Revealed: The nine schools chosen to split £2m and become ‘language hubs’

Nine schools will split £2 million in government funding to become “modern foreign language hubs”, after a scheme to boost Spanish, French and German teaching was extended by ministers.

The Department for Education announced today that £4.8 million will be spent on creating a language “centre of excellence” with nine “hub” schools. These schools will split £500,000 in annual funding, and in exchange will share resources and best practice with other schools. Work will begin in the autumn.

Ministers previously said the centre of excellence would attract only £2 million over two years, but have allocated more in order to establish the additional hubs.

Hubs on their own won’t be enough to keep and develop the community of MFL teachers needed, or address why these language subjects are in decline

But a teaching union warned that the hubs alone will not address a decline in take-up of modern foreign language subjects or a shortage of teachers.

According to the DfE, the centre of excellence will be charged with raising the standard of teaching in languages based on the Latin alphabet, like French, Spanish and German.

It will enact recommendations made in the Teaching Schools Council’s modern foreign language pedagogy review, which last year said that the “vast majority” of young people should study a modern
foreign language up to the age of 16.

Last year, Ofqual’s figures showed summer entries for German GCSEs and A-levels had dropped by 12 per cent, with French falling by 10 per cent, and Spanish by three per cent.

And earlier this year, Schools Week revealed that over a third of state schools now allow pupils to opt out of studying a language in year 9.

The Teaching School Council’s review, led by academy CEO Ian Bauckham, warned that weaknesses in British graduates’ translation and interpreting skills loses the UK an estimated 3.5 per cent of economic performance.

“This programme will give teachers the expertise and support they need to teach pupils key languages such as Spanish, French and German – languages that businesses say they want from their employees,” said Nick Gibb, the schools minister.

“The knowledge pupils will gain in this subject at GCSE and A level will help deliver the skilled workforce we need and build a Britain that is fit for the future.”

Ros McNeil, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said the recent decline in the take-up of MFL subjects, particularly Spanish, French and German, was “alarming”.

“These are such important subjects and we need more young people confident in new languages, not fewer,” she said.

“However, hubs on their own won’t be enough to keep and develop the community of MFL teachers needed, or address why these language subjects are in decline. The shortage of MFL teachers is serious and is storing up long term problems.”

Language hubs: The full list

1. Dartford Grammar School, Dartford

2. Dixons Kings Academy, Bradford

3. Presdales School, Ware, Hertfordshire

4. Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Marlow

5. St James’ School, Exeter

6. The Broxbourne School, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire

7. Archbishop Temple School, Preston

8. Blatchington Mill School and Sixth Form, Hove

9. Cardinal Hume Catholic School, Gateshead

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  1. Another example of the DfE sprinkling money on initiatives which can’t hope to reach all schools. Does the DfE really think MFL teaching in thousands of England’s schools will be improved by giving NINE schools a share of a little pot?

    If the DfE is serious about improving MFL teaching then it must fund it adequately just as it should fund all education properly.