Skills: Importance for the UK Economy and Quality of Life

Baroness Coussins Excerpts
Thursday 9th May 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, some people think that learning a foreign language is just an academic pursuit for the top set, but languages are an important skill for everyone. They enhance the economy and individual lives. I declare my interests as set out in the register.

The UK is often caricatured as no good at languages, partly in the belief that “Everyone speaks English, so why bother?” But this is a myth: only 6% of the world’s population are native English speakers, and 75% speak no English at all. In the 21st century, speaking only English is as much of a disadvantage as speaking no English. Another myth is that we need not bother because there is always Google Translate. But when it comes to nuance, cultural sensitivity and understanding, humans and interpersonal skills will always be needed. Ask any soldier who has been deployed to Afghanistan how vital their interpreters have been and how easy it might have been for a single wrong word on Google to have made the difference between life and death.

I return to the UK and the value of language skills to our economy. Research estimates that lack of language skills here costs an estimated 3.5% of GDP. SMEs making use of languages are 30% more successful in exporting than those that do not. In 2022, Cambridge University research calculated that, if we invested more in teaching French, Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic in schools, we could increase our exports by up to £19 billion a year. The British Chambers of Commerce sector survey showed that 38% of businesses expect to need language skills.

Yet employers are frequently forced to recruit from overseas because they say our school leavers and graduates fall short of the language skills that they need. A CBI skills survey said that modern language skills were the ones that employers were the least satisfied with. Only 9% of English 15-year-olds are competent in their first foreign language beyond a very basic level, compared with an average of 42% across 14 European countries. But tighter immigration rules have had an adverse impact on recruitment from overseas, making it even more important to invest more, and more strategically, in language teaching and learning here in the UK. In 2023, only 33% of the target for MFL trainee teachers was met.

This is a challenge not just for graduate or international jobs. One survey showed that the highest level of language skills shortages is among basic clerical and admin staff. You do not always need to be fluent: basic conversation in one or two other languages will often land you the job. Without language skills, the shutters come down on possible career paths not just into business but into diplomacy, international relations, defence and security. Qualified linguists are also needed in key sectors, such as public service translators and interpreters in the NHS, the police and the courts.

As well as opening doors to jobs and careers, learning languages also means learning about other cultures and countries. Trips and exchanges abroad can be inspirational and life-changing. The British Academy has shown how languages bring recognised transferable skills, such as problem-solving, creativity and an international mindset. Believe it or not, there are also proven benefits to cognitive function, the delaying of dementia and helping recovery from stroke. Research has shown that primary school age children who learn another language perform significantly better across the whole curriculum, including in maths.

The fact that the lowest take-up of language GCSEs corresponds exactly with the UK regions where we have the highest recorded skills shortages and unemployment, and the most pupils from low-income families and on free school meals, should in itself be an enormous red flag to politicians and policymakers concerned with levelling up. More attention and more investment in language teaching and learning would be a great help in that regard.

I conclude by flagging up the headlines for six key areas needing urgent attention if we are to improve language proficiency in the UK. I hope that the Minister will be able to comment on each of them, however briefly.

First, double down on boosting take-up of language GCSEs and A-levels, for example by introducing the advanced language premium as an incentive to schools, modelled on the advanced maths premium, which has been successful.

Secondly, sort out the financial and bureaucratic obstacles to trips and exchanges—the Minister knows from our recent debate what I mean by that.

Thirdly, encourage more local authorities to replicate the Hackney transition system, so that key stage 2 language learning is built on, rather than undermined, when children go to secondary school.

Fourthly, look at the FE sector: a landmark report from the British Academy said that FE colleges were a language learning cold spot.

Fifthly, deal with the haemorrhaging of languages from universities. Over 60 of them have cut some or all their modern language degrees since 2000. We must return to a system which protects languages as a strategically vulnerable subject.

Sixthly and finally, do not forget our 2 million bilingual children and make sure they have the chance to gain academic qualifications in their home or heritage languages, many of which are of strategic importance to the UK, whether in business, security or diplomacy.

Educational Trips and Exchanges

Baroness Coussins Excerpts
Thursday 25th April 2024

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Asked by
Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the importance of educational trips and exchanges from England to other countries, and the measures needed to facilitate them.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interest in languages as set out in the register. My first point, however, is that this is not just about languages; the importance of educational exchanges and trips abroad applies to many other areas of the curriculum, including geography, history, STEM subjects, art and sport. But I shall focus on languages in summarising why these trips are so important.

