Languages: GCE A-level and GCSE

(asked on 23rd March 2022) - View Source

Question to the Department for Education:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether an equality impact assessment was made before delaying the grant to CLEx about the impact on black, Asian, and minority ethnic language learners' access to national accreditation at (a) GCSE, and (b) A Level.

Answered by
Baroness Barran Portrait
Baroness Barran
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
This question was answered on 4th April 2022

The government understands the importance of all languages for the UK’s economic and diplomatic interests, as well as the many personal and social benefits learning another language can bring. This is why the study of languages is a statutory part of the national curriculum for pupils in key stages 2 and 3.

French, Spanish and German remain the most popular languages for pupils to study at school. The government provides resources and professional development for teachers in these languages through the Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) Hub programme, run by the National Centre for Excellence in Language Pedagogy.

An increasing number of pupils now choose to study Mandarin, and the government supports many of these pupils through the £12 million Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP). The MEP is the department’s flagship programme for the study of Mandarin, with the aim of providing a pipeline of fluent Mandarin speakers to meet the UK’s future economic and diplomatic needs. We are currently considering what steps might be taken to provide greater support for the study of other languages, including Arabic and Urdu.

Schools are free to offer any language which they feel best meets the needs of their pupils and the wider community. GCSEs and A levels are available in Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Turkish and Urdu. All these languages count towards the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) school performance measure, ensuring that most young people study a core of academic subjects at GCSE. The provision of these qualifications is ultimately a decision for awarding organisations. However, the department is supportive of ongoing opportunities to study these languages, signifying Britain's role as an outward-facing, vibrant country, enriched by the diversity of its people.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and unique circumstances in 2021, the government made a grant available to support exam centres to meet costs associated with the additional demands of assessment for private candidates, including those taking community and heritage languages. The claims window opened on 29 November 2021 and closed on 10 January 2022. The department subsequently carried out quality assurance checks on the evidence provided by centres to ensure the accuracy of claims and payment allocations. The assurance checks that needed to be carried out always meant that payments would be made to centres at the end of the 2021/22 financial year. Centres that supplied the evidence required in the claims were due to be paid on 31 March 2022. This included a payment to the Community Language Examination Centre.

The grant was only available for teacher assessed grades produced in summer 2021, not to any other assessment period, due to the unique circumstances in 2021. It has helped centres to meet costs and will not have led to any exam entry reductions.

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