4.1 per cent.
The change could partly be due to higher numbers of specialist Spanish teachers. Data from the Teaching Regulation Agency’s annual report and accounts published in August showed that 1,365 Spanish-born teachers received QTS in 2018-19 compared with 46 French teachers.
The news backs up provisional A-level entry data from Ofqual released in May, which showed that while Spanish rose from 7,705 to 7,995, French fell slightly, from 7,945 to 7,680.
It also echoes predictions in a report by the British Council in December 2018 that Spanish would overtake French as the UK’s most popular language at A level.
(Note - subscription required to access the full article).
ALL comments on A-level results 2019 (ALL, 15 August 2019)
A-level results 2019 (Alcantra, 15 August 2019)
5 November 2018 (TES)
An extra 641 teacher trainees in modern foreign languages are needed to start work in schools by 2020, according to government forecasts.
But this is among “challenging targets” for teacher recruitment which the government will yet again fail to meet, training providers have said.
Figures released by the Department for Education show that the number of MFL trainees for postgraduate initial teacher training needed for 2019-20 is 2,241 – compared to 1,600 this year – in order to provide sufficient numbers of newly qualified teachers for the autumn of 2020.
This represents a 40 per cent increase in postgraduate ITT places for MFL compared to 2018-19.
But James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said the government had already failed for the last five years to meet recruitment targets for secondary schools and said this was another target which was unlikely to be met.
15 October 2018 (The Times)
Pupils who speak English fluently as a second language do better than native speakers throughout their whole time at school, according to a study.
The researchers found that bilingual children performed better than their monolingual classmates — and the national average — at the ages of five, seven, eleven and in GCSEs. Teenagers speaking English as a foreign language pulled ahead of native speakers in GCSEs for the first time this summer.
23 September 2018 (Schools Week)
The government is turning to university students in a bid to plug the falling number of GCSE pupils taking modern foreign languages.
19 September 2018 (TES)
A teaching union has questioned official figures showing that GCSE entries in modern foreign languages have increased for the first time in five years.
A “glimmer of hope” was offered to linguists on results day last month when it was revealed that there had been a 0.4 per cent increase in entries this year.
But the Association of School and College Leaders says this was probably due to some schools switching from iGCSEs (which no longer count in school performance tables) to the new reformed GCSE qualifications.
The ASCL says the number of iGCSE entries in England fell significantly, and that the statistics change when iGCSE and GCSE entries are combined.
Overall, the number of German entries fell by 3.5 per cent since last year, for example, and did not rise by 2 per cent as exam board GCSE entry figures show.
Similarly, the increase in Spanish entries was just 1.7 per cent when you include the drop in iGCSE entries, says the ASCL, and not the 4.4 per cent publicised this summer.
Lastly, the number of French candidates fell by 5.9 per cent, rather than the 2.9 per cent shown in just GCSE figures.
23 August 2018 (TES)
GCSE entries for modern foreign languages have increased for the first time in five years.
The small increase will give linguists hope that modern foreign languages (MFL) have turned the corner after four consecutive years of decline.
Today’s GCSE results show that total MFL entries across the UK rose from 298,066 in 2017 to 299,172 this year – a 0.4 per cent increase.
The increase is more impressive against the backdrop of a 2.7 per cent decline in the 16-year-old population – the age at which most pupils sit their GCSEs.
However, the overall increase in MFL entries masked varying fortunes for different subjects.
French, which continues to be the most popular language subject by a distance, saw its entries decline from 130,509 in 2017 to 126,750 this year – a 2.9 per cent fall.
German entries rose from 43,649 in 2017 to 44,535 this year – an increase of 2 per cent. This was in marked contrast to A-level German, for which entries plummeted by 16.5 per cent this year.
In Spanish, GCSE entries rose by 4.4 per cent from 91,040 in 2017 to 95,080 this year.
Chinese – which is now the third biggest language subject at A-level – saw its GCSE entries rise.
GCSE entries in Mandarin increased by 7.5 per cent from 4,104 in 2017 to 4,410 this year. The subject is now the fifth most popular GCSE language, after Italian.
While total MFL entries rose in 2018, they have a long way to go to regain the ground that has been lost in recent years.
16 August 2018 (ITV)
A headmaster has called for the reintroduction of compulsory language classes in schools to prevent what he called the “worrying insularity” of society getting worse.
Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, said the “sorry decline” in the number of students studying languages is “damaging on so many levels” and that the Government needs a plan to reverse the problem.
His comments came as several of his students at the independent school in East Sussex achieved top marks in a range of languages at A-level, including Mandarin.
Experts have raised concerns because the number of students studying languages at state schools has dropped, and recent Press Association analysis of Ucas data revealed the number of applications for foreign language degrees plummeted in the last decade.
More students took A-level Chinese than German this year, according to data from the Joint Council for Qualifications released on Thursday, sparking fears that the European language is heading for extinction.
Mr Cairns said: “The sorry decline in numbers studying languages is damaging on so many levels but must be of particular concern to a Government that espouses a vision of Britain as open for business with the world.
“Compulsory language education needs to be reintroduced, with a national strategy emulating the success of those in the Netherlands or Scandinavia. Otherwise, the worrying insularity in our society will only deepen.
“Contrary to what seems to be happening nationally with pupils choosing not to study languages any more, we have seen a real interest in pursuing languages.
“Pupils can study French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Russian and Mandarin here. Back in 2006, we introduced Mandarin for our pupils from the age of four and the culture of language learning and its benefits are instilled early.”
16 August 2018 (The Guardian)
The proportion of students in England gaining C grades or above in A-levels fell back this year, driven by a relatively weaker performance among girls, as schools and students continue to grapple with the introduction of new, more intensive exams.
[..] Modern languages continued their baleful downward trend, with nearly 8% fewer entries in French, German and Spanish. More A-level students took Chinese this year than German.
Some new perspectives on the 2018 A level results: STEM gap remains but decline in foreign languages exaggerated (HEPI, 18 August 2018)
A-levels: Humanities decline 'sign of EBacc failure' (TES, 17 August 2018)
A-level results: foreign languages suffer further slump (The Guardian, 16 August 2018)
British Council comments on A Level languages 2018 (British Council, 16 August 2018)
Decline in humanities A levels affecting university entries, warns British Academy (British Academy, 16 August 2018)
A-level language decline raises danger of monolingual society (Association of School and College Leaders, 16 August 2018)
A-level results day 2018: Chinese overtakes German for first time (The Telegraph, 16 August 2018)
Chinese overtakes German as third most popular foreign language (The Guardian, 16 August 2018)
A-level results: Language entries down as Chinese overtakes German (TES, 16 August 2018)
A-level results: Pupils 'not put off by language difficulty' (TES, 16 August 2018)
A and AS level trends in modern languages 2002-2018 (UCML, 16 August 2018)
The arts teach us how to express ourselves – and give us freedom to fail (The Guardian, 16 August 2018)
Teenagers turn backs on A-level French and German (The Times, 15 August 2018) Note - subscription required to read full article)
A-level French, German and music in danger of disappearing from classrooms, heads warn (iNews, 15 August 2018)
7 August 2018 (TES)
An expanding academy chain plans to teach Mandarin to thousands of pupils across its schools, to prepare them for life in post-Brexit Britain.
The Co-op Academies Trust will offer Mandarin Chinese to more than 10,000 students.
The trust, which runs schools in Greater Manchester, Leeds and Stoke-on-Trent, is working with the Swire Chinese Language Foundation, which supports the training of specialist Mandarin Chinese teachers.
(Subscription required to read full article)
3 August 2018 (Good Morning Britain)
The government has announced plans to improve teaching to boost the number of students opting to take foreign languages at GCSE level. Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, believes that learning an extra language is good for young people for traveling and opens more opportunities within the workplace.
See the video interview broadcast on Good Morning Britain.
2 August 2018 (ITV)
A GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) could be introduced in this parliament after the government backed down on a decision to delay it.
Deaf schoolboy Daniel Jillings, 12, is campaigning for the new exam in time for his GCSEs, and his family launched a legal challenge to get one instated as quickly as possible.
The Department for Education had previously said no new GCSEs would be introduced in this parliament, but following submissions from the family’s lawyers it said it may consider making an “exception”.
Daniel’s family’s lawyers argue the lack of a GCSE in BSL may be “discriminatory and unlawful”.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said on Wednesday: “We will consider any proposals put forward for a GCSE in British Sign Language.
“As we have made clear previously, any new GCSE would need to meet the rigorous standards set by both the Department and Ofqual.
“If these expectations are met and a British Sign Language GCSE is ready to be introduced, we will then consider whether to make an exception to our general rule that there should be no new GCSEs in this parliament.”
6 July 2018 (TES)
A 12-year-old deaf boy is at the heart of a planned legal battle to challenge the government’s "discriminatory" decision to delay the introduction of a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL).
Daniel Jillings, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, uses BSL as his first language and is concerned that there will be no qualification in place related to signing when he takes his exams in a few years’ time.
28 June 2018 (CIOL)
Set in the culturally diverse Crumpsall/Cheetham Hill area of Manchester, Abraham Moss Community School is one of very few schools in northwest England to operate a formal programme that identifies bilingual pupils and offers them basic training in the skills required to act as language mediators within the school environment.
More that 60 languages are spoken at Abraham Moss, which began the programme five years ago with a group of just eight pupils in Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16). Since then it has blossomed into an impressive ‘language army’ – nearly 40-strong – of ‘young interpreters’ aged 12-16, who cover languages as diverse as Arabic, Chinese, Hungarian, Italian, Pashtun, Polish, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu.
27 June 2018 (The Guardian)
Spanish is expected to overtake French as the main foreign language studied in classrooms in England in the next few years, and experts say German could face extinction from school timetables.
A report by the British Council says that although the study of languages continues to decline, Spanish is bucking the trend, with entries up in both GCSEs and A-levels.
27 June 2018 (BBC)
Children from poorer backgrounds in England are increasingly likely to miss out on learning a foreign language, suggests a report.
Some teachers blame new tougher GCSEs for putting lower ability pupils off language learning.
There is also a perception that languages are less important since the vote to leave the European Union, says the British Council study.
The government says its reforms are boosting modern languages in schools.
The Language Trends Survey has published an annual report since 2002 when more than three-quarters of pupils (76%) took a modern language GCSE.
By 2011, only 40% of pupils took a language at GCSE.
The subject has recovered in recent years - in 2016 almost half of 16-year-olds took a language GCSE - but this figure fell to 47% last year.
There has been a similar long-term decline at A-level.
8 June 2018 (TES)
Applies to England
If you’re a modern foreign languages (MFL) teacher, you’re probably already familiar with the horror stories about your subject: more and more schools are cutting MFL at GCSE and A level, while fewer students are expressing interest in learning them.
Despite plans to increase the teaching of Mandarin in schools, European languages have sustained some heavy losses, German faring the worst with a 38 per cent fall in GCSE student entries since 2010.
