A-levels: Probe into languages teaching as pupil numbers continue to fall

 

Education Editor

Two major investigations have been launched into the state of modern foreign languages in the wake of yet another slump in the number of candidates taking the subject at A-level.

Figures show a 9.9 per cent slump in the take-up of French to 11,272 candidates and 11.1 per cent fall in German to 4, 242 - only partially offset by a 4.1 per cent rises in Spanish entries to 7,351.

The worrying decline, which has been going on for years, comes despite the subject being included in Education Secretary Michael Gove’s new English Baccalaureate measure for exam league tables.

Both the exam boards and Ofqual, the exams regulator, are now mounting their own investigations into subject - with the exam boards taking an overall look at the state of the subject while Ofqual is focussing on whether it is harder to get a top grade pass in the subject - a factor headteachers say could be a key reason for the decline in take-up.

Andrew Hall, head of the AQA exam board - the country’s biggest exam board, said: “Languages remain a problem - entry levels are low despite a rise in the take-up of Spanish, which is not surprising given how widely it is spoken around the world.

He said there had been “much comment” over the decline in languages, adding: “We’ve reached the point where enough is enough - let’s actually use our expertise.

“We’ve stood at several events and said we’re concerned about languages.  So what we want to do is use all the information we’ve got to look at the type of students that are entering, what is their prior background, are we getting a different cohort mix, look at what the achievements are, look at the awarding and the grading between AS-level and the A2 (full A-level), look at their performance at GCSE.”

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the OCR exam board, added: “There has been a big push from employers to encourage students to do the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).  Are they really saying that, though,  if you haven’t got a language we’re not going to employ you?”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the Ofqual investigation, saying: “There are a relatively low level of top grade passes and we must make sure that people aren’t deterred from taking them because they are seen as harder.”

However, Mr Hall disputed the theory they were harder. “This year the number of students who got an A* in French, Spanish and German was 6.9 per cent and 8.4 per cent in sciences.  But then look at what happens with the grades A* and A - 38.2 per cent get one of the top two grades in languages then only 30.7 per cent in sciences.”

Professor Alan Smithers, head of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, added: “I think Brits have a kind of arrogance and assume everybody is going to speak English.  It seems to be embedded in our psyche and it does us no good at all.”

Take-up of languages has been in free-fall at both GCSE and A-level in the past decade since the subject was removed from the compulsory list of studies for 14 to 16-year-olds.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
News
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect