//How many language teachers would we need to reach the Conservatives’ 75% EBacc target?

How many language teachers would we need to reach the Conservatives’ 75% EBacc target?

By |2017-12-20T13:20:46+00:0022nd May 2017|Exams and assessment, School accountability, Teacher careers|

The Conservatives’ manifesto has revised the party’s commitment to require all students to study the English Baccalaureate subjects at Key Stage 4.

It now has a more modest proposal that 75% of students should study the EBacc by the end of the next parliament [PDF].

To be considered to have entered the EBacc a child must take qualifications in five ‘pillars’: English language; maths; science; history or geography; and a language.

As we have written before, the greatest constraint on reaching this target is the availability of language teachers.

How many language teachers would be needed?

The number of new language teachers we would need to reach the 75% target rather depends on whether it applies to the population of pupils, or to each individual school.

(It’s also unclear at the minute whether targets won’t apply to university technical colleges and studio schools – special types of academy. If EBacc targets don’t apply to them, it will sharpen up the dividing lines between the academic and vocational parts of the Conservatives’ education policy.)

The analysis we published a year ago shows the relatively small number of schools where every pupil takes at least one language GCSE.

Currently one-in-six schools have already reached the government target of 75% of pupils with a language entry. (Note: we are reporting 2014/15 data here but the 2015/16 is almost identical).

Over a third of secondary schools can reach this target simply by filling the empty seats in existing language KS4 classes. By filling seats and adding just one extra language class to each KS4 year group this increases to two-thirds of secondary schools.

This obviously leaves a long tail of one-third of schools with very low language entries. For example, we think there are about 40 schools who would need to add five new language classes per year group to meet the 75% target.

However, if the 75% target does not apply to individual schools then things get much easier for the government.

Currently, about 55% of pupils take a language at KS4. This rises to about 65% simply by filling the empty seats in KS4 classrooms. And requiring those two-thirds of schools who cannot meet the target this way to add an extra language class per year group takes the total over the 75% target, even though many of these schools will not individually meet the goal.

So, we think the national target could be met by adding about 2,000 classes per year group. But the target could only be met in every individual school if we add almost twice as many classes as this – around 3,700 classes per year group.

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About the Author:

Rebecca Allen is an associate research fellow, having led FFT Education Datalab from its launch in February 2015 to January 2018. She is an expert in the analysis of large scale administrative and survey datasets, including the National Pupil Database and School Workforce Census. In January 2018 she took up a position as a professor at the UCL Institute of Education, leading the Centre for Education Improvement Science.


  1. Trevor Burton 23 May, 2017 at 7:01 am - Reply

    That’s really interesting, but is it perhaps a lower estimate of what is needed. I couldn’t tell if “per year group” included just Years 10 & 11 or if it included KS3. I think it likely that some schools might need to teach more in KS3 to give students access to GCSE at Year 10.

    Second point – whether it is a national or a school target is interesting. If national, would this be the first time in education the government was essentially setting a target for itself and being dependent on schools to help achieve it? I don’t think ministers would like that!

    • Stephen Down 23 May, 2017 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      Oh Trevor … of course it won’t be the government‘s fault if schools don’t hit the target of 75% that they have had imposed on them … blame will be entirely laid at the door of schools

  2. Anna Perry 26 May, 2017 at 6:36 am - Reply

    If more language teachers are to be recruited, it is crucial to address the curriculum. For far too long the curricula that MFL teachers are supposed to deliver in England are an absolute travesty of language and culture. No one who has spent years learning a second (or third, or fourth) language properly and has reflected on how language is learned would want to deliver the pointless and painful curricula imposed in England.

    • Robin Shakespeare 3 August, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      Based on the individual school estimate, it suggests about 340 FTE more teachers per year group (2 lessons/week, teachers on 22/25 periods). Even if you just did this in Years 9-11 that’s over a thousand new MFL teachers. In 15/16, nationally 1487 were recruited to maintain our current level of provision. Something tells me this just isn’t going to happen…

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