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Languages Education

Volume 615: debated on Monday 10 October 2016

The inclusion of a language in the EBacc increased the numbers of students studying at least one language at GCSE between 2010 and 2015, and the Government’s ambition is that more pupils in mainstream secondary schools enter the EBacc subjects at GCSE.

Order. I had thought that the Secretary of State was seeking to group this question with Question 12, from the hon. Member for Banbury, whom we do not wish arbitrarily to exclude from our deliberations.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that new schools such as Northampton International Academy, where I am the chair of governors, are crucial to secure the mix of education options that this country needs, with a focus on languages?

Absolutely. Indeed, new schools such as Northampton International Academy, which has an academic curriculum with a language specialism and also links to schools in other countries, are the sorts of schools that can really play a key role in ensuring that there are strong options for children on languages.

Thank you, Mr Speaker—I cannot tell you how grateful I am not to be excluded this afternoon. Given the importance of China in the global marketplace today, not least to my constituents who work in Bicester shopping village, does my right hon. Friend agree that our children should be taught Chinese in schools?

My hon. Friend is quite right that having more young people learning Chinese is important for the UK’s place in the world; indeed, many employers are looking for more staff who are able to speak Mandarin Chinese. This September, we launched a £10 million Mandarin excellence programme, and hundreds of pupils in England have started intensive lessons in Chinese. By 2020, 5,000 pupils will be working towards a high level of fluency in Mandarin Chinese.

Does the Secretary of State agree that rigorous teaching of English grammar to all our pupils, not just the grammar school elite, would not only increase the uptake of foreign languages in schools, but help them to achieve success in those foreign languages?

I do agree with the hon. Gentleman. He will be aware that, alongside numeracy, a focus on literacy and language has been a core part of how we have improved standards in schools over the past six years.

One of the most widely spoken languages in the United Kingdom is Punjabi. What steps are the Government taking to encourage students to study that language, particularly in the light of Brexit, after which our trade with India and Pakistan will become even more important?

We are continuing with our community language GCSEs and A-levels. As the hon. Gentleman points out, it has never been more important for young people coming out of our education system to be successful not only in our own country, but in a global world.