In fact, the DfE itself gave us one of the best and most thoughtful reasons why learning a language is so important in its document outlining the aims of the key stage 3 curriculum. It says:

“Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures”.


Yet the EBacc boost has stalled and barely a month goes by without yet another university announcing cuts in its modern language degree courses, which in turn weakens the supply chain of MFL teachers. This vicious circle is damaging to our economy and to individuals and their employability, with UK businesses saying that our school leavers and graduates do not have the language skills that they need. On top of all that, there is a stark correlation between the lowest take-up of languages at GCSE and the regions with the highest unemployment and skills shortages. Levelling up would benefit enormously from a boost to language learning.

How do trips and exchanges help? The Association for Language Learning has reported a positive impact on educational outcomes. Trips and exchanges raise motivation as well as achievement, encourage development of life skills, and help students see wider perspectives and develop and international mindset. University students who have spent a year abroad are more likely to gain a first or 2.1 degree and are 23% less likely to be unemployed six months after graduation, compared to people who have not spent a year abroad as part of their course, whether they are linguists or not.

Against this background, the APPG on Modern Languages, which I co-chair, heard detailed evidence from stakeholders on the problems that they are up against. The decline is worsening fast: data show that 50% of schools are now cutting trips and exchanges, rising to 68% in deprived areas—a massive increase from last year, when it was only 21%, though that was bad enough. Much of the educational benefit is being eroded, as a result of schools moving to what we might call cultural leisure tourism, with stays in hotels rather than exchanges in schools and families. I do not suppose that your average 14 year-old staying in a hotel with 30 classmates spends much time immersed in a language or practising their spoken French or Spanish.

The reasons for this decline, as presented to the APPG by teachers are fourfold: post-Brexit paperwork for travel and border checks; the increased burden of DBS checks; the lack of, or conflicting, official guidance; and, lastly, access to opportunity and funding. The impact of all this is unsustainable pressure on staff time and increased costs for schools and families; inequity, with some families having to pay more for the same trip; and the risk of a stressful journey, with delays caused by border checks.

Based on all this evidence, the APPG submitted a six-point plan of action to the DfE. I know that the Minister has seen this plan, as well as the reply that we received from Damian Hinds, the Schools Minister. However, we think the response rather weak, and I appeal to the Minister to work with the APPG to achieve more before another whole cohort of students loses out on what should be one of the most inspiring and stimulating parts of their education.

There are six practical steps to turn things around. First, it is not just a problem for the DfE to resolve. I see the Minister sighing with relief. The problems are rooted also in the Home Office and the FCDO. We need cross-departmental leadership and a designated Minister to co-ordinate this work. I believe the Minister would have exactly the right attitude and clout for this. What is more, she could rely absolutely on active help from stakeholders across the sector. The ALL, the Association of School and College Leaders, the Association of Colleges, the British Council, the School Travel Forum, all the relevant embassies and cultural institutions and, of course, the APPG would pitch in to support her. I have also had supportive contact with ABTA, the school travel organiser, the Boarding Schools’ Association and the Sutton Trust. That is quite an alliance.

Secondly, the paperwork and costs must be reviewed. We should look at bringing back the list of travellers scheme, which allowed non-EU nationals to travel without a visa or ETIAS to EU member states. We should also explore bringing back a new group passport scheme. Where passports are necessary, we should reduce their cost; £53.50 is just too much for some families for an under-16 passport. The bilateral agreement with France on easing travel rules for educational group visits should be extended proactively by HMG to all EU countries. We should not wait to be approached, as suggested by one Home Office Minister; it is in our interests to make it happen and we should ensure that the arrangements are reciprocal. Last week, the Government—and, indeed, the Labour Party—gave very short shrift to the European Commission’s proposal for a UK-EU youth mobility scheme for 18 to 30 year-olds, saying that we now prefer to deal bilaterally. If we really are too squeamish now to deal with the EU, can we at least see some proactive bilateralism?

Thirdly, we need clear and consistent guidance to help teachers plan trips. The FCDO travel entry information must cover school groups that include both UK and non-UK nationals, while accurate information on visas—including Schengen visas—and discrepancies between the advice to schools from local authorities and that coming from the FCDO must be ironed out.

