Ministers force U-turn on plans to scrap minority language qualifications

Richard Vaughan

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Pupils will continue to be able to study "community languages" such as Panjabi, Polish and Turkish at GCSE and beyond, ministers have pledged, after stepping in to prevent exam boards from axing the qualifications.

Back in March, both the AQA and OCR exam boards said they were considering scrapping a range of A-levels and GCSEs in the languages including Bengali, modern Hebrew, Dutch and Portuguese.

The boards said they were forced to make the cuts, due by 2017, because of low or declining entry levels and a shortage of the experienced examiners needed to set and mark papers.

But ministers demanded that the boards reconsider the decision and schools minister Nick Gibb has today announced that the Department for Education is working with the awarding bodies and Ofqual to ensure that these languages are still taught in the classroom.

Conversations are still being held and it is understood that a full list of the languages that will be spared has yet to be agreed upon. 

Mr Gibb said he decided to act because every pupil should have the opportunity to study foreign languages as part of a “core academic curriculum that prepares them for life in modern Britain”.

The intervention coincides with the government’s drive to make the English Baccalaureate compulsory, which will require all students to study at least one foreign language.  

“There are some community languages which exam boards have said they need to discontinue at GCSE or A-level, which is why we are now taking action and working with them and Ofqual to determine how these qualifications can continue,” Mr Gibb said.

“In an outward-facing country such as Britain, it is important that we have high-quality qualifications not just in French, German and Spanish but also in languages such as Polish, Bengali, Gujarati, Panjabi and Turkish.”

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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