Meanwhile, the German school system is efficient at producing confident English speakers, with an EU study claiming that 56 per cent of Germans can speak English "well enough to have a conversation", and it is rare to meet a recent high school graduate from Germany without near-fluent English skills.
So, why the gaping divide?
11 October 2017 (TES)
It is unnecessary to shorten key stage 3 to make more time for GCSEs, Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Ofsted, has said.
An investigation by the schools watchdog has found that schools are often shortening KS3, which means “some pupils never study history, geography or a language after the age of 12 or 13”.
The intensity of exam preparation is getting in the way of pupils receiving the subject knowledge they need, the watchdog has said.
11 September 2017 (TES)
Applies to England
MFL entries at A level are still falling, but there is hope on the horizon if schools seize the initiative, says this assistant headteacher.
It seems to have become a scheduled event in the modern languages’ calendar to lament the ever-depressing fate of uptake of the subject at A level. Reformed specifications have made the gap between GCSE and A level even wider, fuelling the notion that A-level languages are for native speakers only.
Yet more depressing: A-level MFL provision has almost disappeared in the North East, accounting for only 3% of all entries. University language departments are on the brink of closure and revised visa requirements for EU nationals could result in further exacerbation of an already difficult recruitment market. The death knell of routine A-level MFL provision in all schools is deafening.
And yet – whisper it softly – the stars of a more illustrious future for modern languages may be coming into alignment. The reformed specifications are a vast improvement on their predecessors, with film, literature, history and politics at their core, making for exciting and engaging courses.
25 August 2017 (TES)
How do you encourage lower-ability students to stick with learning a new language? By offering them the chance to take the subject at GCSE … a whole two years early. The results speak for themselves, says Eva Vicente.
Learning languages didn’t come easy to Jack when he first joined secondary school. Ordinarily, he would have dropped the subject when he was choosing which GCSEs to study at key stage 4. So imagine his delight that he’d already notched up a Spanish GCSE by the end of Year 9, two years before his more proficient friends would have the opportunity to do the same.
His impressive achievement was made possible by the unconventional system we have implemented at Rushcliffe School, which allows struggling pupils the chance to study for their Spanish GCSE in Years 8 and 9. Asking teenagers to sit what is supposed to be one of the hardest GCSE subjects two years early may seem a little crazy – even more so when you consider the pupils in question are the ones who are struggling the most with the subject – but there is method in our madness.
Britain is at the back of the queue in terms of language skills. Why? Because children here don’t study languages as early, as often or for as long as those in other countries. Despite endless changes in policy, the UK simply does not invest in language learning.
But at Rushcliffe we don’t buy into the idea that learning a language is only for a handful of very academic students who are able to leap over the education system’s barriers – delayed exposure to learning languages and limited timetable allocation. We decided to turn things around and commit to ensuring that as many students as possible get a language qualification, without it impacting on their GCSE choices at key stage 4. So how does it work?
24 August 2017 (The Telegraph)
The number of students taking modern foreign languages has plummeted because British children are have become reliant on English translations and tools like “Google Translate,” academics have warned.
Figures published on Thursday by the Joint Qualifications Council (JCQ) show that the number of entries for modern foreign languages has fallen by more than 7 per cent per cent overall, with the number of French exams falling by a tenth and German by 13.2 per cent.
Similar declines were recorded in last week's A-level results, whilst the number of British students taking languages has almost halved over the last two decades.
24 August 2017 (British Academy)
The British Academy has warned that the English Baccalaureate is failing to halt the decline in young people studying languages at GCSE.
The number of students taking GCSEs, A-levels and university degrees in languages has been falling steadily for many years, due in part to the government’s unfortunate decision in 2004 to make languages optional at Key Stage 4.
The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) recognises pupils who pass five core academic subjects at GCSE, including a modern or ancient language. It was hoped that the EBacc would reverse the decline in language-learning, but this year’s data suggests that the initial positive effect appears to be wearing off.
The fall in students choosing languages at GCSE in 2017 is particularly evident in European languages: entries for German are down by 12%, French by 10% and Spanish by 3%, compared to last year.
The British Academy is deeply concerned that this year’s decline will further erode the numbers of young people studying languages to a higher level, with knock-on effects for the UK as a whole.
17 August 2017 (TES)
Heads' union warns of the consequences of a drop in entries for creative subjects and languages, as the number of students sitting music plummets by 9.4 per cent.
A decline in A-level entries for music, drama, French and German is "making a mockery of the government's claim to be promoting social mobility", a heads' union has said.
The Association of School and College Leaders said that schools are having to cut courses in these subjects because the relatively small number of candidates signing up to them means they are no longer financially viable.
The number of A-level entries in England dropped by 1.2 per cent in French compared with last year, 4.2 per cent in German, 4 per cent in drama and by 9.4 per cent in music, according to figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications.
The ASCL said schools cutting back on these subjects was a reflection of "severe budget pressures" on post-16 education, which has experienced a real-terms cut since 2010.
Given the 42 per cent drop in AS-level entries after they were "decoupled" from A levels, ASCL said it was concerned about a narrowing of the curriculum, which was "reducing student choice".
17 August 2017 (The Guardian)
The proportion of top marks awarded at A-level has risen overall for the first time in six years and boys did better than girls at gaining A and A* grades.
The published national results of 2017’s exams show that in the bulk of subjects the proportion of A and A* grades awarded went up to 26.3%, a rise of half a percentage point compared with 2016.
[..] As expected, there were sizeable increases in the top grades awarded to students taking modern foreign languages, with A and A*s rising by 2.5% in Spanish and 1.8% in German and 1.7% in French – after years of complaints that the exams were graded too harshly.
The improved performance came after the exam regulator in England, Ofqual, adjusted the proportion of top grades awarded to candidates, following research showing that native speakers taking the subjects had skewed the results.
17 August 2017 (The Telegraph)
Changes to A-level language subjects to prevent non-native speakers from being penalised has led to a surge in top grades, figures published today suggest.
The proportion of A grades awarded in French, German and Spanish entries increased this year, after the exams regulator Ofqual asked exam boards to lower the grade boundaries.
Publication of the new guidance has seen the number of A grades awarded in French rise to 39 per cent, up from 37.3 per cent, whilst top grades in German has risen by 1.8 per cent.
The changes, outlined in a letter circulated among headteachers by Ofqual earlier this summer, said: "We have recently published research on the effect of native speakers in A-level French, German and Spanish.
"The evidence is not conclusive, but it does suggest that the proportion of native speakers taking these qualifications may have increased in recent years, as the overall entry has declined.
"Informed by this research, we believe there is a case for making a small upward adjustment to the predictions used to set grade A, and we will implement this for the summer 2017 A-levels."
The changes, outlined in a letter circulated among headteachers by Ofqual earlier this summer, said: "We have recently published research on the effect of native speakers in A-level French, German and Spanish.
"The evidence is not conclusive, but it does suggest that the proportion of native speakers taking these qualifications may have increased in recent years, as the overall entry has declined.
"Informed by this research, we believe there is a case for making a small upward adjustment to the predictions used to set grade A, and we will implement this for the summer 2017 A-levels."
However, the increase in top grades has been overshadowed by continuing drop-off in students taking up in traditionally popular modern languages, with the exception of Spanish, which saw entries increase by 1.7 per cent.
International languages are also gaining in popularity, including Arabic, Chinese and Italian.
A-Level and AS results published by JCQ
(UCML, 17 August 2017) Overall, results show that entries for both Spanish and Other languages continue to grow (with an increase of 1.7 and 2% on last year's figures respectively). Article links to comprehensive data for all languages.
11 August 2017 (TES)
Move set to encourage take-up of subjects and create more language teachers.
The number of top grades awarded in modern foreign language A levels is likely to increase this summer, after a change brought in by Ofqual to help non-native speakers.
Exam boards have been asked to increase the proportion of students expected to achieve a grade A and above by one percentage point for French, German and Spanish A levels.
The exam regulator decided to intervene after carrying out research that showed native speakers were far more likely to achieve A* or A grades than non-native speakers.
If the ability of this year’s cohort is consistent with previous years, the uplift will be applied to the three A-level subjects.
However, relatively few candidates look set to benefit: a Tes analysis of last year’s A-level results suggests that an adjustment last summer would have resulted in around 200 extra A and A* grades being awarded.
The move from Ofqual has been widely welcomed across the sector, but headteacher organisations argue that it should not be the last word in solving what they see as a long-standing problem.
8 August 2017 (The Guardian)
(Applies to England)
Come through the main doors at Gateacre school in Liverpool, into an atrium with furniture in bright colours; on your right there’s a drama studio. On the door someone has put up a notice: “More than 9,994 students studying at Russell Group universities since 2012 have an A-level in drama and theatre.”
Gateacre still offers A-levels and GCSEs in drama and other creative subjects, despite having had to make some tough decisions about the curriculum. But across England, secondary pupils are finding themselves with fewer and fewer subject options, and teachers in the arts are feeling the pressure.
The government’s Ebacc accountability measure, which judges secondary schools according to the proportion of pupils gaining good GCSE grades in English, maths, sciences, a language and geography or history, has taken the brunt of the blame. Researchers from the University of Sussex who interviewed 650 state school teachers found two-thirds felt the Ebacc was responsible for fewer students taking GCSE music in their schools, for instance.
2 August 2017 (MEITS blog)
Increasing motivation for language learning in UK schools and encouraging children to maintain their languages study past the point at which they have the chance to stop is an ongoing challenge. One important question here is: to what extent are success and motivation linked to the particular language pupils study?
The myth of the monolingual Brit, who refuses to speak foreign languages, has been supplemented in recent years by the narrative that we are not only unwilling, but also unable to speak foreign languages. For example, the 2012 European Survey on Language Competences, which sought to provide comparable data on standards of achievement in 15-year old learners across 16 participating countries, showed pupils in England languishing at the bottom of the table, where the learning of the first foreign language (French) was concerned.
The figures, however, tell a slightly different story when we consider the learning of the second foreign language. For example, Sweden, which had topped the charts for English proficiency, languished at the bottom when it came to the learning of the second foreign language (Spanish); learners in English secondary schools who were studying German as a second language did better.
Leaving aside the difficulty of providing robust data from such surveys, this study provides support for the idea that the language learned really does matter. Motivation for English learning is so strong in most parts of the world that for many learners it is now a life skill as much as a foreign language. Motivation for studying the second and third foreign languages, however, can be as difficult to achieve in other parts of the world as it is for the first in our own setting.
In Europe and the rest of the world English’s position as the foreign language of choice remains unassailable. For example, the 2017 Eurodice Report, which provides key data on teaching languages at school in Europe, reports that in 2014 virtually all EU students (97.3 %) studied English during the entire period of lower secondary education. After that came French (33.7 %), German (23.1 %) and Spanish (19.1 %), with other languages rarely studied.
The question of which language should we teach our learners in England remains a source of debate.
15 July 2017 (The Independent)
The government is to spend up to £10m recruiting foreign teachers to fill shortages in maths, physics and languages roles.
The multi-million pound sum, to be funded by the taxpayer, will be spent on finding and training 600 new teachers, potentially equating to a cost of more than £16,000 per teacher.
