Baccalaureate entries drop as pupils shun languages
Minister issues warning as fewer teenagers try to earn award meant to reverse ‘dumbing down’ of GCSES
THE number of teenagers taking the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) has fallen significantly for the first time as students turn their backs on languages.
The Ebacc has been championed by the Government since it was started in 2010 by Michael Gove, the education secretary at the time, in an attempt to reverse the “dumbing down” of GCSES.
To earn the award, students must obtain five A*-C – or numeric 4-9 grades – in maths, English, the sciences, history or geography, and a language.
Figures published yesterday showed that the proportion of GCSE students entering the Ebacc has fallen to 38.1 per cent. It marks a 1.5 percentage point decline on last year, when 39.6 per cent of pupils were entered. The proportion of students receiving the award has also dropped, with the proportion gaining five pass grades falling to 21.1 per cent, down by 2.4 points on the previous year.
The Department for Education said last night that it was “disappointed” by the results, while a source in the department described them as a “shock”.
The DFE blamed the fall on the number of students taking modern foreign languages. It will also be seen as a blow by education ministers, who have been pushing for 75 per cent of students to be taking the Ebacc in state secondaries by 2022.
Writing for Telegraph.co.uk, Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said the Government had to do more to reverse the trend, adding that Britain must train more linguists to succeed post-brexit.
“We are a country that thrives in making its way in the world,” he wrote. “As the physical, legal and fiscal barriers to trade are torn down, the need for shared language has grown. We must ensure that pupils choosing GCSES understand the importance of languages to their futures and the future of this country.”
He said it is hoped that a pilot scheme giving financial help to those studying foreign languages at university will stimulate the training and retention of future language teachers.
It follows figures published by the Joint Qualifications Council, which indicated the number of students taking French and German had fallen by 10 and 13 per cent respectively.
Academics have blamed the trend on British children being raised at time when English is more prevalent internationally, while technology and television have made them more reliant on subtitles and Google Translate.
Mark Lehain, director of Parents and Teachers for Excellence, said the decline showed the effect of making language GCSES optional in 2002.
♦ One in eight sixth-formers scored at least AAA in their A-level exams, data on this summer’s results showed. While boys scored the largest number of top marks, girls obtained better grades on average.