Morgan tells exam boards to protect Polish A-levels

By Sean Coughlan
Education correspondent

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Nicky Morgan has promised to protect A-levels in Polish and Bengali

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says a future Conservative government would "guarantee the future" of GCSEs and A-levels in minority languages such as Polish, Gujarati, Bengali and Turkish.

There has been a campaign against exam board plans to withdraw these languages as exam subjects in England.

Mrs Morgan has written to exam boards telling them to reverse their decision.

Labour's Tristram Hunt says it is a "desperate attempt" to "undo the damage of chaotic exam changes".

Mrs Morgan has added her voice to warnings that these languages should not be lost in the shake-up of A-levels and GCSEs.

'Mother tongue'

In a letter to the heads of exam boards, she says she has received "numerous representations" from ethnic minority communities about fears that these languages would be dropped from A-levels and GCSEs.

She says she shares the concern that young people from minority communities would not be able to study their "mother tongue or that of their parents and family".

"I am therefore calling on you to work with the regulator to secure the future of these qualifications and reverse your decision to cancel them," says Mrs Morgan.

If agreement was not reached, she said, a future Conservative government would launch an "immediate consultation" on "how best to secure the future of these qualifications".

The move follows a campaign to protect these minority languages. A petition to keep Polish A-level has more than 14,000 signatures.

Following the coalition's overhaul of the exam system, the OCR exam board said it would be dropping GCSEs and A-levels in Turkish, Portuguese, Persian, Gujarati and Dutch.

And AQA has announced the end of A-levels in Polish, Punjabi, Modern Hebrew and Bengali.

The support of the education secretary to protect the language exams was welcomed by the British Academy.

"Our rich multicultural society is itself a soft power asset for the UK. There is a wealth of untapped linguistic resource amongst the school age population in the UK," said Prof Nigel Vincent, who leads on languages for the British Academy.

"This needs to be mobilised, supported and given recognition through accreditation. The academy has called for strategic oversight by government and relevant funders regarding higher education language provision, where similar issues around take-up of languages exist," said Prof Vincent.

'Deeply sceptical'

Labour's shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, said: "This is a desperate attempt by the flailing Tory campaign to undo the damage that has been caused by David Cameron's chaotic exam changes.

"The public will be right to be deeply sceptical of any attempt by the Tories - at this late stage - to ditch their own policy, when they have time and again refused to change course.

"The Tories will be judged on their damaging education record. Labour has been clear from day one: we will save these important language qualifications."

A Conservative spokesman accused Mr Hunt of "deliberately misrepresenting" the Conservative Party's position on this issue in order to scaremonger among minority communities, and said the last Labour government had undermined language teaching in schools.

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson David Laws said it was vital a wide range of modern languages were available in schools, and that Liberal Democrats support those parents who are making their case to the exam boards.

"In government, we made sure more children had the opportunity to study a language - by putting modern and foreign languages on the National Curriculum from the age of seven."

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