Fourthly, I turn to the burden of DBS checks, where—happily—there seems to be some welcome progress. Checks already carried out by another organisation, such as the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, are now allowed without people having to go through the whole process again. Schools are also now free to decide whether an enhanced DBS is always needed for every adult in the household. However, these changes are not yet common knowledge in schools, so more needs to be done to communicate them.

Fifthly—I know that this is a big ask, given what the Minister has said on this topic previously—the Turing scheme should be reviewed. The new, more streamlined application process has been welcomed, but schools tell us that they also want multi-year funding cycles because a single-year cycle is impractical for many schools and colleges and their international partnerships. We know from experience that reciprocity helps the future MFL teacher supply chain, which badly needs boosting.

The easiest way of doing this, of course, would be to rejoin Erasmus+ as a non-EU associate country. I implore the Minister to respond positively to the invitation earlier this month from the European Economic and Social Committee for us to enter into negotiations to rejoin Erasmus+. The reason for leaving it given by the UK representative there was that the UK’s language skills are just too poor to justify the expense, which seems to me the very reason for being in it and which would pay off in the long term.

Sixthly, and finally, our plan of action proposed a number of initiatives to incentivise participation, for example, rejoining or creating a UK version of eTwinning; promoting more energetically the quality assurance schemes to support teachers and schools, such as those offered by the School Travel Forum; the LOtC Quality Badge; and the British Council’s International School Award. I salute the Minister for being here today to reply on these matters, many of which fall outside the remit of her department, but I very much hope that she will agree to initiate the cross-departmental action needed to improve the situation I have been describing. I look forward to her response.

European University Institute (EU Exit) Regulations 2022

Baroness Coussins Excerpts
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee for considering this draft legislation.

The primary purpose of this statutory instrument is to reflect in domestic law the fact that the UK is no longer a member of the European University Institute convention since the UK left the European Union. It does so by ensuring that no rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures that derive from the European University Institute convention are retained on the UK statute book through the provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The exception to this is where their retention is appropriate or supports a period of reasonable adjustment for staff. Where rights are saved relating to the legal proceedings immunity and an income tax privilege for UK-linked institute staff, this instrument will establish the circumstances after which they no longer apply.

The European University Institute in Florence is an international centre for postgraduate and postdoctoral studies and research with a European focus. It was established by an international convention in 1972, which the UK signed in 1975. The convention states that accession to the convention is restricted to EU member states. When the UK ceased to be one, our formal membership of the institute also ended.

While the UK’s membership of the convention ceased on EU exit, we put in place an extension of the previous arrangements beyond the end of the transition period until 31 December 2022. This was to ensure that UK staff and students at the institute could continue in their posts and with their studies while we considered options for a future relationship with the institute.

After a series of constructive and detailed negotiations between the UK and the institute that has taken place over 18 months, it has not been possible to conclude an agreement to define future UK engagement at this time. Our focus now is on confirming the status of UK-linked staff and UK-funded students at the institute as soon as possible. The UK will take appropriate measures to allow current students to continue their studies at the institute. We will continue to pay the grants we have committed to for students who have started courses already.

The Government value the work of the European University Institute and the long and close collaboration we have shared. Many talented UK students have studied for PhDs at the institute, with financial support from the UK Government, and it is an important forum for collaboration on education and research. I reassure noble Lords that the UK remains committed to strong research collaboration with our European partners. We continue to work together constructively with the institute to reach an agreed settlement that provides for current staff and students. Once that is concluded, we look forward to returning to the question of our future relationship with the institute.

With this instrument, we are taking steps to provide for legal certainty by revoking the retained EU law relating to the convention either where it no longer has any practical application following the UK leaving the EU, and is therefore redundant, or where it is no longer appropriate for it to be retained. This statutory instrument has no bearing on the UK’s membership of the institute. Its purpose is simply to ensure that no provisions remain in UK law except as appropriate or to provide a period of reasonable adjustment for staff. I beg to move.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, I completely understand the need for this statutory instrument, given that it has not proved possible to negotiate a formal post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the European University Institute—although it is very welcome that appointments to academic posts at the EUI will remain nationality blind. I also understand that this SI is unamendable, which is regrettable because I would like to flag up one specific concern and ask the Minister whether there is any way in which she is able and willing to follow it up.