The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) have published a tender outlining plans to recruit the teachers over three years, with the first intake beginning in September 2018.
Last week it was revealed that a quarter of teachers who qualified since 2011 have left the job.
10 July 2017 (The Conversation)
The British have a reputation (rightly or wrongly) for struggling to learn foreign languages. A recent survey showed, for example, that 62% of the population can’t speak any other language apart from English.
Part of the issue is that language learning in schools faces huge challenges. GCSE uptake remains stuck at around 50% and the number of students taking an A-level in a language has declined by about a third since 1996. And the latest Language Trends Survey, which looks at uptake of language learning in England, makes for worrying reading.
21 June 2017 (Sec Ed)
The recruitment of more suitably qualified languages teachers is “likely to become more critical” because of the need to increase up-take at GCSE.
The annual Languages Trends report warns that schools are finding it “challenging” to recruit language teachers who are able to offer two languages to GCSE and A level standard.
The report states: “This difficulty most affects lower-attaining schools and those working in more disadvantaged circumstances.” Language GCSEs form part of the EBacc and Progress 8 accountability measures and as such schools are incentivised to increase uptake.
However, recruitment has proved challenging for some schools, including for language positions.
Recent research by the NFER has shown that schools are seeing particularly high leaving rates for teachers of maths, science and languages. The recruitment target for trainee language teachers was also missed this year, according to Department for Education figures published in November.
Meanwhile, figures released by Ofqual this week (see story above) show that entries for GCSE languages this year are down on 2016. This includes:
French (Down from 135,200 to 121,800).
German (Down from 48,000 to 42,050).
Spanish (Down from 88,150 to 85,500).
Other MFL (Down from 33,900 to 33,000).
However, the Languages Trends report, which is published by the British Council, says that 38 per cent of state schools plan to increase language GCSE entries year-on-year.
16 June 2017 (British Council)
The language learning gap between the North and South of England is widening, according to a new report from the British Council.
Analysis of examination statistics in the Language Trends Survey 2017 – now in its fifteenth year – highlights that in summer 2016, 65 per cent of pupils in Inner London took a language GCSE compared to just 43 per cent in the North East. More than that, participation rates over the last three years indicate that London is the only part of the country where the percentage of pupils taking languages to GCSE is currently increasing.
7 June 2017 (The Telegraph)
There are just two classrooms at Kensington Wade, a shiny new independent prep school opening in west London in September, and at a glance, they look the same. Colourful charts cover the walls, storybooks line the shelves, the odd toy lies around. Peer a little closer, however, and a certain difference becomes clear.
“There isn’t a word of English in here,” the headmistress, Jo Wallace, says as we pause in one of them. It’s true – the charts contain only Chinese symbols, the books are in Mandarin, and laid out are traditional oriental fans, scrolls and artwork. Even the school’s world map, which might normally have Europe at the centre of the picture, instead shows gives Asia and the Pacific the limelight.
“That’s what we mean by this being totally immersive learning,” Wallace says, “the children will switch as soon as they’re in here, and that’s how they’ll begin to think in two ways.”
21 April 2017 (UK Government)
Ofqual has today (21 April 2017) announced that it will take action this summer to ensure standards are set appropriately in A level French, German and Spanish.
The decision stems from new research, published by the regulator today, which suggests that awarding should take into account the fact that native language speakers take these subjects. The adjustment to grade standards will be decided in early summer. If the ability of the cohorts is similar to previous years we would anticipate small increases in the proportion of students getting top grades in each subject this August.
21 April 2017 (The Guardian)
For years the British stereotype of Germans has been that they get the best of everything, from sun-loungers to football trophies – and now it seems they have been achieving the best A-level grades.
Research published by the exam regulator Ofqual has found that German-speaking children in the UK have been sitting A-level exams in their native language – and winning a disproportionate amount of A and A* grades on offer.
The Ofqual research estimated that about 17% of the students taking German A-levels in Britain may be native speakers, and gained about half of the top A* grades on offer – making it harder for non-native speakers sitting the exam.
The new research is good news for pupils taking this summer’s A-levels, with Ofqual suggesting it could increase the number of top grades it hands out, to ensure a level playing field between grades awarded in modern foreign languages and other subjects.
“If the ability of the cohorts is similar to previous years we would anticipate small increases in the proportion of students getting top grades in each subject this August,” Ofqual said in a statement.
The researchers found similar results in French and Spanish, with native speakers gaining higher than average GCSE scores. In Spanish, native speakers are almost 10 times more likely to achieve a grade A or A* than non-native speakers. Native-speaking Germans are 28 times more likely to achieve a grade A, and 11 times more likely to get an A*.
The research comes after complaints from leading schools that modern foreign languages are graded less generously than other subjects. But until now there has been no effort to account for native speakers as exam candidates.
23 February 2017 (British Council)
Are you passionate about French, German or Spanish? If so, you could receive a languages scholarship of £27,500 to train as a secondary school teacher in England.
Visit the British Council website for more information and to apply by 31 July 2017.
1 December 2016 (TES)
Report also warns that secondary heads do not realise that the primary curriculum has changed and still think that pupils' progress is measured in levels
The emphasis on reading, writing, spelling and grammar at primary school risks narrowing the curriculum, today's Ofsted annual report states.
This means that subjects such as science and modern foreign languages can suffer as a result.
The report says: “The underlying importance of literacy means that reading, writing, spelling and grammar remain of the utmost importance in the primary curriculum.
“However, this clear emphasis, which has been embraced successfully by the vast majority of primary schools, can create a risk that the curriculum becomes narrowed.”
Evidence from inspections shows that science and foreign languages end up suffering, because not enough time is available for in-depth study, the report stated.
Foreign languages were particularly affected. None of the primary schools inspected this year spent more than two hours a week on language study. The majority – more than two thirds – spent less than an hour on foreign languages.
1 December 2016 (The Guardian)
What languages should we teach children in schools, and why? The question came to the fore on Monday after the Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło, called on Theresa May to introduce Polish classes in British schools.
With 831,000 Poles living in Britain – they make up the largest immigrant group in the UK – introducing the language certainly could help communities feel more integrated.
Traditionally in secondary schools in the UK, the most widely taught languages have been French, Spanish and German, according to data from the British Council in collected from 2013 to 2014. In 2010 the government also decided to train 1,000 Mandarin teachers to work in secondary schools in England thanks to China’s increasing influence on the global economy.
How should we select languages for the curriculum? Should we choose those that are spoken the most in Britain? What languages have been most helpful to you? We asked our readers these questions and this is what they said.
23 November 2016 (SecEd)
Modern foreign languages are “at risk” and face becoming the domain of “certain types of school and certain sections of the pupil population”.
The warning has come from Ian Bauckham, chair of the Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review, which published its report into MFL teaching at key stages 3 and 4 this week.
The Teaching Schools Council, which set-up the Review, is now encouraging schools to use the findings, alongside related evaluation documentation, to review and improve their MFL provision.
18 November 2016 (TES)
Foreign language teachers should teach more commonly used words and conversational subject matter to engage pupils in their subjects, a report published today recommends.
The Teaching Schools Council argues that such changes would help more students persist in studying foreign languages, which the research described as being in “crisis” beyond GCSE.
The council's Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review report points out that fewer than half of pupils take a GCSE in a language. It recommends that the "vast majority of young people" should study a modern foreign language up to age 16 and take a GCSE in it.
The report, designed to provide advice for secondary school languages teachers, suggests some language teaching uses vocabulary that is too specialised because it sticks with set themes, such as "free-time activities" and the "environment".
4 November 2016 (TESS)
Although archaeology is going to be withdrawn as an A-level option, there are other subjects that attract far fewer students.
[..] In Scotland, the lowest number of entries for a subject at Higher was for Gaelic as a foreign language, with 84, while 92 students took Urdu.
The full list of lowest entry A Levels / Highers is available in TESS online, 4 November 2016 (subscription required).
27 October 2016 (BBC News)
Funding pressures mean pupils at sixth-form colleges in England must choose from an increasingly narrow range of A-level subjects, a study has found.
The Sixth Form Colleges Association's annual survey suggests two-thirds of colleges have had to drop courses.
[..] Over a third of colleges (39%) have dropped courses in modern foreign languages...
4 October 2016 (AOL)
Harsh grading is resulting in a decline in the number of students sitting modern foreign languages, with native speakers performing less well than those whose mother tongue is English, it has been claimed.
Independent school headteachers said students sitting Spanish, French and German from GCSE through to A-level had been marked more heavily for the last decade, compared with other subjects.
Members of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) said poor exam results were "sapping (students') confidence", while entries in A-level Spanish, German and French are all down on the previous year, by 2.7%, 4.2% and 6.4%, respectively.
James Priory, headteacher at Portsmouth Grammar School, said: "We have seen unpredictable language results this year. A number of students predicted B grades, for instance, have received grades below expectation, with the result that they are no longer set on studying languages at university.
28 September 2016 (TES)
21st-century pupils need a core of academic subjects supplemented by technical and creative skills, argues the former Conservative education secretary.
The current English Baccalaureate (EBacc) will not fulfil the Prime Minister’s vision for social mobility and will not equip our children with the skills they need in the 21st-century economy. There is a correlation between affluence and academic success. I wish it were not so but wishful thinking will not solve the problems of deprivation and nor will the EBacc.
The current EBacc includes a narrow set of academic GCSEs – two English, maths, two sciences (with computer science not included), a modern foreign language and a humanity (either history or geography). Seven subjects, with many schools doing a third science bringing the total to eight. On average, students are entered for 8.1 GCSEs leaving very limited space for anything other than this narrow academic diet. Ironically, students with low attainment – the very group likely to be disengaged by a purely academic curriculum – are typically entered for 6.9 exams, so the narrow EBacc would become their entire focus. What works for children in the most privileged schools will not work for everyone.
[..] Today I am publishing a proposal for a new Baccalaureate, which consists of English, maths, two sciences (one of which could be computer science), a humanity (history or geography or a foreign language), a technical subject, such as design and technology or a BTEC, and a creative option such as a GCSE in art, design, music, dance or drama.
So a foreign language would no longer be a compulsory GCSE subject, enabling those who want to study a language to continue, but not forcing hundreds of thousands of others to do so.
7 September 2016 (UK Government)
A new £10 million Mandarin excellence programme will see at least 5,000 young people on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.
Hundreds of secondary school pupils in England have already begun intensive lessons in Mandarin Chinese as the first initiative of its kind is rolled out across the country.
Secondary school pupils will study Mandarin for 8 hours a week over the course of the next 4 years through the programme - a significant increase on the time pupils currently spend on the subject.
Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, and is seen as important for young people in the UK to master in order for the country to remain globally competitive in the future.
30 August 2016 (TES)
Some schools say they are still struggling to make sense of their pupils’ grades in this year’s modern foreign languages A levels, despite reforms designed to improve the accuracy of grading, leading independent schools have warned.
