Some positive indicators in the wake of recent  Ebacc reform

Relatively high take up in lower performing schools

But just under half of schools have made no changes, since Ebacc


A report out this month from CFBT Education Trust finds that 40% of maintained schools reported changes to their language provision since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

The report highlights that while the downward trend seen over the past decade continues with GCSE language take-up, the introduction of the EBacc appears to have had a positive effect on language provision in the last academic year.  While the EBacc’s success in improving language up-take is being realised across the country, the report also reveals that maintained schools are dropping alternative language accreditations such as Asset Languages and NVQ Language units after a steady period of growth, from 45% to 33% in 2011 in spite of dissatisfaction with the GCSE.

Examination data shows that the number and proportion of entries for languages at both GCSE and A Level have been in decline over the last decade or so.  The results of the Language Trends survey 2011 demonstrate the power of performance tables to create an immediate impact on school-level policy making. The most striking finding of the survey is the turnaround in take-up for languages in Year 10, which is likely to be linked to the introduction of the EBacc as an accountability measure for schools in January 2011. Compared to just over a third  (36%) of maintained schools reporting 50% or more pupils studying a language in Year 10 in 2010/11,  in the current school year the proportion has increased to just over half (51%). This is similar to levels in 2005/06. The decline in the offer of alternative qualifications, as shown by the survey results, was currently in Year 10 would have selected their GCSE options in spring 2011, the report  concludes that we are likely to see  an increase in GCSE entries for languages in summer 2013 after a decade’s decline in the number of  KS4 pupils taking a GCSE in languages.

Although the gulf between schools with high and low levels of take-up for languages is still wide and associated with levels of social deprivation, with the level of achievement across all subjects, and with the admissions policy, the biggest increases in take-up have been seen in lower performing schools, comprehensive schools and those with higher levels of social deprivation, for example:

•  49% of comprehensive schools now have 50% or more pupils studying a language in Year 10  compared with 31% in the 2010/11 school year.

• In 2010/11, only 23% of maintained schools in the middle quintile for attainment and 19% in the second-lowest quintile had 50% or more pupils studying a language in Year 10. This year these proportions have increased to 60% and 45% respectively

This data demonstrates that the gap in uptake of languages between different school types as well as between schools with different pupil characteristics may be starting to close. A further positive indicator is that schools that have experienced increases in uptake see this as a definite change rather than a simple fluctuation.  The survey has found that 40% of maintained schools have made changes to languages provision at KS4 following the announcement of the EBacc and another 14% are planning to make changes in the next year or so. Of particular interest is that schools with greater levels of social deprivation  are more likely to make changes to languages provision in response to the EBacc than schools with  lower than average proportions of children eligible for free school meals. The most common change in response to the EBacc that schools have implemented or are intending to implement is to modify option blocks and to improve advice to pupils when they are choosing optional subjects.

However, the report says that it is notable that just under half of maintained schools (46%) indicate that they have not made any changes in response to the EBacc and have no plans to do so.  In terms of the languages curriculum and language teaching, the time available for languages within the curriculum is a fundamental concern which tops the list of changes teachers wish to see in order  to improve language teaching and learning. They believe that more contact time, arranged in shorter, more frequent lessons, would allow them to promote real learning rather than simply prime pupils to pass examinations. In common with Ofsted, they see speaking as the skill which is most in need of improvement and want more time for children to practise speaking and develop a real appreciation of the languages they are studying.

The authors ‘remain convinced that reform of GCSE and A Level examinations in languages should be high on  both the Government’s and exam boards’ agendas in order to improve the standard and quality of  language teaching and learning.

Language learning in secondary schools in England Findings from the 2011 Language Trends survey ;Teresa Tinsley, Youping Han-CFBT Education Trust-March 2012 (Supported by All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages; Association for Language Learning and  the Independent Schools’ Modern Languages  Association (ISMLA)



Schools are now ranked by how many children take the “English Baccalaureate” Ebacc, which comprises a number of core academic subjects, including a modern foreign language.The Ebacc is not a qualification.


Languages are not compulsory in English and Welsh secondary schools beyond the age of 14, although a review of the curriculum is under way in England. (so this could change)


Separate research released by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) shows a surge in interest from people wanting to become language teachers.

The House of Lords EU Committee in a recent report says that all children should learn a foreign language at primary and secondary school


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