The provisional GCSE results for 2012 were published today. After the decline in languages entries over recent years (and a very sharp fall in entries last year) they show a small increase in take up for languages in the UK. Overall numbers have increased from 309397 to 315444, up by 1.95%. This compares with a total entry for all GCSEs which has increased by 1.42%.

Behind the overall figure there is a continuing change in emphasis in relation to individual language choices. Last year French remained fairly steady (down by 785 entries, or 0.5%) but German fell by a further 5.5% (3340 fewer entries). Both Spanish and “other” languages increased their numbers quite significantly. Spanish was up by nearly 10% to 72606 and “other” increased by over 13% to 29843.

In the last three years German entries have fallen by over 21%, from 73469 in 2009 to 57547 in 2012, while French has fallen from over 188000 to 153436 (down 18.7%). Over the same period Spanish has increased by 8.25% to 72606. Despite the increase this year “other” languages have declined in numbers since 2009, mainly because of a significant drop in Chinese entries in 2011.

The slightly more hopeful, if mixed, picture for languages compares with a steady increase in entries for English (3%) and History (2%) and significant expansion of science entries (Physics has increased by over 12% and for the first time has more entries than French). Design Technology and Art, on the other hand have seen a decline in numbers

Much of the initial press reporting on GCSE has concentrated on the fall in A*s and As which it is believed is a response to Government concerns about grade inflation. This does not seem to be a major issue for languages. French and German A* and As are more or less the same percentages as last year, Spanish is slightly down while Other Languages have increased the numbers of high grades.


The provisional results for 2012 were published today. They show a further decline in take up of French and German throughout the UK. In England, French entries have fallen to 11298 (down 5.68% on last year) and the figure for the UK is very similar (12511 – a fall of 5.19%). German is down nearly 8% to 4478. Even Spanish which has increased take-up in recent years is down this year (by 3.5%) . This continues the downward trend begun two years ago following a period of relative stability at A level . Since 2010 French entries have fallen by over 9% and German by nearly 14%. This is over a period when overall entries have hardly changed (a small fall of less than 1% this year) and when subjects such as Art, English and History have had increased entries, while the uptake of science has improved dramatically. Physics (5% up this year) now has more candidates than all languages combined.

Also of concern is the decline in AS entries – where only Spanish has shown a small increase. French is down by 9% and German by 11%

The overall figure for languages appears more positive (a small increase since 2010) because of the dramatic increase in entries for “other ” languages. These now total over 9000 for the UK (8786 in England), which is nearly twice as many entries as German and significantly more than Spanish. As well as seeking to understand the factors that have led to such a rapid fall in the traditional languages, it will be important to look further at the growth in “new” languages.

In common with all other subjects and in response to Government policy there has been a small fall in the number of A* and A awards (around 40% for French and German, rather fewer for Spanish and over 50% for “other” languages.