Reforms introduced by exams regulator Ofqual this year have resulted in a significant increase in the proportion of A* grades awarded in French, German and Spanish, after years of complaints from schools that excessively harsh grading was deterring pupils from studying languages.
This year, the proportion of students receiving A* grades rose by 0.7 percentage points in French, 1.3 percentage points in German and 0.3 percentage points in Spanish.
But research for the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and the Independent Schools' Modern Languages Association (ISMLA) found some schools still did not believe pupils’ grades in the subjects were a fair reflection of their ability.
They said that pupils who had performed well throughout the year were scoring lower-than-expected grades while lower-performing pupils did well.
25 August 2016 (TES)
The number of pupils taking GCSEs in computing rose by 76 per cent this year, in the wake of the government’s decision to count it towards the crucial Progress 8 accountability measure.
[..] Meanwhile, languages entries are declining despite the government’s decision to include modern foreign languages in the EBacc performance measure. Entries in Spanish rose slightly but those in French fell by 8.1 per cent.
GCSE results day 2016: Girls' grades predicted to be 'a long way ahead' of boys (The Independent, 25 August 2016)
GCSEs 2016 - a user's guide (BBC News, 25 August 2016)
What subjects did students do best and worst in on GCSE Results Day? (The Telegraph, 25 August 2016)
GCSE results: Why have grades dropped? (TES, 25 August 2016) - item contains graphic on languages decline.
GCSE results 2016: German (Schools Week, 25 August 2016) - German GCSE results for 2016 compared to previous years.
18 August 2016 (BBC News)
A sharp decline in entries to modern foreign language A-levels has been blamed by head teachers on severe funding pressures.
Entries to A-levels in French have dropped by 6.4% from last year, in German by 4.2% and in Spanish by 2.7%.
Malcolm Trobe of the ASCL heads' union said schools and colleges were finding it hard to run courses with small pupil numbers, due to funding shortages.
The government replied that it had been encouraging pupils to take languages.
This is mainly through the English Baccalaureate - the wrap-around qualification which requires pupils to sit a range of certain GCSES including a language.
A level results 2016: Which subjects did students do the best and worst in? (The Telegraph, 18 August 2016) - despite a decline in numbers taking foreign languages, more than a third of students taking German and French achieved an A or A* this year.
A-level results: Squeezed budgets cutting AS-level choice and language entries, heads warn (TES, 18 August 2016)
Pupils shun English and physics A-levels as numbers with highest grades fall (The Guardian, 19 August 2016) [..] But it was the steep decline in entries for French, down by 6.5% on the year, as well as German and Spanish, that set off alarm bells over the poor state of language teaching and take-up in Britain’s schools.
A-level results show that standards remain high, but languages are a cause for concern (The Independent, 18 August 2016)
Number of pupils taking languages at record low (The Times, 19 August 2016)
ALL Statement on A Level results 2016 (ALL, 18 August 2016)
British Academy responds to A-Level results (British Academy, 18 August 2016)
University language departments 'at risk' as recruitment slumps (THE, 19 August 2016)
31 July 2016 (TES)
Teaching and learning languages needs to be taken seriously, says one French teacher.
Did foreign language teaching become a statutory part of the primary curriculum back in 2014, or was that just my imagination?
Because, as we reach the end of another school year, I find myself thoroughly disappointed – and here’s why.
Having learned no more French than she did at nursery, my 10-year-old daughter has tried to use her role within the school council to campaign for better French lessons at her school, not just because she is passionate about learning languages, but because all her friends are, too.
“We only get 15 minutes,” they exclaim.
I know that, of course, for many primary schools, language teaching becoming compulsory at key stage 1 and 2 means nothing more than business as usual and many children are benefitting from well structured, fun and engaging lessons.
However, I also know that I am not the only one to be experiencing exasperation at the inadequate and quite often inaccurate provision of modern foreign languages in UK primary schools.
27 July 2016 (Schools Week)
The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, wants 90% of 16-year-olds to take a foreign language GCSE.
In a recent House of Commons debate on the EBacc, he said this is necessary because “some 77% of employers say that they need more employees with foreign languages”. I take the figure with a pinch of salt, because this would mean over 3.8 million employers are clamouring for better language skills – frankly, I don’t believe it.
Nevertheless, I am instinctively in favour of languages for all. I did French O-level at school and scraped a pass. I learned French properly when I had the chance to live and work in Paris, and became a convert to the cause.
However, I’m emphatically not in favour of Nick Gibb’s crude target.
10 June 2016 (The Telegraph)
Native speakers of foreign languages could be putting others at a disadvantage when taking A-levels, it has emerged, as the exams regulator launched an investigation into the issue.
It is understood that a larger number of pupils who speak French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian as their native language are taking A-levels in those subjects.
Some claim this is leaving those who study them as a second language at a disadvantage.
And now Ofqual has requested details on the number of native speakers who are taking this subjects, the Times Educational Supplement reported.
In a letter to schools, Ofqual said it would use the information to determine “whether any action needs to be taken”.
24 May 2016 (They Work for You)
Question put by Baroness Coussins in the House of Lords to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the announcement by OCR that they are to discontinue GCSE and A-level examinations in French, German and Spanish.
See the transcript of the debate on the website.
24 May 2016 (TES)
The University of Cambridge is calling for a major rethink of the government’s approach to language learning, arguing that it should not be the responsibility of the Department for Education alone.
A report from the university, published today, says the UK is struggling with a “skills deficit” on foreign languages that has “wide-reaching economic, political and military effects”. The university is calling for “urgent action” from the whole of government to tackle the issue.
The publication follows TES' report last week that the OCR exam board, which is owned by the university, was to stop providing GCSEs and A levels in French, Spanish and German.
19 May 2016 (BBC News)
Applies to England
Pupils are leaving primary school unprepared for the rigours of science and foreign languages at secondary level, Ofsted's chief inspector says.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said the focus on the "three Rs" had pushed other compulsory subjects "to the margins of the curriculum" in primary schools.
16 May 2016 (TES)
Applies to England
The OCR exam board is to stop offering GCSEs and A levels in French, German and Spanish, TES can reveal. The awarding body, one of the three biggest in England, will withdraw from modern foreign languages (MFL) from September when reformed school exams in the subjects start to be taught.
OCR had put together proposed new GCSE and A levels in the langauge subjects but they have not been accredited by exams watchdog Ofqual for schools to start using from next term. Today the board said it had taken its decision to pull out of modern foreign languages "reluctantly" and to give teachers time "to make a considered choice about new qualifications for this September".
29 April 2016 (TESS)
TESS infographic on modern languages uptake in England and Scotland comparing 2012-13 and 2014-15 academic sessions.
Access the article in TESS online, 29 April 2016, page 11. (Subscription required).
22 April 2016 (UK Government)
Government action means GCSEs and A levels in a range of community languages such as Panjabi, Portuguese and Japanese are to continue to ensure young people can carry on studying a diverse range of foreign languages.
The news, announced today (22 April 2016) by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, marks a significant step for the government in its efforts to extend opportunity to young people and equip them with the skills they need in what is an increasingly global economy.
It follows a government commitment in 2015 to protect a number of language GCSEs and A levels after the exam boards announced that from 2017 they would be withdrawing several courses. In May 2015, the Secretary of State for Education wrote to the exam boards during the pre-election period to convey her concern about their decisions to stop offering GCSEs and A levels in certain languages.
22 April 2016 (Conservative Home)
As Education Secretary, and as a Conservative, I am passionate about making sure every child can access a great education. We have more pupils than ever before in good or outstanding schools, but I want to go further and make sure that every single child can fulfil their potential.
That commitment includes making sure that children study a range of core subjects, including foreign languages. The ability to speak and understand a foreign language isn’t just a skill that is valued by employers: it helps pupils understand different cultures and countries, broadening horizons and preparing them to succeed in an increasingly globalised world.
After all, one of Britain’s strengths is its rich and diverse society. Ensuring young people have the opportunity to study the widest range of languages is integral to that. I want every child to have that chance – regardless of their background, gender or race.
20 March 2016 (Schools Week)
Nearly 3,500 extra language teachers must be found to meet the government’s demand that modern foreign languages are included in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), an almost 40 per cent increase on the number first announced by data experts.
Every pupil who started year 7 last September is now expected to study English, maths, science, history or geography and a modern foreign language (MFL) until they are 16.
The government wants 90 per cent of pupils to sit these subjects. Currently, just 39 per cent do.
Last June, Schools Week revealed nearly 2,500 “missing” language teachers were needed to meet the government’s EBacc manifesto pledge.
The revised figure of 3,500 more staff was released by research body Education Datalab last Friday. It also revealed that an extra 15,000 classrooms are needed to cope with the bulge of pupils entering schools in the coming years.
16 March 2016 (SecEd)
The curriculum is hampering schools’ efforts to improve and develop the employability skills of their young people, argues Phil Crompton.
Everyone spends at least 11 years at school. That’s a long time. So surely it is not unreasonable to expect young people emerging from the education system to be ready to make a positive contribution to the working world?
I am not talking about examination results. They are just one indicator of someone’s capacity to be a great employee, or even an employer. I am talking about the skills that actually matter in the workplace.
Shouldn’t pupils in our schools be given the chance to develop skills in communicating with confidence, working in teams, bouncing back from failure, being polite, and organising themselves. And once they have developed the skills fully shouldn’t some recognition be available? Employers certainly think so. And so do I.
[..] At my three schools, we recognise the existing curriculum isn’t going away and that exams have to be passed, but we are working with local businesses to breathe life into some of the duller parts of the curriculum and to equip our pupils for working life.
Science classes are advising a housing company on how to promote their new eco-homes, German and French students are producing foreign language leaflets for visitors to a local hotel, computing students have worked with an IT firm to create mobile phone apps, A level students have been practising Spanish conversation at a city tapas bar, and a professional actress has worked with a drama class.
15 March 2016 (The Conversation)
The decline in the number of students of modern languages from GCSE to degree level is an annual lament. Only 10,328 pupils in the UK took French at A Level in 2015 and although Spanish enjoyed a rise in entries at A Level of 14%, German continued its steady decline.
As Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council, noted last year, the study of French and German at A Level has declined by more than 50% since 1999.
Similar patterns can be observed at GCSE where entries for French, for example, declined by 40% between 2005 and 2015. The rise in interest in Arabic and Portuguese has not offset the overall trend towards the marginalisation of language learning in Britain’s secondary schools, and most notably those in the state sector.
27 February 2016 (Eastern Daily Press)
Applies to England
We have seen a little surge in the past 20 years of hearing people wanting to learn British Sign Language, either to head down in the professional career track of deaf relations such as interpreting or communication support workers or just for casual use to communicate with a deaf friend.
10 February 2016 (Cambridge News)
A petition launched by a Cambridgeshire teacher to save the provision of languages teaching in schools is closing in on its target of 10,000 signatures.
Language teacher Jane Driver is calling on the Government not to cut funding for the Routes into Languages (RiL) organisation, which is due to stop in July.
Ms Driver, of Godmanchester, has said it is vital RiL continues to be funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and her petition has now been signed by 7,500 people.
She said: "Unlike other organisations, they [RiL] work together with schools and teachers to develop collaborative projects aimed at promoting language-learning at GCSE and beyond.
"The ability to speak another language is a skill that is in high-demand by UK businesses, who are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit UK residents with foreign language skills.
"We have a shortage of linguists – businesses are desperate for people with languages. It's not the right time for the government not to re-fund this project."
20 January 2016 (BBC News)
A Cornwall MP is campaigning to reinstate the Cornish language as a GCSE exam.
It was scrapped in 1996 because not enough pupils were taking it.
But Camborne and Redruth Tory George Eustice, who admitted he did not know any Cornish, said the time was right to bring it back.
Cornish is recognised as minority language by the EU and Cornwall Council is encouraging staff to use it when welcoming visitors.
15 January 2016 (TES)
New language GCSEs are at risk of being seen as too easy and too dull, universities have said, dubbing one draft exam question about grocery shopping as “Year 7 material”.
The reformed exams, which will be taught to Year 10 students from September, are being brought in as part of a government bid to make GCSEs more “rigorous”.
However, the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML), which represents departments at more than 100 universities, has written to exams watchdog Ofqual to warn that draft GCSE papers from exam boards suggest that they “may not be fully embracing the spirit of radical change proposed”.
Jocelyn Wyburd, chair of UCML and director of the University of Cambridge Language Centre, told TES: “Pupils complain that languages are boring and irrelevant, and the new GCSE is supposed to make them interesting. But I’ve heard from schools that are very worried that they won’t.”
She was particularly concerned about a French GCSE foundation paper. “The question was in English and it said, “You’re going to the shops, so write yourself a list of the items of fruit you’ve got to buy’,” she said. “Even for a foundation paper at GCSE, that’s ridiculous. It’s Year 7 material.”
13 January 2016 (Daily Mail)
School pupils studying rigorous subjects like foreign languages and maths at GCSE and A-level are being unfairly marked down with lower exam grades than those taking ‘softer’ subjects, the exams regulator has admitted.
Ofqual is now discussing a complete overhaul of the exam grading system to ensure pupils taking ‘tough’ academic subjects are not losing out when they start applying to university.
For the first time, the regulator’s chiefs have conceded that it is harder to get top grades in maths, science and modern foreign languages than it is in so-called ‘soft’ subjects like art.
13 December 2015 (TES)
Despite huge demand for employees who speak multiple languages (Baroness Jean Coussins, chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, stated in 2014 that the UK economy was losing up to £48 billion worth of contracts each year due to a lack of language skills among employees), fewer students are choosing to pursue MFL subjects at A-level or degree level. How can we turn this around?
The BFI suggests the key may be short films. Over the past two years, the charity has run the Screening Languages project, involving 19 schools, 27 teachers and about 800 students.
4 November 2015 (Parliament TV)
Baroness Coussins asks what steps the UK Government intends to take to reverse the shortfall of modern language teachers in light of the proposal to make the EBacc compulsory in England.
22 October 2015 (THE)
Further fears have been raised that language courses in the UK are becoming the preserve of the most selective universities after Northumbria University became the latest institution to draw back from provision.
Following a “languages review”, Northumbria announced last month that its “BA French and Spanish will be closed, there will be no further recruitment to this programme”.
A spokesman for the university told Times Higher Education that the move was one of various changes “to the way we deliver language learning” in response to “a fall in demand across the sector over the past 10 years”. Nevertheless, he added, the university “remain[ed] committed to the teaching of foreign languages”, for example through joint programmes and as part of its international business management degree.
The decision to close the French and Spanish BA went ahead despite a petition by alumni and interventions from embassies and academics across the world. The students’ union also strongly criticised plans to “abolish our only standalone foreign language programme”, which had “average[d] above 95 per cent over the past five years in the National Student Survey”.
19 October 2015 (The Telegraph)
Applies to England
In 2012, the Minister of Education announced that from September 2014 it would be compulsory for children aged 7 to 11 years to learn a foreign language.
This ambitious plan, a product of Michael Gove’s term in Office and endorsed by his successor as Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, was intended to close the gap between the British education system and school systems abroad, as well as the yawning gulf between state and independent schools in their language provision.
The rationale was, and is, self-evident, as Nicky Morgan explained:
"We want our young people to have the best possible start in life – that is why, as part of our plan for education, we want every child to learn a foreign language. It doesn’t just help them to understand different cultures and countries, it opens up the world."
7 October 2015 (The Telegraph)
Applies to England
German could face extinction in the classroom as renewed worries emerge over inconsistencies in grading following reforms that were meant to tackle the issue, leading head teachers have said.
The warning emerged as school leaders said they are even writing to admission offices at leading universities to let it be known that they no longer have confidence in the grading system, which is seeing some top students unable to achieve top grades.
They warned of a "crisis in modern foreign languages" - particularly German - as new figures show that inconsistencies in grading seemed to have become more pronounced than ever this year.
25 September 2015 (Japan Times)
Teachers in England are concerned the study of Japanese in their country could be severely undermined in light of plans to scrap one of the most important exams in the subject.
From 2017, education firm Pearson is planning to scrap A and A-S levels in Japanese, due to new requirements that the exam be redeveloped, although discussions are still ongoing with the Department for Education to find a way to save the qualification.
Over 3,500 people have signed a petition calling for the exam to be retained, arguing that removing the only qualification in Japanese for 16- to 18-year-olds is likely to reduce the incentive for younger students to take up the language in the first place.
22 September 2015 (BBC News)
Mandarin in English schools will get a £10m boost, and 5,000 more pupils will learn it by 2020, George Osborne has said on a visit to China.
The cash will be used to recruit and train teachers to teach the language to GCSE level, said the Chancellor in a speech to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
Mr Osborne suggested Mandarin would be more "relevant" than traditional options like French or German.
He revealed his daughter, Liberty, was already learning China's main language.
1 September 2015 (Ocado Group)
(Applies to England) The programming language Python has overtaken French as the most popular language taught in primary schools, according to a new survey released today.
Six out of 10 parents want their primary school age children to learn the coding language over French. While 75% of primary school children said they would rather learn how to programme a robot than learn the modern foreign language.
25 August 2015 (The Telegraph)
The day the A-level results came out, I was on a boat with several teenagers on Turkey’s ravishing Turquoise Coast. Some of the kids had done exceptionally well, while others were shellshocked, poor things. Managing those mixed emotions was a diplomatic minefield. Very hard to congratulate Child A – “Brilliant, Barney!” – while Child B is skulking miserably under a large beach towel. One of the boys on board was both embarrassed and baffled that he had got an E in AS French.
This wasn’t a case of a member of the Whatevvah generation moaning when he simply hadn’t done enough work. No, Jack’s rock-bottom French mark was startling because Jack’s mother is French and her son is fluent in the language. Jack (who got a A in maths, so he’s no slouch) speaks far better French than any of the adults on board the boat who got A in that subject at A-level, and is considerably better at French than his mate, Harry, who had managed a B.
“My mum doesn’t believe I got an E,” Jack said, indicating a stream of agitated texts from Maman back in the UK.
He admitted that he had not learned by rote the phrases and the topics you now need to pass AS French. Foolishly, he had assumed that being French meant he could pass French. Espèce d’idiot!
Off-hand, I find it hard to think of a better example of what’s wrong with our examination system.
20 August 2015 (The Guardian)
Fewer entries for GCSE French, German and Spanish, though grades for languages have improved.
Drop in take-up of foreign languages prompts concerns of UK's ability to trade globally (The Independent, 20 August 2015)
GCSE results: fall in numbers taking foreign languages 'a cause for concern' (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)
Why has there been a drop in students taking language GCSEs? Teachers' views (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)
GCSE results: Language entries drop for second year running (TES, 20 August 2015)
GCSE exam results: The top 10 best performing GCSEs of 2015 (The Independent, 20 August 2015) 'Other Modern Languages' in second place.
GCSE Results Day 2015 live: top grades drop for fourth year in a row following efforts to fight grade inflation (The Telegraph live blog, 20 August 2015) [..] 10.20 Figures from today reveal an overall drop in the number of entries to modern foreign language exams.
GCSE results 2015: pass rate rises but A* grades dip (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)
[..]Modern languages French, Spanish and German all saw falling entries, with the numbers taking German this year dropping by nearly 10%.
GCSE results remain stable but major concerns emerge over top grades in maths (TES, 20 August 2015) [..] The number of students taking language GCSEs fell for a -second consecutive year, despite the subjects being included in the government’s English Baccalaureate (Ebac) performance measure.
CBI responds to 2015 GCSE results (CBI, 20 August 2015) On languages, Ms. Hall said...
British Council comments on GCSE languages 2015 (British Council, 20 August 2015)
EBacc effect wearing off on GCSE languages (Alcantara Communications, 20 August 2015)
GCSE exam results for languages (UCML, 20 August 2015)
Speak to the Future calls for Head Teachers to implement the EBacc and support an outward-facing Britain with an outward-facing curriculum, which includes languages (Speak to the Future, 20 August 2015)
20 August 2015 (The Telegraph)
The number of migrants taking foreign language GCSEs in their native tongue is expected to be on the rise as traditional languages see further declines.
Entries for those taking languages such as Urdu, Polish or Mandarin are expected to increase slightly to around 32,000 today based on a growing push by parents and schools wanting to boost pupils’ performance.
Those taking these foreign languages are three times as likely to get an A* than those who study the traditional foreign languages, like French and German.
The other modern languages category at GCSE regularly has the highest A* percentage for any of the 48 GCSE subject categories – 35.8 per cent in 2014 and it is likely to be just as high this year.
This may indicate they are taken by those for whom they are the mother tongue, experts have said.
Those with some of the biggest increases in pupils sitting GCSE exams will include Portuguese, Arabic and Persian.
However, French and German are expected to see drops, in line with a continued decrease in popularity in recent years. The number of pupils taken French and German this year is expected to drop by around 6 per cent and 11 per cent respectively. And Spanish is expected to see the first drop in entries in roughly two decades.
14 August 2015 (TES)
The number of students getting into university this year may have reached a record high with the lifting of the cap on numbers, but the A-level results paint a picture of stability.
This comes as no surprise: the grading is determined in part by Ofqual's comparable outcomes approach. This means that if a cohort is broadly similar in terms of GCSE results to those who took A-levels last year (which they often will be), the A-level grade distribution should look similar unless an exam board can produce very convincing evidence that the standard has risen or fallen.
[...] The ongoing decline in the numbers taking French and German also comes as no surprise. Despite the increase in Spanish, overall the uptake of modern languages is dire. Shortage of funding for sixth-form colleges is driving them to cut small subjects and modern languages are gradually falling by the wayside at A-level. Nothing less than a national campaign can reverse the situation.
13 August 2015 (British Council)
The 2015 A-Level entry figures show low numbers of students taking language exams, with a 1% drop in the number of French exams and a 4.25% drop in German. Spanish is the exception with a 14% rise in entries.
