GCSE Results Day: Massive Rise In Migrant Students Sitting Community Languages

David Jones/PA Wire URN:21969286/AP
File Photo: David Jones/PA Wire URN:21969286/AP

Today’s GCSE results are set to show an increasing number of students sitting exams in “community languages” as an “easy” route to a top grade. This comes as schools and parents report there have been recent rises in students being tested in Arabic, Persian and Portuguese.

The number of migrant children taking so-called “community languages” – primarily Urdu, Polish and Turkish – has risen by 362 per cent in 20 years to 31,865. At the same time, traditional languages such as French and German are said to be in “long term decline.”

Migrant children sitting “community languages” are three times more likely to be rewarded with an A* than children who learn a tradition language in school – researches suggest this is because they are in fact sitting foreign language exams in their “native tongue.”

Prof Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, who conducted the research, says in the report:

“While there are good reasons for native English-speakers to study Chinese and Russian, it is unlikely the same applies to Polish, Urdu and Portuguese,” he said.

 “It seems likely that a significant proportion of the candidates are native speakers of those languages when the exam is designed for those for whom English is the first language.  It suggests some schools are using these subjects as an easy hit.

 “Those for whom it [the language] is a mother tongue are at a considerable advantage. The low proportion of good grades awarded in maths and English [comparatively] is because, crucial to performance measures they are taken by all pupils not just a few.”

 Top Ten “Community Languages” In 2014

  • Polish – 4929
  • Urdu – 4498
  • Turkish – 1642
  • Bengali – 963
  • Punjabi – 886
  • Gujarati – 625
  • Farsi – 535
  • Modern Greek – 516
  • Modern Hebrew – 500

At the same time, the numbers of pupils studying French and German are expected to decrease by six per cent and 11 per cent respectively in a single year.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association for School and College Leaders, told The Independent that the rise in students sitting community languages exams “reflects the number of people speaking these languages coming into this country and demographic trends”.

Grade inflation, the process of students getting ever-higher results year on year, was consistent under the Labour government. The process has only been tempered by Conservative reforms implemented by Michael Gove.

Mid-term exams and excessive coursework have been stopped, while grades in other subjects such as Geography and History have now started to fall. Meanwhile, “community languages” have the highest rate of A* grades in any subject – seven times more get the top grade that they do in maths.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.