The 2016 A Level entry figures show an overall drop in the number of students taking language exams in the past year. The number of French exams has fallen by 6.4% compared with 2015, with a 4.2% decrease in German. The number of Spanish exams has also declined since 2015, falling 2.7% although the number of students opting to take Spanish at A Level is still considerably higher than it was twenty years ago. The number of students getting A* grades in French, German and Spanish has risen in the past year (by 0.7, 1.3 and 0.3 percentage points respectively).
Commenting on the figures, Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council, said:
“It’s disappointing to see that last year’s growth in the number of foreign language A Levels has stalled.
“While it is fantastic that some less traditional languages have seen a rise in uptake in the past year – Japanese is up by 6% and Arabic by 14% - it is worrying that the more traditional languages have suffered a downturn. French and German – which are still valued very highly by employers - have seen entries fall by 6.4% and 4.2% respectively, while Spanish – the language the UK needs the most* - is down by 2.7%.
“The reality is that language learning matters to the UK now more than ever. Not only do language skills boost job prospects but as one of the first opportunities that our young people have to connect with another culture, they are vital for the country’s place in the world too. We need far more of our young people to understand the value of languages – and far more of us to encourage them to take on language learning to A Level and beyond.”