As A level results came out on 18th August the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) was expressing concern about a fall in the number of A level language entries. They suggested that a fall in funding was the cause. Entries to A-levels in French dropped by 6.4% from last year, in German by 4.2% and in Spanish by 2.7%.

Malcolm Trobe, Interim General Secretary of the ASCL (head teachers of schools and 6th Form colleges), said: “We are concerned about the continuing decline in entries to A levels in modern foreign languages (MFL)…. These statistics reflect the fact that sixth forms and colleges are finding it increasingly difficult to run courses where there are relatively small numbers of students because of severe funding pressures. The level of post-16 funding is woeful and urgently needs to be addressed”.

La Academia has previously blogged about our concern about A level language entries. There are reported inconsistencies in marking at A level which makes schools reluctant to recommend to pupils that they pursue a language. In addition MFL is seen as a hard option at GCSE – pupils increasingly take only one language at the lower level, which contributes to the fall in A level entries.

Mr Trobe continued “We are in danger of becoming trapped in a vicious circle where entries to these very important subjects continue to decline and there are consequently fewer people to teach them in the future, exacerbating an ongoing recruitment crisis. The government must invest more money in post-16 education as a matter of urgency.”

The government replied that it had been encouraging pupils to take languages. The eBacc, which la Academia has also written about, is designed to measure how many pupils in each school take a combination of subjects, including a language. This seems to be encouraging schools to push pupils to take a language at GCSE, but we’re doubtful as to whether they continue to study after that.

As A levels have returned to a systems of 3 linear A levels AS levels have suffered. In the past, pupils had often taken four subjects, dropping one at the end of the first year, but now that most are choosing just 3 subjects this again impacts on the number choosing a language.

The drop in language entries is very worrying, reducing the pool of linguists for employers and the number of future MFL teachers, making the problem even worse. In a post-Brexit world, will Britain need more or fewer languages? La Academia feels we can’t afford to neglect so meany warnings about the future of languages. What do you think?