A level languages in London.

What is the condition of A-level language provision in London’s sixth forms?

Data from the 2015 performance tables show that:

  • Over 5,500 London sixth formers entered A-levels in 19 different languages last year.
  • Over two thirds of these were entered for the top 3 most popular languages: French, Spanish and German.
  • In all but the top 4 languages (including Turkish), more than half the sixth forms with entries only entered a single candidate. Even in French and Spanish, around 1 in 5 sixth forms entered only one candidate.
  • Average cohort sizes are small, mostly 2 students or less per group, while colleges achieve some of the largest average group sizes (eg: 12.5 for Spanish and 10.4 for French)
  • Publicly funded sixth forms across London offer more options overall (all 19 languages) with only numbers for Gujarati in single figures. London’s private fee-charging sixth forms offer 16 languages between them with no Dutch, Punjabi or Bengali available at all and single figures only for Turkish, Urdu, Modern Greek, Modern Hebrew and Gujarati.
  • Other notable differences between the public and private sectors include the higher numbers of entries in private sixth forms for Russian and Chinese.

Summary of A-level Language entries in London (2015)

Language Centres Total Public AGS Private AGS
French 309 1,642 1,038 4.4 604 8.3
Spanish 291 1,577 1,132 5.1 445 6.5
German 188 535 391 2.9 144 2.8
Turkish 47 270 266 3.5 4 1.3
Italian 116 257 173 2.1 84 2.6
Chinese 82 203 77 1.3 126 5.5
Portuguese 99 197 179 2.0 18 1.8
Russian 86 188 90 1.7 98 3.1
Arabic 75 156 142 2.0 14 2.0
Polish 106 144 129 1.3 15 1.5
Persian 51 83 67 1.7 16 1.3
Urdu 35 64 61 1.8 3 1.0
Japanese 40 57 35 1.4 22 1.5
Modern Greek 27 41 38 1.6 3 1.0
Dutch 26 31 31 1.2 0
Modern Hebrew 8 21 18 3.6 3 1.0
Punjabi 13 19 19 1.5 0
Bengali 10 17 17 1.7 0
Gujarati 7 8 7 1.0 1 1.0

Centres: number of sixth forms,  Total: total student entries,  AGS: Average Group Size

It seems that there are healthy numbers choosing to study A-level languages across London but that there may be a large number of very small groups as well as many ‘language-free zones’. Language A-levels are not offered by many centres and where they are available, vibrant language learning groups require a certain ‘critical mass’. More could be done to improve sixth formers’ access to a broad offer as well as their experience of language learning.

This is an example of where a collaborative approach between sixth forms could help. For instance, a Language Hub, or hubs, supported by, and belonging to, all its member sixth forms could be created for every London borough or group of boroughs. With some common timetabling, this could offer a good range of languages to all sixth formers in the area regardless of their ‘home’ centre. This might act rather like the existing Music Hubs – offering a broader and richer language learning environment than any single sixth form could, promoting language learning to all sixth formers and making the best use of expert language teachers from across the area as well as supporting excellent language teaching pre-16.

Some of the students in the tables above may already be benefiting from such arrangements without it showing in the data if they are entered at their home centre but taught in a bigger group elsewhere. It may also be that some of the very small groups are not groups at all but simply students who are already confident users of a language and are entering via their sixth form with little or no tuition needed. While it would be interesting to know the extent of these arrangements, they are probably not widespread and the case for collaboration to benefit all those sixth formers who wish to study a language remains very strong.

Top languages by London borough:

This table provides data for A-level entries in publicly funded sixth forms by borough and concentrates on those ‘top 3’ language A-levels which account for over two thirds of all language entries. It also lists the next most popular languages in each borough.

London borough French Spanish German next
Barking 9 6 1 Persian (2)
Barnet 96 92 30 Turkish (26)
Bexley 22 9 36 Italian (10)
Brent 29 21 10 Portuguese (14)
Bromley 57 65 27 Persian (6)
Camden 37 49 6 Portuguese (9)
City of London 0 0 0
Croydon 46 34 20 Turkish (10)
Ealing 38 67 16 Polish (15)
Enfield 41 50 14 Turkish (69)
Greenwich 27 14 4 It/Ja/Tu (5 each)
Hackney 13 33 2 Turkish (29)
Hamm. & Fulham 46 44 9 Arabic (23)
Haringey 13 25 10 Turkish (37)
Harrow 34 23 11 Arabic (11)
Havering 48 21 16 Italian (13)
Hillingdon 20 18 15 Italian (9)
Hounslow 33 29 13 Pol/Port. (14)
Islington 10 36 0 Turkish (44)
Ken. & Chelsea 27 42 1 Portuguese (12)
Kingston 44 33 19 Chinese (5)
Lambeth 19 48 4 Portuguese (19)
Lewisham 43 60 7 Italian (10)
Merton 15 14 9 Polish (9)
Newham 20 18 9 Italian (9)
Redbridge 79 32 35 Russian (20)
Richmond 20 46 8 Polish (7)
Southwark 11 22 1 Turkish (4)
Sutton 61 51 34 Chinese (6)
Tower Hamlets 7 9 5 Bengali (9)
Waltham Forest 23 19 0 Turkish (53)
Wandsworth 45 60 21 Portuguese (19)
Westminster 34 42 7 Arabic (24)

The overall A-level cohorts are of different sizes in each borough so these numbers would need to be seen as a proportion of the appropriate cohort if we want to establish the precise take-up rate of A-level languages in different parts of London. Even without this, some conclusions can be drawn:

A-level languages in general seem to be much less chosen, or less available, in Barking and Tower Hamlets. Of the top 3 languages, German availability is particular patchy, being unavailable in 2 boroughs and falling to single figures in 14 boroughs. German is relatively less popular in around 11 boroughs (Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith, Islington, Kensington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Richmond, Southwark and Westminster) whereas Spanish is relatively less popular in just one borough (Bexley).

It’s also interesting to note that Turkish is the top language A-level in publicly funded sixth forms in 4 London boroughs (Enfield, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest) and the second highest in Hackney. Bengali is the joint first choice language in Tower Hamlets and Portuguese is the joint second most popular choice in Lambeth.

This forms part of a series of posts in the run-up to the post-16 Area Reviews, making the case for greater sixth form collaboration in London to benefit students.

More on the pattern of sixth form course availability in London:

More sixth formers doing research projects (Feb 2016)

A-level minority report: Dance, Music, Philosophy (Feb 2016)

Accessing the IB Diploma (Feb 2016)

Language

 

About Eddie Playfair

Principal of Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) East London. Blogging about education, politics and culture in a personal capacity. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
This entry was posted in Education, Education policy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A level languages in London.

  1. such a great share, I like all the fact that you elaborated each and everything very nicely. i am always curious about new languages and I know one site who gives Italian Classes in Barnet. Have a look https://www.italianschoolofstalbans.co.uk/.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s