Spanish GCSE sees rise in popularity as entries up more than 11% on 2022

Entries for Spanish GCSE increased again this year (Brian Lawless/PA)
Entries for Spanish GCSE increased again this year (Brian Lawless/PA)

More teenagers may be taking GCSE Spanish because Spain is a popular holiday destination and the language is more relatable, it has been suggested.

It may also be seen as easier for some students to pick up than other European languages such as French or German.

Entries for Spanish jumped this summer – up 11.3% on 2022 – continuing a general upward trend of recent years which could put it on track to overtake French as the most commonly taken language at GCSE.

(PA Graphics)

As GCSE results were published, Claire Thomson director of regulation and compliance at the AQA exam board, said: “We think it’s possibly because it’s perceived as being easier to pick up.

“The grammar and the pronunciation might be a bit easier at the lower levels than French and German for example.

“I think also there’s more societal things like actually, it’s a popular holiday destination for many families so students can relate to it a little bit more and it’s also perceived to be pretty important around the world – there are something like over 400 million people who can speak the language.”

Spanish is also the most popular language taken at A-level and this may be another factor, Ms Thomson said, adding if the GCSE continues on the same trajectory “it might overtake French”.

“It remains to be seen,” she said.

Ms Thomson said there are positive signs for languages more broadly in this year’s results. French entries have risen slightly, up 1.1%, as have entries for other modern foreign languages.

Vicky Gough, British Council schools adviser, said: “There is a perception that German is a hard language to learn so it has often been offered only to the highest achievers, rather than seen as a language for all.

“This has made it vulnerable at a time of cutbacks and pressure on the curriculum. So German is much less likely to be a choice for pupils.

“Spanish is perceived as being easier to learn, more useful, as it is spoken in a large number of countries, and pupils are more likely to have been to Spain or have relatives or friends that have.

“Spanish is also more prominent in popular culture – in music, films and TV shows and so attractive to pupils.”

Languages are included in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) – a government measure which aims to ensure pupils take English, maths, science, a humanities subject and a language at GCSE.

The Government’s ambition is for 90% of pupils studying the EBacc subject combination at GCSE by 2025.

A breakdown of GCSE entries, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) shows business studies has seen the biggest rise in entries among major subjects this year – up 14.8% on last year.

Spanish saw the second largest rise.

And entries for history have topped 300,000 – with 311,146 entries this year – up 6.5% on 2022.

The figures cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland.