Thursday 17 August 2017


The 2017 A Level entry figures show an overall 1% drop in the number of students taking language exams in the past year. The number of French exams has fallen by 2.1% compared with 2016, with a 4.7% decrease in German. However, the number of pupils taking Spanish has increased by 1.7%. The number of students getting A*-A grades in French, German and Spanish has also risen (by 1.7, 1.8 and 2.5 percentage points respectively).

Commenting on the figures, Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said:

“Getting a modern language A Level is a fantastic achievement – and stands students in good stead for work and for life in our increasingly connected world.

“There’s a welcome increase in top grades this year but disappointingly the overall number taking a language continues to fall.

“The on-going decline of French and German – languages that are highly valued by many employers – is a particular concern with numbers being less than a third of what they were 20 years ago.

“And while it is great to see an upturn in Spanish and in some less traditional languages such as Chinese and Arabic – all languages that matter to the UK economy - this sadly isn’t enough to compensate for the general downturn.

“The reality is that as the UK comes to reposition itself on the world stage, languages matter now more than ever. Learning another language isn’t just a rewarding way to connect with another culture but it boosts job prospects too. It is vital that we encourage far more young people to develop their language skills both now and in the future.”

All figures are from JCQ

Notes to Editor

For more information, please contact Kristen McNicoll in the British Council Press Office on 0207 389 4967 or

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we directly reach over 65 million people and more than 660 million people via broadcasts and publications.

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Fifteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.