GCSE results 2019: Languages enjoy surprise revival

GCSE modern languages entries up 3 per cent, despite fears that Brexit and tougher new GCSEs were putting pupils off

MFL: language learner

Today's GCSE results reveal that modern foreign languages entries are up 3 per cent despite the Department for Education admitting at the end of last year that it was “struggling hugely” with numbers of entries and that the situation “was getting worse.”

French entries are up by 3.2 per cent to 130,931 while Spanish entries are up by 7.5 per cent, passing the 100,000 mark for the first time ever at 102,242, according to the figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications, the body which represents exam boards.

However, German entries are down 3.9 per cent to 42,791 and all other MFL subjects have collectively fallen by 1.9 per cent to 32,183, according to the figures.

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The figures also show that girls outperformed boys in every language.

Boost for GCSE languages

Last year on GCSE results day, exam boards reported an increase of 0.4 per cent in entries to GCSE in MFL, which was the first increase in entries for five years.

But the Association of School and College Leaders later claimed this increase was down to schools switching to GCSEs from iGCSEs, which no longer counted in school performance tables.

And at the end of last year, the DfE admitted it was "struggling hugely" with entries to GCSE modern foreign languages, and that including MFL subjects into its EBacc accountability measure “hadn’t had much effect”.

This year’s increase comes despite research published by the British Council in the spring which suggested Brexit was having an effect on uptake of GCSEs in MFL, stating that 45 per cent of state schools and 41 per cent of independent schools said that the implications of Brexit were “a major challenge to providing high-quality language teaching”.

The report stated: “When asked specifically whether Brexit has had an impact on pupils’ attitudes towards language learning, 25 per cent [of school leaders] say that there has been a negative impact either on motivation to learn a European language or motivation to learn languages in general.”

The report also revealed that tough new GCSEs were discouraging lower-achieving pupils from learning languages.

It showed a 19 per cent reduction in entries for GCSE languages in England over the previous five years, with French and German each seeing declines of 30 per cent over this period and Spanish showing a 2 per cent decline in entries between 2014 and 2018.



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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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