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Closed petition Create a Government exam board to make new language GCSEs based on census data

Currently, it is up to exam boards what language GCSEs to produce. We want the Government to create its own exam board to produce new language GCSEs based on the main languages of UK residents, using census data.

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Over the past decade, some communities have vastly expanded in size in the UK. Many people who have settled in the UK now have their children in school here. We believe it is vital for there to be language GCSEs for communities present in large numbers the UK. For example, whilst we have a Polish GCSE, and rightly so, the Romanian Community, which the latest Census puts at 472,000 speakers, has no such provision. It is only just that the Government brings in a mechanism to rectify this in good time.

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Government responded

This response was given on 13 June 2023

GCSEs in England are offered by several private sector and not-for-profit exam boards. They are not established or funded by government. There are no plans to create a government owned exam board.

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GCSEs in England are offered by a number of private sector and not-for-profit exam boards. None of these boards are established or funded by government. There are no plans to create a government owned exam board.

Exam boards design and deliver GCSEs within a regulatory framework set by Ofqual, the independent qualifications regulator for England. As part of this framework, exam boards develop specifications for the detailed content of each qualification they offer, including for any modern foreign language GCSEs. These specifications must be accredited by Ofqual before they can be taught in schools.

Exam board specifications are based on high-level subject content produced by the Department for Education (DfE), in consultation with subject experts and stakeholders. Currently, all GCSEs in modern languages must follow one single subject content document. From September 2024, however, GCSEs in French, German, and Spanish will be required to follow a new subject content document, with first exams based on revised specifications taking place in summer 2026.

Exam boards can produce a GCSE specification in any modern foreign language, based on the DfE’s subject content. In total, there are currently eighteen modern languages offered as GCSEs by exam boards in England. Any decision to add further languages would be informed by a number of important factors, including the level of demand from schools and the proportion of the population speaking the language. The availability of examiners and markers is also likely to be a key factor. There is no reason in principle why a GCSE in any additional modern (or ancient) language could not be introduced, and the Government would support any exam board wishing to do so. Any such decision is, however, at the discretion of exam boards who would have to determine whether or not there was a strong case to do so.

More widely, schools are free to decide which languages are taught as part of their curriculum, both at primary and secondary school, and the Government does not specify which languages should be taught or how to teach them. When deciding which languages to offer their pupils, schools are likely to consider the needs of the community in which they serve.

The Government is committed to increasing the number of pupils studying languages to GCSE level, including languages that are commonly spoken in Britain today. It is for this reason that teaching of languages is in the national curriculum from ages 7 to 14, and why GCSEs in languages are included as part of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) suite of subjects.

Department for Education