New flagship language programme launched, designed to boost the quality of language lessons in primary and secondary schools

  • Programme to improve language lessons in schools to be led by University College London from September 2023.
  • Part of the Language Hubs programme will be to promote German language in schools.
  • Government remains committed to boosting language learning in schools by announcing an expansion to the Mandarin Excellence Programme.

Thousands of pupils will benefit from a new flagship language programme, designed to boost the quality of language lessons in primary and secondary schools. The programme aims to meet Government’s targets of increasing the number of pupils taking languages at GCSE level and beyond, by providing high-quality, evidence-based language training.

The Department for Education today (Friday 3 March) is announcing IOE, University College London’s (UCL) Faculty of Education and Society has successfully secured a contract worth £14.9 million to run its Language Hubs programme in primary and secondary schools over the next three years, building on the ground-breaking work the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy (NCELP) had delivered to improve language teaching.

Recruitment will begin for up to 25 lead schools who specialise in languages to support up to 105 partner schools who sign up to the programme, in its first year. The lead schools will work with partner secondary schools by modelling best practice and evidence-based training for language teachers. The programme aims to improve the transition of language learning from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3, so students have strong language knowledge – an important component of a broad and balanced curriculum.

Another part of the Language Hubs programme will be focused on German. Plans will be developed to promote German language learning and culture, working with trained German specialist teachers to widen the participation of German language learning in both primary and secondary schools. UCL IOE will partner with Goethe-Institut to implement these phased plans.

This will support the Department’s EBacc ambition for 90 per cent of year 10 pupils in state-funded schools to study a combination of core academic subjects including a language, by 2025.

Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards said:

Our economy needs people who can communicate across the globe and trade with
overseas businesses. This programme is about ensuring we have the next generation of
young people with the languages needed to compete on the world stage.

Raising academic standards in schools has been a key priority for the Government since
2010. Our range of Curriculum Hubs – exemplary schools spreading their best practice –
have played a huge part in improving the quality of teaching in schools. Language
teachers will benefit from rigorous training and knowledge, working with experts, to
improve language lessons in both primary and secondary schools, opening up these
global opportunities for generations to come.

The Language Hubs programme will be rolled out in line with Ian Bauckham’s 2016 Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review which recommended the need for systematic knowledge of the vocabulary, grammar, and phonics of the language being studied. It will also deliver on the Department’s Schools White Paper pledge to create a network of Language Hubs.

Since 2012, the Department has rolled out several curriculum Hubs including Maths Hubs, English Hubs, Music Hubs and Computing Hubs, which were all designed to develop expertise in subject specific teaching. The Language Hubs programme will build on the success of curriculum hubs to help to build a system of leadership in languages in the lead schools as well as personal development for teachers in the partner schools.

Professor Li Wei, Director and Dean, IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education & Society said:

Language skills and intercultural understanding widen opportunities for individuals,
communities and society. With our consortium partners, we are delighted to be taking
forward this next step in re-energising language teaching in schools across the country, for
all learners, grounded in the principles of the Bauckham Review.

At IOE, we are equally delighted to be extending our work in supporting teachers’
professional development, including as provider, with the British Council, of the Mandarin
Excellence Programme, and as a provider for the Early Career Framework and National
Professional Qualifications programmes.

Sir Ian Bauckham CBE, Chair Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review (2016) said:

Learning languages has never been more important in our global world. Doing so
successfully at school requires our language teachers to be well supported with their
curriculum planning and sequencing, that they have access to good quality teaching
materials and that we invest in high quality, evidence-based professional development for

I am pleased the work of the 2016 Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review is being
taken forward with the new Hubs programme. I hope it brings important support to more
languages teachers and I wish UCL well as they build on important foundations.

Maddalaine Ansell, Director Education, British Council, said:

The British Council is delighted to be part of this new flagship languages programme and
to continue our work on the Mandarin Excellence Programme. The importance of
language skills and knowledge and understanding of other cultures cannot be overstated.

Language learning can open doors for young people embarking on their careers and
bring new opportunities for cultural understanding in a globally connected world.

In addition to the launch of the Language Hubs programme, the Department is announcing an expansion to the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) which began in 2016. This programme has been highly successful, with our data showing pupils who have been on the MEP are more likely to get a higher grade (Level 8 or 9) in GCSE Mandarin than pupils not on the programme. The programme is expanding and recruiting an additional 21 schools over the next two years to reach an expected 100 participating schools by September 2024.

The Department will also hold a consultation on changes to Chinese A level subject content, with the intention of making this qualification more appropriate for students without a Chinese speaking background.

Published 3 March 2023