Commenting on the figures, Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council, said:
"Despite languages being crucial for life and work in an increasingly connected world, A-Level entry figures remain disappointingly low for yet another year.”
13 August 2015 (The Guardian)
Bidisha: I had fabulous, inspirational Spanish A-level teachers – I feel intense regret about having let my language skills lapse.
I have the same dream every week. I’m the age I am now, in my thirties. I’m at school, in school uniform. I’m late for Spanish A-level but the numbers above the classroom doors are blurred and I can’t find the right one.
This nightmare reflects the intense regret I feel about letting my language skills lapse.
11 August 2015 (BBC News)
Sixth form colleges in England say they have had to cut the number of science and foreign language courses they offer, because of financial pressures.
[..] A-levels in modern languages have been cut in 28 colleges (over a third), while 17 (just under a quarter) reported cuts in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.
5 August 2015 (The Telegraph)
(Applies to England) The number of pupils taking tough subjects at GCSE and A-levels, like maths and science, rose this summer as students regard them as “very good currency” to get into elite universities, the exams regulator has said.
[..] Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: “The increase in the number of students taking facilitating subjects at A-level is welcome news. These subjects are required more often than others for degree courses at our universities.
[..]“We are concerned that a further fall in the number of students studying foreign languages at GCSE is concerning – languages are vitally important to the UK if it is to be fully engaged with the world.”
4 August 2015 (Day Nurseries UK)
According to British Council research, improving one’s employment prospects is the main driver for people overseas learning English, but many UK pupils are still experiencing a ‘minimal or fragmented’ second language learning because the UK still fails to recognise the many benefits of bilingualism.
In the day nursery sector, more and more providers are realising the need to focus on a bilingual upbringing, for the long-term advantages that learning a second language can have on intellect and life prospects, even though foreign language learning remains non-compulsory during the early years and most UK children will have no exposure to it until later education.
5 July 2015 (The Guardian)
(Applies to England)
Classics campaigners are in sight of saving A-level ancient Greek in what is thought to be the last non-selective state school in England to offer the subject in the sixth form.
Camden School for Girls in north London sparked an outcry from enthusiasts, including former pupils, in March when the governors confirmed they were considering axing the subject in the co-educational sixth-form from next term. They cited increased school costs and reduced government funding.
It seemed that the GCSE at the only local state school to offer the exam in the subject might be in peril too.
2 July 2015 (The Conversation)
(Applies to England) The government’s decision that all pupils will now have to study a language GCSE as part of the English Baccalureate (EBacc) could be the moment when languages are restored to their rightful esteem in England – but there is still work to be done to ensure that.
For those who have fought to promote languages in the long years since 2004, when they were made optional for children aged 14-16, the decision should start a welcome reversal of the situation in which fewer than 25% of pupils in some schools have been studying for a GCSE in a language.
16 June 2015 (The Guardian)
(Applies to England)
There's a fear that plans to include a modern foreign language in the Ebacc will be held back by a lack of suitable teachers.
2,000 more MFL teachers needed for EBacc
(Schools Week, 19 June 2015)
11 June 2015 (BBC News)
(Applies to England) All secondary school pupils in England will have to take GCSEs in five core academic subjects, under plans to be set out by Schools Minister Nick Gibb.
Mr Gibb will say he makes "no apology for expecting every child" to have a "high-quality education".
The Conservative manifesto pledged that all pupils would take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography.
Heads' leader Brian Lightman says it will be "challenging" for schools.
2 June 2015 (The Telegraph)
We really need to reverse the downward trend in language learning and recognise that languages aren’t a waste of time, says Mark Herbert.
'Parlez-vous English?' – a phrase more British school pupils will be uttering, not just in French but in all foreign languages, if recent evidence is anything to by.
The summer 2015 exam entries for England have just been released and, sadly, the picture isn’t a particularly pretty one for language fans.
Entries for modern languages have fallen for yet another year at both GCSE and A-level. While some increases in Level 1/2 Certificates, which test skills below GCSE level, may partly explain the decrease in GCSE uptake, the figures on the whole are largely disappointing. They are also, regrettably, nothing new.
29 May 2015 (TESS)
An experienced teacher at one of Scotland’s leading private schools could be forgiven for assuming that securing a top grade in an exam sat by students would be a walk in the park.
But Jeremy Morris, a veteran teacher of French and German at Fettes College in Edinburgh, has hit out at the exam marking system after learning the hard way that it is not.
Mr Morris (pictured, far right), whose school counts former UK prime minister Tony Blair among its alumni, took an A-level French paper alongside his students last year as an experiment.
22 May 2015 (TES)
Applies to England.
A couple of years ago, the director of the RSC sat the A2 English paper on Shakespeare. I think he scraped a B.
Many colleagues will have experienced the frustration and disappointment we feel when some of our brightest and best pupils fail to achieve their predicted grades. These poor results are seen by pupils, parents and senior management as failures, and have disastrous consequences for university applications, not to mention confidence in ourselves and the system.
8 May 2015 (TES)
(Applies to England) At number 6, Compulsory EBac - The Conservatives have pledged that all students should enter the English Baccalaureate at GCSE, stating that every Year 11 pupil should sit exams in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography.
13 April 2015 (Independent)
For decades GCSE language students have wearily committed to memory such vital vocabulary as “I eat a grapefruit every morning” in search of the skills to engage their French or German counterparts in sparkling conversation. But the era of “Je mange un pamplemousse tous les matins” is heading to the linguistic poubelle in favour of racier topics from tattoos to the Olympics as part of an effort to halt the dramatic slide in Britons learning a foreign tongue to 16 and beyond.
7 April 2015 (RT London)
Watch British Council's Vicky Gough and lead researcher Bernadette Holmes from Born Global in this RT news piece on native English speakers being the worst language learners in Europe.
More information about the Born Global project can be found on the British Academy website via the related link below.
Born Global: Rethinking Language Policy for 21at Century Britain
(British Academy, 2014) A new policy research project into the extent and nature of language needs in the labour market and the implications for language education from school to higher education.
26 March 2015 (BBC News)
Some modern languages vital to the UK's economic future could be lost from schools in England, Labour has warned.
Exam boards have announced plans to drop qualifications in languages such as Portuguese and Turkish.
Ministers should take urgent action to ensure they are not lost from the curriculum, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said.
The government said its reforms did not stop boards developing qualifications in any language they chose.
18 March 2015 (BBC News)
(Applies to England) Language teaching is facing a "difficult climate" in England's schools, researchers say.
A report by the CfBT Education Trust and the British Council highlights low uptakes of language GCSEs and A-levels as particular concerns. It found that language teachers felt attracting pupils to study languages after the age of 16 was a "challenge".
The Department for Education said the number of pupils taking languages at GCSE was increasing.
This year's Language Trends Survey is the 13th annual research exercise to measure the condition of language teaching and learning in schools in England.
16 March 2015 (Alcantara Communications)
(Applies to England) Back in 2013 my colleague Kate Board and I undertook some research for the British Council investigating which languages the UK will need most in the next 20 years, and why. We took into consideration not just trade and the potential for UK exports, but whether cultural and strategic ties were likely to expand or need strengthening. We made the point that our country already has a rich asset in the pool of speakers of different languages amongst its population. Children whose parents speak Turkish, Arabic or Chinese are in a position to make much more rapid progress with those languages than those whose only contact with the new language is in the classroom.
For over 20 years, the education system has recognised this important fact by providing a range of languages at GCSE and A level (and even more through the Asset Languages scheme, which was withdrawn in 2013). But as exams become tools for measuring school performance rather than accrediting what individuals can do, the rationale for offering a wide range of languages is melting away. The exam board AQA has announced that it will be withdrawing A levels in Bengali, Hebrew, Panjabi and Persian after 2018 and OCR plans to do the same with GCSE and A levels in Dutch, Gujarati, Persian, Portuguese and Turkish.
13 March 2015 (The Guardian)
(Applies to England)
News that a London comprehensive, the Camden School for Girls, is considering ending the provision of A-level Greek is, you might think, pretty small beer in the scheme of things. Only three students, after all, were hoping to take it from September. But it is a symbolic moment: Camden is the last non-selective state school in England to offer the examination. This blow, were it to fall – there is hope that funding will be raised to save Greek at the school – would help calcify it into a toffs’ subject, outmoded as the empire. As rare in state schools as the Sumatran tiger.
11 March (Londra Gazete)
Teachers and politicians have expressed astonishment at the decision to entirely scrap Turkish GCSE and A Level exams in just two years.
9 March 2015 (Women in German Studies)
The University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) has recently announced a new strategy to influence the debate surrounding modern languages, and to highlight the potential languages have to inform UK issues such as immigration, terrorism, and social cohesion in the run up to election day.
Using Twitter as the primary social media platform to encourage this debate, the UCML are calling on corresponding organisations – and individuals – to promote the importance of modern foreign languages, and to connect on the aforementioned issues using the hashtag:#languagepolicyUK.
Every fortnight there will also be a twitter ‘chat’ session that will last for one hour. The first of these #languagepolicyUK hours will take place on Saturday 21 March 10am and will be repeated on Sunday 22 March at 2pm for those who could not take part in the first hour. Both sessions will focus on the topic: ‘Connecting for Languages – Why?’.
2 March 2015 (They Work For You)
Question from Nigel Evans, Conservative MP to ask what steps are being taken to encourage pupils to study modern languages.
9 February 2015 (Ofqual)
(Applies to England)
Reforms to GCSE modern foreign languages have now been published by Ofqual.
26 January 2015 (They Work For You / Hansard)
Question put to the House of Lords by Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury – ‘To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of progress in teaching foreign languages in schools.’
18 December 2014 (TES)
(Applies to England) Real Madrid, French rap music and Germany’s Aldi and Lidl supermarkets are among the topics that university academics have recommended for study in new “academically rigorous” foreign language AS- and A-levels unveiled today. The subject areas are listed in suggestions for individual project work from the A-level content advisory board (Alcab), made up of university academics and other subject experts.
[..]The recommendations from universities come as the government has published new “academically rigorous” compulsory subject content for reformed AS- and A-levels in languages, maths and geography this morning (see related item below).
7 November 2014 (TES)
Sixth-form colleges may be forced to drastically cut the number of A-levels and other qualifications they offer as a result of funding pressures and moves to encourage students to take core subjects.
College leaders have warned that the number of A-levels on offer could fall from 40 to as few as 15, significantly narrowing the choice available to students. Modern foreign languages will be “dead in the water”, with further maths and creative subjects such as music and drama also vulnerable.
14 October 2014 (Guardian)
Applies to England
Compulsory languages at primary school level may be a positive step, but does it address the bigger picture?
26 September 2014 (BBC News)
Applies to England
A-levels in modern foreign languages will be marked more fairly from next summer, the exams regulator, Ofqual, has promised.
The changes follow complaints from schools that too few students were getting top marks in language exams compared with other subjects.
Head teachers had described grading as "unpredictable and inaccurate".