The problem arises that academic staff are generally employed at the EUI on one or other form of rolling contract. As the SI is currently phrased, the staff concerned would lose the exemption from UK tax liability as and when they renew their employment contracts. In other words, it is a serious change to their terms and conditions. This would also produce some inequities between academic staff. Some of them would lose the exemption at the end of this calendar year, whereas others on renewed or extended contracts in different circumstances would enjoy that exemption for up to five years.

Plurilingual and Intercultural Education

Baroness Coussins Excerpts
Tuesday 18th October 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take in response to the recommendations of the Council of Europe of 2 February (CM/Rec(2022)1) on the importance of promoting plurilingual and intercultural education to support democratic culture.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and I remind the House of my language interests, as set out in the register.

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, languages education is an important element in developing a democratic and socially just society. We are incredibly fortunate to have English as our lingua franca, but we also value familiarity with other languages and cultures. Highlighting the interconnectedness of languages and increasing the profile of community languages is part of our new language support offer from 2023. Revised GCSE content will make languages more accessible and improve uptake. New measures will increase the number of language teachers.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, I am pleased, of course, that as one of the 47 members of the Council of Europe, the UK signed up to this recommendation and I am encouraged by the positive words from the Minister. But the Government also decided to withdraw the UK’s membership of the council’s European Centre for Modern Languages. This means that our teachers no longer have access to a wide range of valuable professional development opportunities, which, at a time of MFL teacher shortage and under-recruitment, seems perverse. Will the Minister agree to reconsider UK membership of the ECML as one of the specific measures we could take to back up our in-principle support for this recommendation?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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My understanding is that the decision to withdraw from the council’s European Centre for Modern Languages was taken over a decade ago and we have no plans to rejoin at this time. We currently fund teacher continuing professional development via the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy. To encourage recruitment for the academic year 2023-24, we have increased the language bursary to £25,000 and we are also offering a prestigious scholarship worth £27,000 for French, German and Spanish trainees.

British Baccalaureate

Baroness Coussins Excerpts
Tuesday 21st June 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I thoroughly hope that I did not give the noble Baroness the sense that the Government are complacent. We are not complacent. She need only look at the measures we are taking in relation to technical education, I hope, to demonstrate that. Obviously, every country has a different education system. We have worked to build the best system for our children. We believe that it plays to our strengths and recognises the structure of the school system we have, rather than one that other countries have.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, will the Government accept the Times education commission’s recommendation that bursaries for trainee language teachers be restored to the same level as for science and maths, given the current shortfall of well in excess of 50% for the recruitment of language teachers?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Baroness has highlighted the issue of the shortage of modern languages teachers. She will be aware that we have taken a number of actions in this regard, including putting them on the shortage occupation list.

Foreign Languages: Economic Value

Baroness Coussins Excerpts
Tuesday 29th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the research by Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett and others The economic value to the UK of speaking other languages, published on 22 February; and in particular, the finding that the removal of language barriers with Arabic-, Chinese-, French- and Spanish-speaking countries could increase annual exports from the United Kingdom by around £19 billion.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and declare my interests as co-chair of the All-Party Group on Modern Languages and as vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government believe in the importance of languages and welcome the report’s findings on removing language barriers to benefit the economy. We support language teaching through the recent modern foreign languages GCSE review, the MFL hub programme and the Mandarin Excellence Programme, among other initiatives. We are considering the report alongside other available research and exploring other ways in which we can expand the pipeline of fluent speakers to meet the country’s future needs.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, the Mandarin Excellence Programme has shown that high standards can be achieved in state schools without impinging on other priority subjects, so will the Government launch an equivalent programme in one or more of the other three languages which could result in economic benefits? Secondly, given the finding that in specific sectors such as energy, services and mining other languages matter at least as much as English in reducing trade barriers, will the Minister undertake to speak with colleagues in the Department for International Trade and the Treasury to identify how language skills can be improved and funded in these sectors?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The Government welcome the results of the report, which do indeed highlight the notable achievements of the programme to date. We continue to explore how we can provide greater support for the study of other languages. Regarding the Department for International Trade, the noble Baroness will be aware that we recently announced a refreshed export strategy, Made in the UK, Sold to the World, giving UK exporters support services to seize the opportunities secured through our trade agreements. This is focused on market barriers such as language. I am happy to talk to colleagues there and at the Treasury, as the noble Baroness suggests.

Capita: Turing Scheme Contract

Baroness Coussins Excerpts
Thursday 27th January 2022

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what criteria were used to determine the award to Capita of the contract to administer the Turing scheme after March 2022.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages.

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, the procurement was run in line with Cabinet Office rules and bids were evaluated on the answers to four questions relating to quality and social value, compliance with a range of financial and corporate information tests and the cost of the service. Scores were moderated and weighted in line with the published evaluation model. Capita received the highest overall score and provided the best plan to administer opportunities for students to study and work abroad.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, is the Minister aware of the significant disquiet within the HE sector about this contract, notably from the University and College Union and the University Council of Modern Languages, on the grounds that Capita has a track record of failure on a range of other government contracts? The criteria listed by the Minister do not convince me that due diligence adequately covered the kind of experience and networks across the sector needed to run the scheme, rather than just being a cheaper alternative to the all-round stature and experience of the British Council. What mechanisms are in place to ensure quality assurance in the Capita contract?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I am happy to try to reassure the noble Baroness. We are confident that Capita has the capacity and the skills to administer the Turing scheme. The delivery of the scheme is a major DfE project and therefore subject to best-practice project management principles. We have a dedicated delivery management team that will work with Capita to make sure it is fulfilling its contractual obligations. Looking at the quality aspects relating to the scheme itself, there are performance metrics and financial incentives around the key milestones to make sure that it delivers a good service.

Initial Teacher Training

Baroness Coussins Excerpts
Thursday 18th November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clancarty is right that the proposed reforms call for a subject-by-subject analysis, as well as looking at the overall context of ITT. I will focus on the training and recruitment of teachers of modern languages, and I declare my interest as co-chair of the APPG on Modern Languages.

The supply chain of MFL teachers is shrinking to such a serious extent that the sustainability of language teaching and learning in our schools could be under existential threat. If the UK’s deficit in language skills deteriorates much further, our capacity to deliver public policy in education, research, diplomacy, defence and security will be significantly weakened, as will our ability to supply UK businesses with the school-leavers and graduates they need to compete in a global market, and to build export growth.

Let me illustrate the scale of the problem. A language is one of the subjects required at GCSE for a student to achieve the EBacc. Yet in 2020, only 72% of the target for MFL teachers were recruited; only physics fared worse. This shortfall needs to be seen as being on the back of under-recruitment over many years. Numbers of German and French teachers declined by over a third and a fifth, respectively, in the decade between 2010-11 and 2020-21. Even if every single university student currently doing a languages degree went into teaching, we still would not meet the shortfall, yet a mere 6% of MFL graduates actually end up in teaching.

Part of the systematic collapse in the supply chain of MFL teachers is due to university department closures. Since 2000, over 50 university languages departments have closed and the reforms in ITT, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, may exacerbate the problem even further. If 35 universities, accounting for 10,000 teacher training places, go through with their threat to withdraw teacher training if reforms progress in their current form, this will have a disproportionate impact on MFL. However, I believe there are various measures which Her Majesty’s Government could take immediately and which might help.

First, we need to reverse the cut in bursaries for MFL trainees. These have been slashed for 2021-22 from £26,000 right down to £10,000, even though the reduction for physics, chemistry, maths and computing is only a slight cut, from £26,000 to £24,000. I understand that in 2022-23 the MFL bursaries will rise again, but only to £15,000—still significantly short of the £24,000 for the other subjects I have mentioned. The MFL scholarships have been scrapped altogether. Can the Minister explain this disparity, given that all these subjects are part of the EBacc requirement?

Secondly, we need to look at the barriers we have created, presumably unintentionally, to the smooth and continued recruitment of EU nationals into MFL training. EU students have typically made up between 30% and 75% of ITT cohorts for MFL, but now face a cliff edge in recruitment. Those with settled status were able to access bursaries or student loans last year, but those without this status will not be eligible in future, despite MFL teachers now being on the shortage occupations list—a change for which I commend the Government, but which needs to be followed through logically in policy terms, such as by giving access to these bursaries. Has there been any impact assessment for how these changes will affect future MFL teacher recruitment, especially given that MFL is of course uniquely reliant on recruiting native speakers from EU member countries, particularly France, Germany and Spain?

