To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the need to equip young people with language skills in preparation for international trade and commerce.
27 April 2021
In 2010, 40% of pupils in English state-funded schools at the end of Key Stage 4 entered a GCSE in a modern foreign language, and this has increased to 46% in 2020. Over the same period, the proportion of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 entering GCSE German reduced from 10% to 7%. German, however, remains the third most popular language in secondary schools, with nearly 41,000 pupils entering a GCSE in this subject in 2020.
Studying a foreign language can be very rewarding, provide an insight into other cultures and open the door to travel and enhance future employment opportunities. We know that languages are increasingly important to equip young people in business and trade to make sure we can compete in the global market. A government-commissioned study by Foreman-Peck and Wang published in 2014 states that poor language skills in businesses was holding back UK trade performance. The report can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-costs-to-the-uk-of-language-deficiencies-as-a-barrier-to-uk-engagement-in-exporting.
To improve take-up in German and other languages at GCSE, we have funded the £4.8 million MFL Pedagogy Pilot which commenced in in December 2018. The pilot is managed by the National Centre for Excellence in Language Pedagogy (NCELP) and run through 9 school-led hubs. The pilot is developing fully resourced schemes of work for schools in key stage 3 in French, German and Spanish, as well as disseminating best practice and training to support language teachers. The aim is to increase both pupil take-up and teaching quality in French, German and Spanish.
We have recently extended the programme to December 2022 and, during its last year, the NCELP will extend its reach to deliver training to at least 1,350 modern foreign language teachers and will develop fully resourced schemes of work for Key Stage 4. Information on the NCELP can be found at: https://ncelp.org.
We also commissioned a review of modern foreign language GCSEs in French, German and Spanish to make them more accessible and motivating for students. Our ambition is to produce a subject content that aligns more closely with the Teaching Schools Council’s 2016 MFL pedagogy review and, in doing so, ensure that subject content reflects research in language curriculum and teaching and makes language GCSEs more accessible and motivating for students. Consultation on this opened on 10 March and closes on 19 May. Details can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/gcse-modern-foreign-languages-mfl-subject-content-review.