15 September 2014 (BBC News)
As you approach the front gates it is clear this is not an ordinary school. The pupils do not look twice at the camera or recording equipment; TV and radio crews are here all the time.
In the playground some of the children whisper in English. They know they should not be speaking the language, even though the school is in the very heart of the British Isles.
About 70 pupils attend Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, the world's only Manx-speaking school. The primary school is situated in St John's village in the Isle of Man and the children are taught all their lessons solely in Manx Gaelic.
9 September 2014 (Government Dept for Education)
(Applies to England) Thousands of teachers will receive extra training and support to improve the teaching of foreign languages, thanks to £1.8 million of government money to fund a series of new school-led programmes, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced today (9 September 2014).
From this week schools across England will teach the new, more challenging languages curriculum - including a new requirement for languages to be compulsory for children aged 7 to 11 years. This will ensure that children in England learn the languages they need to succeed in the modern world.
5 September 2014 (BBC News)
A network of foreign language teaching hubs is to be set up across England to boost the language skills of teachers. It follows fears that many teachers do not have the skills to implement the new curriculum which requires foreign language teaching in primary schools.
1 September 2014 (The Telegraph)
(Relates to England) Primary school children will be given compulsory lessons in computer coding and foreign languages under a new national curriculum introduced for the first time this week.
30 August 2014 (Telegraph)
Applies to England
All children should study a “core” of five traditional subjects until the age of 16 under plans to be set out in the Conservative election manifesto. State schools will be urged to enrol all pupils for GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography.
21 August 2014 (The Guardian)
The proportion of students getting an A*-C grade in their GCSE results rose for the first time in three years. Take a look at the other key numbers in the 2014 GCSE results and download the results in full.
GCSE results 2014: key figures in Vines
(The Guardian, 21 August 2014)
14 August 2014 (The Telegraph)
A dedicated student who achieved a 99 per cent pass rate across all four of her A-levels will go on to study at Cambridge.
Tabitha Jackson won joint first in the Trinity Hall medieval and modern languages essay-writing competition in 2013 and has been accepted by the McKinsey Leadership Academy.
She dropped only 14 marks out of 1600 across her four A-levels, gaining A* grades in English, Spanish, Latin and French.
14 August 2014 (The Telegraph)
A-level results published by exam boards show the number of A to E grades awarded to students has declined this year, although elite A* grades are up.
[..] Students continued to desert foreign languages following Labour's decision in 2004 to make them option at GCSE, with French, German and Spanish entries all down.
18 June 2014 (Coventry Telegraph)
(Applies to England) Schools aren’t entering pupils for modern languages at A-level because the subjects are considered to be too difficult, according to a lecturer at Coventry University.
16 June 2014 (Independent)
Applies to England
Sixth form colleges are under threat with several facing closure this year because of deep cuts to their budgets, claims a new study by the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA). A survey of England’s 93 sixth form colleges reveals that more than one in three colleges have already had to axe their language courses – while more than one in five have scrapped courses in the Stem science and maths subjects.
6 June 2014 (The Telegraph)
(Relates to England) Tens of thousands of pupils will be given lessons in Mandarin under a Government-backed drive to introduce “the language of the future” into state schools, it is announced today.
More than 1,200 specialist Mandarin teachers will be trained in the subject to give state pupils the same access to classes as their counterparts in private schools, it emerged.
1 June 2014 (Kensington & Chelsea Today)
(Relates to England) Last month, a report published by the British Council (BC) and CfBT Education Trust found that most primary and secondary schools in England feel ill–equipped for the upcoming changes in foreign language education, with a striking 24 per cent admitting that their teachers are not educated beyond GCSE level for the language they are teaching. Six months ago, another report by the BC revealed that the vast majority of British adults do not speak any of the ten most vital languages for the country’s ‘future prosperity and global standing’, warning that foreign languages are still not given ‘the same prominence as STEM subjects’ (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in our schools. These two reports certainly paint a rather grim picture, but are they really that surprising?
22 May 2014 (The Guardian)
(Relates to England) Is the department for education's list of obligatory languages too exclusive? Give your verdict by voting in our poll.
16 May 2014 (Guardian)
Diverse backgrounds are a huge strength, says primary school teacher Alex Lee. But it's important gifted students aren't neglected in the focus on English skills.
8 May 2014 (SecEd)
The latest Languages Trends study has revealed yet further decline in language learning, with specific concerns about post-16 study. Kathryn Board and Teresa Tinsley consider some of the reasons behind the continuing problems.
9 April 2014 (The Independent)
(Applies to England) Sweeping changes to GCSE and A-level exams will usher in an era of more focus on British history and the geography of the UK, it has been announced.
However, pupils studying modern languages will be encouraged to speak the language more - and all questions will be posed in the foreign language they are studying.
28 March 2014 (The Guardian)
(Applies to England) Schools play a key role in the community, but the devolution of budgets has put funding for specialist language services at risk.
25 March 2014 (CfBT)
Based upon the findings from the 2013/14 Language Trends survey, this report assesses the state of language teaching in English primary and secondary schools.
- Secondaries struggle to ensure pupils continue their primary language learning (SecEd, 27 March 2014)
- Primary pupils will be forced to drop their foreign language studies once they reach secondary school (Independent, 25 March 2014)
- 'A level languages in crisis' (Telegraph, 25 March 2014)
- Many primary school teachers 'ill-equipped' to teach languages (BBC News, 25 March 2014)
- Quarter of primary schools have no foreign language expertise, study reveals (TES, 25 March 2014)
- Apoyo Soutien Unterstützung SUPPORT (Changing Phase blog, 25 March 2014)
- English schools not ready for language curriculum change (The Guardian, 25 March 2014)
- Primary languages in the spotlight (ALL, 25 March 2014)
- ‘Modern foreign languages at A-level are going in same direction as Latin and Greek'
(TES blog, 25 March 2014)
- Languages 2014 – 2025: are we set fair for the challenge? The real significance of Language Trends (Speak to the Future blog, 25 March 2014)
- Survey: Four issues with language learning in England (British Council blog, 24 March 2014)
3 March 2014 (Education and Employers)
(Applies to England) A national campaign is being launched to encourage young people to learn languages at school and understand how language skills impact on their job prospects. Inspiring the Future Languages Focus Week is taking place 22-26 September 2014 and seeks to get 100s of schools and employers involved across England.
3 February 2014 (The Independent)
Michael Gove will be embroiled in a fresh controversy on Monday as it emerges that his department’s savage spending cuts have forced sixth-form colleges to scrap A-level courses in core subjects such as languages and maths, regarded by the Government as crucial to the future of Britain’s economy.
7 January 2014 (BBC News)
It will be compulsory for primary school children aged seven and above to learn another language, from September 2014 in England.
The government is encouraging schools to adopt a wider variety of languages after a study found that teenagers at schools in England had the worst language skills in Europe.
Tim Muffett reports in this video footage.
26 December 2013 (The Independent)
Children as young as five are already learning Mandarin in British schools, as David Cameron pushes for it to replace French and German in classrooms across the country.
Pupils at RJ Mitchell Primary in Elm Park, Havering, north London, are among the first of their age group to have the lessons. The numbers learning Mandarin are set to swell in the new year as other schools react to the Prime Minister’s exhortation this month to make it the main modern foreign language in schools.
10 December 2013 (The Guardian)
It's a familiar scene: a GCSE language class, and today the students are learning vocabulary related to family life. They are poring over a cheerfully illustrated worksheet. But what's unusual is the language being taught, which is Turkish, and the ages of the class members. Rather than teenagers, these students are 10 and 11 years old – with some adults alongside.
This after-school class, being taught at Randal Cremer primary school in Hackney, east London, is part of the GCSE Family Language project, which allows primary children whose first language is not English to study for a GCSE in their mother tongue, alongside a parent or other adult family member.
18 October 2013 (TES)
(Relates to England) The crisis in A-level modern languages is so pressing that changes may be made before the planned exam reform in 2016, Ofqual chief regulator Glenys Stacey said yesterday.
Numbers taking French, for example, have dropped by 40 per cent since 2001. The TES reported in September that even high-flying students at elite private schools are no longer prepared to take languages because of the risk of not getting the grades they need for entrance to leading universities.
Ms Stacey said the results of an investigation into claims that MFLs are more severely graded than other subjects will be published at the end of term.
17 October 2013 (The Guardian)
More than a third of GCSE state school pupils took the English Baccalaureate qualification this year, compared with less than a quarter in 2012 according to new statistics published today.
The EBacc, a performance measure made up of English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language, was taken by 35% of all state school pupils this year - up from 23% last year which equates to 72,000 more students on the year.
Languages are making a comeback. Almost half (48%) of state-school pupils entered languages this year – up from 40% last year. This is the highest proportion of pupils taking languages for seven years. Spanish proved the most popular (up by 31% on the year) whilst French and German both recorded rises, 19% and 10% respectively.
15 October 2013 (The Guardian)
Lenient grading at GCSE, curriculum context and teaching methodologies are all also to blame for the decline of language students, says Dr Robert Vanderplank.
4 October 2013 (The Guardian)
As the gulf between state and independent language teaching widens, Emily-Ann Elliott investigates how to bridge the gap.
Every one of the Kennet School's 280 GCSE pupils sat an exam in a modern foreign language this summer. Were this 2003, this would not be unusual for a state school. At that time studying a language was still compulsory at GCSE level, and the majority of pupils left at the age of 16 with at least one to their name. But when the government announced it was making languages optional in 2004, the decision was marked by a sharp downtown in the number of state school pupils choosing to take them.
At its lowest level, in 2010-11, just 40% of young people who attended a state school studied a language to GCSE level. That number is slowly rising, but this year it was still only 44% of the cohort who took a language.
However, the numbers at Kennet School have never dropped, because headteacher Paul Dick continued to make a language compulsory for pupils.
1 October 2013 (BBC News)
Thousands of people have downloaded a new app for smart phones and tablets, designed to boost the Manx language. The free application, which includes 10 chapters of learning activities, has been accessed by more than 4,000 users since its launch last year.
7 September 2013 (The Economist)
As the new term starts across England, schools are chewing over this summer’s results in the 16-plus exams. One trend is clear—the coalition’s emphasis on pupils achieving five core academic subjects, including a language, in its new EBACC (English Baccalaureate) qualification has raised the number of candidates taking language exams.
This marks a reversal of a long period in which English schools turned out a rising number of monoglots. The past two decades have witnessed a sharp decline in the numbers of teenagers poring over French verbs, let alone the oddities of German, which as Mark Twain, a 19th-century American writer, observed, renders a girl neuter but a turnip feminine.
6 September 2013 (THE)
The Russell Group will only need to revamp two A-level subject areas after a review said just minor changes were needed to most qualifications.
An initial group established by the exam regulator Ofqual and chaired by Professor Smith, which included the input of many academics from the Russell Group, the 1994 Group and other “high-tariff universities” has found that only maths and languages require major changes.
6 September 2013 (TES)
High-flying students at England's most elite private schools are turning away from foreign-language A levels because of the "severe and unpredictable" grading of the exams, a leading teacher has warned.