Thirdly, the cuts to funding for subject knowledge enhancement, or SKE—yet another acronym, I am afraid—should be reversed. SKE is a recruitment tool which was introduced in 2005 to try to bridge that shortfall by attracting UK graduates with a modern language as a subsidiary part of their degree. Typically, 40% to 70% of MFL trainees undertake SKE as a condition of entry, but the funding cuts in the last academic year translated into an estimated reduced capacity in the number of trainees one provider could offer from an anticipated 40 to just 13.

Finally, I want to emphasise how relevant these issues are to the Government’s levelling-up agenda. There is a clear link between low MFL take-up and disadvantage, as measured, for example, by eligibility for free school meals. Lower GCSE take-up correlates with regions of poor productivity and low skill levels. There is also a growing disparity between state and independent schools. For example, the latest Language Trends survey reveals that independent schools are more than three times as likely as a state school to host a native speaker language assistant.

School leavers and graduates with even a basic working or conversational knowledge of another language are more employable and mobile than they would be otherwise. Languages are not just for an internationally mobile elite. One survey showed that lack of language skills accounted for a 27% vacancy rate in clerical and admin jobs.

I hope to hear from the Minister that Her Majesty’s Government will look again with some urgency at restoring the cuts to MFL bursaries, scholarships and SKE funding and access for eligible EU students to these financial incentives. These measures have the potential to save language learning throughout our education system, boost the supply chain of teachers once more and equip young people to compete with their peers from the rest of the world.

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The framework obviously focuses on the outcome, which is that teachers are competent in all aspects. Given the percentage of children in the classroom with SEN, that is obviously a core part.

In view of the time, I shall continue. This desire to create the best initial start for teachers is why we asked Ian Bauckham to lead a review of the ITT market, focusing on how we can ensure that the quality of ITT is consistently of a world-class standard. As mentioned, Ian has been supported by an advisory group, and the report making recommendations to government was published in July 2021. As we have heard this evening, government has consulted on the recommendations made in the report, and we are currently considering them in light of the responses that we had to the consultation. We expect to publish our full response shortly.

In making their recommendations, the expert advisory group reviewed the available evidence on initial teacher training, including international and UK evidence. The objective evidence shows that there is clearly much to be proud of, as we have heard from your Lordships, in our current system of initial teacher training, with many examples of world-class practice, delivered by providers of all types. As would be expected, it also shows that there is scope to improve further.

To level up standards in every school, for every child, we need to strive for excellence in all corners of the country. The evidence we have available suggests that there is more we can do to make sure that high-quality training is being consistently delivered across the whole system. We must ensure that all trainees receive the training that they deserve.

The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, raised concerns about the content of the national professional qualifications. The NPQ frameworks have all been independently reviewed by the Education Endowment Foundation, which has her extremely knowledgeable noble friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, in its fan club—I will join her there if I may. That is obviously to ensure that the content is based on the best available evidence. The delivery of the NPQs will be quality assured by Ofsted, which I hope gives the noble Baroness some confidence.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, raised—these may be my words rather than hers—the absolute importance of developing critical thinking skills. We have built that into the framework at a number of levels, including in our consultation around the new specialist NPQs. There was a clear demand for more qualifications at the middle leadership level, for teachers who want to specialise in leading teaching or curriculum in their subject or phase, as well as supporting the professional development of other teachers. I hope that goes some way to addressing her question.

We continue to value the expertise of all types of ITT providers in developing courses that are underpinned by a strong evidence base. All courses leading to qualified teacher status must incorporate the mandatory core content framework in full. However, to be absolutely clear, in response to the suggestion of several noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, the Government do not prescribe the curriculum of ITT courses beyond this and we have no plans to do so. It remains for individual providers to draw on their own expertise to design courses of high quality that are based on evidence and appropriate to the needs of trainees and to the subject, phase and age range that they will be teaching.

In response to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Storey, about training, child development and dyslexia, the core content framework sets out a minimum entitlement of knowledge, skills and experiences that trainees need to enter the profession in the best position possible to teach and support pupils to succeed, including pupils identified within the four areas of need set out in the SEND code of practice.

