Baccalaureate - English
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.
31 July 2018 (The Telegraph)
Middle class parents are using “harder” GCSEs like Mandarin to signal that their children are high achieving, the Education Secretary has said.
Damian Hinds said it is not just an “attainment gap” that separates rich and poor students, but also a gulf in expectations and knowledge about the system.
“For middle class parents there is an awareness that there are harder and easier subjects,” he said. “As parents we encourage their children to do the harder ones - whether that's Maths, History or these days Mandarin - because we know they can be a signalling device to universities and employers.
12 October 2017 (The Telegraph)
Ours is a trading nation, connected to countries in every continent by shared history, shared values and, on occasion, shared language.
We are a country that thrives in making its way in the world. Once we leave the European Union we will, once again, be free to forge mutually beneficial relationships with peoples all over the globe.
Drawing on the genius of the great economists of our Union’s history, this Kingdom will once again be at the forefront of global free trade. Once again, it will fall to Britain and her close allies to make the Smith, Mill and Ricardo’s moral and economic case for markets, free trade and comparative advantage.
Key to our success in this endeavour is the preparedness of the next generation to compete and sell their wares in a global economy. In an ever more technical world, it is important that pupils leave school with the knowledge that will best prepare them for the demands of life in 21st century Britain.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
28 February 2015 (The Economist)
The last time she was recruiting for her export-sales team, Sarah Grain hired a Lithuanian who speaks Russian, Polish and German. Her two previous hires for Eriez Magnetics, which makes industrial equipment in South Wales, were an Italian who also speaks French, and a Venezuelan who speaks Spanish and Portuguese. All of them speak fluent English. “There were no British applicants who had the requisite language skills,” she says.
Ms Grain’s conclusion is not unusual for a British company. In 2012 a European Commission survey tested the foreign-language proficiency of 54,000 students aged 14 and 15, in 14 nations. Sweden came top, with 82% of pupils reaching an “independent” or “advanced independent” standard. The average for all 14 states was 42%. England came bottom, with just 9%.
5 March 2014 (The Guardian)
The number of students who speak foreign languages at home has risen by 20% in five years. Nick Morrison explores the integration and teaching strategies being used in schools.
Translating maths in a multicultural school community (The Guardian, 5 March 2014) English is the second language at Sacred Heart primary school, but specially designed learning programmes and an inclusive environment enable students to thrive.
Students with English as a second language 'outperform native speakers' in GCSEs (The Independent, 5 March 2014) Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, said students who speak English as an additional language (EAL) scored better grades in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) than native speakers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
28th February 2013 (SecEd)
With languages no longer compulsory at key stage 4, showing students the relevance of languages and inspiring them to want to take their learning further is key. Karine Kleywegt looks at her school’s approach.
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.
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.