Call me curmudgeonly but I don’t reckon a 2.3% rise in GCSE language entries equates to a revival. Especially when GCSE entries across all subjects have gone up 1.4%. And numbers for languages are lower now than when the Government introduced the EBacc which was intended to turn things around. Let’s have a closer look at the figures released today:
We are looking at a very welcome upturn for both French (3%) and Spanish (8%), but German continues its downward trend with a 4% drop.
There is a mixed picture for other languages, which I am showing on two separate charts because of the difference in scale. Entries for Chinese, which has been enjoying some recent growth, declined by 27% between 2018 and 2019, while the number of candidates for Arabic also dropped – by 4%. However, Polish (+31%) Italian (+12%), Russian (+6%), Portuguese (+5%) and Urdu (+4%) all show increases.
On a smaller scale again, all the other languages except Turkish showed declines. There were no entries for Dutch, which has been withdrawn.
Looking at all language entries together, it is easy to see how take-up declined by nearly half after the Government announced in 2002 that it would be withdrawing compulsory status for the subject – this policy came into effect in 2004. The E-Bacc, announced in 2010/11, produced a temporary upturn of about 18% but numbers then declined again. We still have a long way to go before numbers return even to the level achieved by the ‘EBacc bounce’.
NB these figures are for the UK as a whole, so include entries from Northern Ireland and Wales where different policies and circumstances prevail. I will be discussing these elsewhere.