4 September 2013 (The Guardian)
A shortage of qualified teachers. A mismatch with secondary school options. Can languages in primary schools overcome the challenges ahead?
Despite the fact that you can at least get by using English in many parts of the world, there is a growing recognition that monolingual British schoolchildren are becoming ever more disadvantaged by their lack of language skills – a lack that is mirrored virtually nowhere else on the planet.
2 September 2013 (Daily Mail)
Boring, repetitive language classes are letting down a generation of young pupils, a survey suggested yesterday.
Language classes will become compulsory next year for Key Stage 2 pupils – those aged seven to 11 – in English state schools.
But the research warned urgent improvements were needed in teaching, with many primary pupils saying they were repeatedly taught basics such as counting to ten or saying ‘bonjour’.
Those in Year 7, the first year of secondary school, complained they had to redo topics completed at primary school because some of their new classmates were starting from scratch.
Children criticise language lessons
(Daily Express, 3 September 2013)
22 August 2013 (ALL)
Languages entries are up significantly (likely to be due to impact of EBacc). German up 9.4%, French 15.5%, Spanish 25.8%. Increase in other MLs as well. 44% of cohort took a language.
GCSE results: the headlines for languages.
The JCQ press release ‘languages’ section gives full details.
'Dramatic' rise in number of foreign language entries (ITV News, 22 August 2013)
GCSE results: ministers hail 'revival' of foreign languages (The Telegraph, 22 August 2013)
GCSE results: At least foreign languages provided a bright spot (The Independent, 22 August 2013)
EBac kickstarts languages revival, but there's still a long way to go (TES, 22 August 2013)
EBacc to the future? Languages results rise at GCSE but is the crisis really over? (Speak to the Future, 22 August 2013)
Why I’m not jumping for joy at the increase in GCSE entries for languages (Alcantara Communications, 22 August 2013)
GCSE results 2013 - live! (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) 09:36 item ‘Language learning on the increase’
GCSE results 2013: science grades fall after papers are made tougher (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) Figures show dramatic rise in students sitting GCSE languages, including Urdu, Arabic and Chinese.
GCSE results 2013: record fall in pupils getting C grades or higher (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) [..] However, there were many bright spots around the country...There was also good news for supporters of modern languages, with a dramatic rise in the number of entries. French, German and Spanish saw a combined increase of nearly 17%.
GCSE results 2013: headlines in vines (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) This year GuardianData has summarised the UK GCSE results in short videos known as datavines. View the key points emerging from the results statistics here...French shows a rise in popularity.
GCSE results 2013: the complete breakdown (The Guardian, 22 August 2013) The three core subjects of English, Maths and Science continue to dominate the list of most popular subjects - no modern languages make it into the top 10 despite a rise in their popularity this year.
Thousands of pupils get GCSE results (BBC News, 22 August 2013) GCSE results in Northern Ireland have stayed almost static this year. [..] Meanwhile, Northern Ireland pupils are becoming less keen on taking French and German at GCSE level but Spanish and Irish are more popular.
Russell Group warning on GCSEs (THE, 22 August 2013) The Russell Group has warned that private school pupils are more likely than state school counterparts to choose science and languages subjects at GCSE, which could give them an advantage in university entry.
English Baccalaureate brings languages bouncing back (London Evening Standard, 22 August 2013)
19 August 2013 (London Evening Standard)
(Relates to England) The number of teenagers passing language GCSEs is expected to rise with big increases predicted in Spanish, Polish and non-European languages, experts said.
Exam results released on Thursday are likely to show a reversal of the steady decline in foreign languages because of the introduction of the new English Baccalaureate.
A-level results last week revealed a huge drop in students taking French and German. But this week’s results for 16-year-olds are expected to show more GCSEs are being taken in all languages and teachers hope this will have a knock on effect on A-levels and university courses.
15 August 2013 (UCML)
The A level results came out today (15 August 2013). What's been the impact on languages?
15 August 2013 (The Guardian)
A major inquiry is under way after the number of teenagers taking traditional modern foreign languages at A-level fell to its lowest level for more than a decade.
A-level results show rise in science entries (The Guardian, 15 August 2013) Economics, further mathematics and Spanish also rise while PE, German and drama fall.
A-level results: live (The Guardian, 15 August 2013) (Relates to England) Trend information shows that application rates to traditional language subjects continued to suffer, with German and French application rates dipping 14.53% and 9.9%. But more students opted to study Spanish (+4.08%).
Full results breakdown can be found on the Guardian Education webpage.
Grade inflation is over: Top A-level grades down for second year running (TES, 14 August 2013) ….But the overall decline in the popularity of modern foreign languages at A level continued. French, German and Spanish have seen a collective 17.8 per cent fall in entries since 2008.
Gap widens between A-level students in Wales and England (Wales Online, 15 August 2013) ...Interest in foreign languages dropped again, with 139 fewer French entries this year than in 2012.
33,000 Northern Ireland students get A-level results (BBC News, 15 August 2013) The results show that Northern Ireland students have performed particularly well in subjects such as mathematics, chemistry and modern languages.
Minority languages report top grades (Irish Times, 14 August 2013) (Relates to Ireland) Russian is top for A grades, while science subjects perform poorly.
Ofqual to probe ‘inconsistency’ of top A-level grades (The Telegraph, 9 August 2013) [..] It raised particularly concerns over modern foreign languages such as French, German and Spanish, with warnings that examiners award “relatively few” elite A*s compared with other disciplines.
ASCL congratulates A level students for another year of excellent achievement (Association for School and College Leaders, 15 August 2013) ASCL congratulates this year’s A level students and teachers for another set of excellent results. However the overall decline in the number of modern language entries is a concern and ASCL is calling on Ofqual to address the grading issue urgently.
9 August 2013 (The Telegraph)
Ofqual is to launch an investigation into “variations” in the number of A* and A grades awarded in traditional sixth-form exams, it was revealed.
It raised particularly concerns over modern foreign languages such as French, German and Spanish, with warnings that examiners award “relatively few” elite A*s compared with other disciplines.
Only 6.8 per cent of French exams and 7.9 per cent of German papers gained A* despite the fact that languages are normally the preserve of the brightest pupils.
2 August 2013 (Manchester Evening News)
Multilingual graduates increasingly have the edge over their job market rivals, according to a study out today.
Manchester Britain's 'city of languages'
(PhysOrg, 13 August 2013)
8 July 2013 (Department for Education)
Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to
other cultures. A high quality languages education should foster pupils’ curiosity and
deepen their understanding of the world. The teaching should enable pupils to express
their ideas and thoughts in another language and to understand and respond to its
speakers, both in speech and in writing. It should also provide opportunities for them to
communicate for practical purposes, learn new ways of thinking and read great literature
in the original language. Language teaching should provide the foundation for learning
further languages, equipping pupils to study and work in other countries.
17 June 2013 (BBC News)
(Applies to England) Ministers are facing calls to make British Sign Language count as a modern foreign language at GCSE level. A modern language is defined in England as one that can be spoken or written - so BSL cannot qualify at the moment. But deaf awareness charity Signature points out that sign language is included on the education curriculum in Sweden, Norway and Finland.
10 May 2013 (Chronicle Live)
Two North East universities will be stirring up school children’s passion for baking – and languages – in the Great Languages Bake Off.
Today’s event organised by Newcastle and Sunderland Universities will see more than 130 pupils, aged 11 to 13, from across the North East present videos about cooking in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Greek.
25 April 2013 (SecEd)
(Relates to England) The new languages curriculum at key stage 2 and 3 went under the magnifying glass at a recent Westminster Education Forum, when teachers got to quiz both the DfE and Ofsted. Languages teacher Suzi Bewell was there.
8 April 2013 (The Guardian)
With more than 40% of the world's estimated 7,000 languages "endangered and at risk of extinction", an army of tiny publishers is fighting an unsung battle to save them. UK press Diglot Books is one of them, and this week took on the might of Amazon to get its Cornish children's story out to readers.
30 March 2013 (Daily Mail)
(Relates to England) PC Plod is about to get even more PC. Met Police officers in London are being trained to take on crime in the multi-cultural melting pot that is the nation's capital. The Met's 31,000 officers will be offered the chance to learn 18 languages, ranging from French to Farsi, so they can speak in the mother tongue of the capital's burgeoning ethnic communities.
21 March 2013 (BBC News)
(Relates to England) Schools in England have been encouraging more teenagers to take up languages since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate league table measure, a report suggests. At 50% of state-funded secondaries, at least half of older pupils are now taking a foreign language GCSE. In 2010, this was the case in 38% of schools.
20 March 2013 (The Guardian)
(Relates to England) Report finds A-level entries for French and German fell by half between 1996 and 2012, with language GCSEs also in decline. Anti-European sentiment is turning teenagers off modern foreign languages, experts have suggested.
Language learning in primary and secondary schools in England 2012 (CfBT, 20 March 2013) CfBT Education Trust today published the results of national surveys of primary and secondary schools, revealing the multiple challenges for languages within the new English National Curriculum.
Anti-European attitudes 'turning pupils off languages' (The Telegraph, 20 March 2013)
Europhobia, language trends and scratchy labels (Alcantara Communications, 21 March 2013)
Languages barrier may persist despite EBac boost (TES, 22 March 2013)
7 February 2013 (THE)
(Relates to England) Imperial College London is consulting on plans to move or close its Translation Studies Unit. The options follow a review that found that the unit's activities were "not integral to the delivery of Imperial's academic strategy". Management has proposed exploring plans to move the unit to another institution or, if this is not feasible, to close it.
1 February 2013 (ALL)
(Relates to England) ALL has set up FLAME, a new initiative to support CLIL and bilingual learning. FLAME, Future for Language as a Medium of Education, launched formally on 17th January. It will support the many ways that teachers are combining languages with other subjects, whether bringing subject topics into language lessons, teaching subject modules or teaching one or more whole subjects through a language other than English.
7 January 2013 (Huffington Post)
In the fall of 2012, the British Education Secretary, Michael Gove, outlined proposals for new qualifications in core academic subjects called English Baccalaureate Certificates. Mr. Gove stated that these new reforms would prepare British students for the 21st century and allow them to compete with the best performing education systems around the world.
10 December 2012 (NALDIC)
(relates to England)
The publication of the 2012 results of the Early Years Foundation Stage assessments shows that the gap between children learning EAL in England and those with English as a first language has widened for the first time in 5 years.
5 December 2012 (The Guardian)
(Applies to England). The exams watchdog has warned Michael Gove that his plans to replace GCSEs with an English baccalaureate qualification are effectively unworkable, and is urging him to make changes.
17 November 2012 (The Telegraph)
Applies to England
Latin and ancient Greek are to make a comeback in state schools under Government plans to introduce compulsory language lessons for seven-year-olds. The list also features Mandarin – because of the growing importance of China as an economic power – plus French, German, Spanish and Italian.
15 November 2012 (THE)
Two UK language departments may be forced to close their degree programmes because they recruited too few students for 2012-13, a lecturers' association has claimed.