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Languages: GCE A-level and GCSE

Question for Department for Education

UIN 56526, tabled on 15 October 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to increase the (a) number of students taking and (b) funding for foreign language subjects at A-Level and GCSE.

Answered on

25 October 2021

The department’s focus is on increasing the uptake of languages at GCSE, which is why GCSEs in all modern and ancient languages are part of the English Baccalaureate performance measure for secondary schools. There are no specific plans to increase the number of pupils entered for language A levels, although an increase in GCSE uptake in languages is expected to lead to an increase in A level uptake in the longer-term.

The total number of pupils in state-funded schools in England entered for examinations in at least one language GCSE has increased from 231,224 in 2010 to 253,379 in 2019. This amounted to an increase among all key stage 4 pupils of 7 percentage points from 40% in 2010 to 47% in 2019. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the GCSE examinations are due to re-commence for summer 2022, and we will return to publishing, as far as possible, our usual range of English Baccalaureate entry and attainment measures.

The department also carried out a consultation earlier this year on proposed changes to the subject content for French, German and Spanish GCSEs. The intention is that more pupils will want to study languages at GCSE level and encourage them to continue with this study to post-16 and beyond. The department plans to respond to the consultation later this year.

There is no ring-fenced funding for schools and colleges for the teaching of languages at GCSE and A level. Schools are expected to use their core funding to teach pupils a broad and balanced curriculum to the end of key stage 4, while 16 to 19 core funding is used to cover the teaching and related costs for post-16 students in schools and colleges whatever their study programme. Core school funding increased by £2.6 billion in 2020-21 and is increasing by £4.8 billion and £7.1 billion in 2021-22 and 2022-23 respectively, compared to 2019-20. The government has recently made significant increases in 16 to 19 funding, with an extra £400 million for 2020-21 awarded in the 2019 spending review, and a further £291 million on top of this in 2021-22. This enabled an increase in total programme funding per 16-19 student of nearly 10% between 2019/20 allocations and 2020/21 allocations and the increased funding rates have been maintained for 2021/22.

The Department also provides funding for a number of specific language education programmes to improve teaching quality and take-up in specific languages. These are:

  • The Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Pilot led by the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy (NCELP) at the University of York. Since 2018, the £4.8 million programme has delivered fully resourced schemes of work for Key Stage 3 in French, German and Spanish, and provided training and support across 45 pilot schools. In the fourth year, NCELP will deliver free professional development to over 1,350 teachers nationally and develop fully resourced schemes of work for Key Stage 4.
  • The Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) led by University College London Institute of Education in partnership with the British Council. The £10 million MEP has grown from 14 schools in 2016 to 75 schools in 2021, with around 7,000 pupils being taught Chinese from age 11 to 16. The department recently announced an additional £16.4 million for a new phase of the MEP for at least the next three years.