School Standards Minister Nick Gibb has announced the University of York as England’s first modern foreign languages centre for excellence.

The centre, which will be known as the Centre for Excellence for Languages Pedagogy, will work with schools to help more young people learn foreign languages. It is the latest in a series of government initiatives to build a nation of confident linguists.

The university will now coordinate the work of nine modern foreign languages hubs – leading schools that are working with other schools and sharing best practice – to boost the teaching of Spanish, French and German.

In 2017, a survey of employers by the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) and Pearson found that only a third of businesses rate the foreign language skills of school and college leavers entering the jobs market as satisfactory, with the major EU languages of French, German and Spanish most in demand.

The centre for excellence – backed by £4.8 million over the next four years – will raise the standard of teaching in languages based on the Latin alphabet like French, Spanish and German by taking forward recommendations made in the Teaching Schools Council’s Modern Foreign Language Pedagogy Review led by expert headteacher and linguist Ian Bauckham CBE.

The University was chosen as the centre for excellence after a competitive tendering process that judged it against a number of key criteria including its plans to improve modern foreign language take up in participating schools and its approach to teaching practices.

This pilot project will see university students mentoring 200 Year 9 pupils in ten schools through a six week programme of online and face to face engagement, showing them the value of languages in a global world. The aim is to inspire these pupils to take up languages at GCSE level and beyond.

The Government has already made modern foreign language teaching a priority through its inclusion in the English Baccalaureate and more pupils are now studying them at GCSE than in 2010. The first pupils have just sat the new gold standard modern foreign language GCSEs, which are on a par with the best in the world and deliver the skilled workforce Britain’s industries need.