On a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, and others, I reassure the House that the Government have no plans to remove certain types of providers from the ITT market. The market is formed from a rich tapestry of provision and partnerships, as we have heard this afternoon, including higher education institutions and school-based providers, and we want to retain this diversity in the future. We value the choice this offers trainees, and our objective is not to reduce the range of ITT providers but to ensure that supply is of the highest quality it can be.

There have been some calls to pause the review or, from the noble Lord, Lord Knight, to cancel it altogether. He will not be surprised that that is not in the Government’s plans. We know that there have been particular pressures and we are very grateful to ITT providers for what they have achieved during the pandemic. However, we believe that supporting our teachers with the highest-quality training and professional development is the best way that we can improve pupil outcomes.

That said, as we develop our response to the report, we are considering the timescales for implementation and will ensure that we allow reasonable time for ITT partnerships to implement any of the review’s recommendations that we take forward.

My noble friend Lord Lexden asked about the compulsory reaccreditation of suppliers. The review report recommends that an accreditation process is the best way in which to implement the recommended quality requirements. If any of the recommendations are accepted, we will proceed carefully to maintain enough training places to continue to meet teacher supply needs across the country. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that the accreditation process will indeed be open, transparent and equitable.

There is agreement across all involved in initial teacher training that mentors play a pivotal role in providing trainees with strong professional support and subject-specific support—points that my noble friend Lord Kirkham made. Ian Bauckham’s report identifies effective mentoring as a critical component of high-quality ITT and makes a number of recommendations about the identification and training of mentors. Alongside mentoring, school placements are critical to teacher training. It is right that people training to become a teacher spend the majority of their time based in schools. That is why having enough high-quality school placements is fundamental to ensuring the quality and sufficiency of teachers entering the system each year.

I am puzzled by the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, and the noble Lord, Lord Knight, that schools will be put off from employing early-career teachers. Certainly, in my conversations with schools that are involved in initial teacher training and the teaching school hubs, they feel that this is a fantastic opportunity to build the culture of their school or multi-academy trust into that initial training. They believe that this will help give those teachers the best start to their careers and improve retention.

As we consider our response to the recommendations we are, of course, very aware of the need to protect teacher supply. Many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, raised concerns about that. We will ensure that the ITT market has the capacity to deliver enough well-trained newly-qualified teachers to the schools and ultimately the pupils who need them. This will include ensuring that there is good geographical availability of initial teacher training.

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, asked about the criteria used for awarding bursaries. Initial teacher training bursaries are offered in subjects where recruitment is the most challenging. In the academic year 2020-21, we exceeded the postgraduate ITT targets in art, in which it was 132%. In response to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Watson, regarding music, the figure was 225%.

The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, asked about the recruitment of modern foreign language teachers from abroad. As she pointed out and is well aware, EEA and Swiss citizens with settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme can continue living, working and studying in the UK. In England, that also allowed continued eligibility for home fee status, financial support from Student Finance England and ITT bursaries on a similar basis to domestic students, subject to their meeting the usual residence requirement. There is no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK to study. For modern foreign languages in 2020-21, 29% of new entrants to postgraduate ITT were from the EEA or Switzerland and 5% were from outside. That overseas/ UK split for modern foreign languages has remained broadly consistent for the past few years.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blower, asked about the new Institute of Teaching, and it will, from September 2022, be England’s flagship teacher development provider. As the first organisation of its kind, it will design and deliver a coherent teacher development pathway, from trainee through to executive headship. It will base its teacher development on the best available research evidence about what works, as set out in the ITT core content framework. There are so many acronyms here—the ECF and NPQ frameworks and the NLE development programme—but I know noble Lords are familiar with all these TLAs. We really believe this will ensure that teacher development in England goes from strength to strength. In answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Storey, I say that we are running an open procurement to identify the suppliers that will allow us to establish the institute next year.

I thank all noble Lords for their thoughtful and constructive challenge to the Government’s plans. The response to the ITT review will be published later this year, and I look forward very much to debating this further once that has happened. We also look forward to working with the ITT sector and its partners to ensure that all ITT in England is of the highest quality possible.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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Just before the noble Baroness sits down, could she undertake to write to me with answers to my questions on bursaries, SKE funding and scholarships for MFL trainees?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I would be delighted to write to the noble Baroness and any other noble Lords, where I have not answered their questions.