Schools minister Nick Gibb is launching a drive to promote foreign languages in schools, with an emphasis on reviving German, The Times reports.
Long-serving Gibb, who recently returned to the Department for Education after losing his post in September, said it had been a “mistake” by the Labour government to scrap compulsory language GCSEs in 2004.
The thinking behind the move was that it was unhelpful to force less academic students to study languages, when they could be offered more “relevant” subjects. However, it led to criticism that a “two tier” system was opening between schools in disadvantaged areas and private and more privileged state schools.
While the independent sector has long been praised for maintaining high levels of language provision, the number of state school A-level entries for German fell to just 2,000 this summer.
Gibb told The Times: “Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world. If you’re a global trading nation, languages are important and we’re bottom of the European league in terms of language proficiency. You need to be able to speak the language of your suppliers and customers.”
Nearly 30 per cent of all A-level entries in German this year were from independent schools. Mr Gibb also wants to see an increase in the number of pupils speaking French, Spanish and Mandarin.
He said: “The drive behind the whole concept is about social mobility, making sure that young people from whatever background are encouraged to take the languages that the children of more affluent families take for granted that they’ll be studying.”.
Mr Gibb’s spoke as the government is seeking to expand its “language hubs” programme, with £14.9 million in funding for a new “centre of excellence” and up to 25 schools over three years.
The existing programme has been going since 2019, run by the University of York and nine hub schools.
The programme aims to improve standards of language teaching across England and improve take-up of French, German and Spanish.
A core part of the scheme will be to raise the profile of learning German in schools and increasing awareness of the benefits of studying it, by setting up a German Promotion Project.