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.