A level results 2019

August 15th, 2019 by

The headline news is that, as we predicted last year, the number of candidates taking Spanish for A level has overtaken those for French. Numbers have risen steadily since 1995 in a period in which there has been huge concern about participation in language learning, with declines of more than two-thirds in A level candidates for French and German.

Entries for other languages have declined this year by 14%. But the figures hide a very mixed picture made up of a diverse range of circumstances for each language. Polish, Arabic, Turkish and Portuguese all continue an upward trend, while Russian, which has been rising steadily for more than a decade, has seen a sudden drop in numbers from 1160 to 754 from 2018 to 2019. Chinese has also seen a serious drop in numbers, from 3334 to 2272, nearly a third, now with the smallest number of entries since 2005. Italian has also seen a decline, but this looks more like a normal fluctuation than any serious trend.  

The overall results for the UK also hide specific circumstances in Wales and Northern Ireland.

In Wales, the decline in candidates for French and German has been even more pronounced than across the UK as whole, and the rise of Spanish less so. However, from a low base, both German and Spanish have increased numbers this year, while French has seen a further 7% decline.

In recent years Northern Ireland has seen less steep declines in French and German than in the UK as a whole, especially taking into account the 11% decline in entries across all subject areas in Northern Ireland since 2010. Spanish overtook French as the most popular language at A level in 2016, and despite a dip in 2018 has held steady thanks to a 6% rise in numbers this year. Irish is similarly holding fairly steady but German has taken a big hit, probably as a result of the closure of German degree courses at Northern Irish universities, and now looks very vulnerable.

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