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 Daily Telegraph - - News - By Harry Yorke

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.

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