Languages Count - The Business Way

Author(s): Henrietta Harnisch
Institution/Organisation: University of Wolverhampton (UK)

1. Description

1.1    Scope of the initiative

Languages Count – the Business Way

The initiative described in this case study relates to a group of schools that looked at boosting the number of language learners by linking language learning into the study of vocational subjects. Specifically, a vocational language qualification (Certificate in Business Language Competence) was introduced to 14 – 19 year old learners. The choice of language accreditation was designed to boost motivation amongst learners which would result in an increased and sustained take-up of languages  through the more explicit link of languages to a business context.

The case study is based on a wider project, funded by the sub-regional 14-19 strategy, which is aimed at vocationalising the languages curriculum and thus increase the number of language learning opportunities for young people. The strategy draws on the strengths of the Black Country Pathfinder, a nationally funded 3 year project, which contributed to the renaissance of language learning at 14 -19 in the West Midlands. The 14-19 Manager in Neath Port Talbot then commissioned Language Networks for Excellence at the University of Wolverhampton to conduct a replication project in Neath Port Talbot with a view to initiating a high profile initiative for languages.

The institutions involved are five secondary schools:
CEFN Saeson Comprehensive School
CWT SART Community Comprehensive School
Dyffrin School
St Joseph's Catholic Comprehensive School
Llangatwg Comprehensive School

and Neath College

The target groups within each partner institution are 14 – 19 year old learners. Four schools are offering French CBLC and one school is offering Spanish, both at entry level.

One aim of the project has been, from the outset, to encourage partnership and collaborative working between the schools that will lead to sustainable improvement and change. In the second year of the project, therefore, structures will be introduced that facilitate the collaboration. Specifically that will mean that one school will become a regional centre for the examination and thus act as a network hub for the collaborative working.

1.2 Range of languages studied

The Certificate of Business Language Competence (CBLC) is available in a variety of languages and at different levels:

In addition to the availability of the exam, the expertise of language teachers in schools was a deciding factor for the choice of languages. Phase 2 of the project looks specifically at establishing a greater variety of progression routes by including more languages and also a wider range of vocational subjects to link the vocational language qualification with.

1.3 Learning outcomes

The project has a number of desired outcomes, the majority of which focus on increased numbers of learners and the introduction of a more realistic, more authentic language qualification than the more traditional GCSE which is often perceived to be of little relevance, not engaging in terms of content and difficult to achieve well in.

Following the introduction of the project in Neath Port Talbot, a number of key reasons have been identified by the partners:


1.4 Practical realisation

In overall headline terms, the curriculum models can be summarised as follows:

Curriculum models in detail:

2 of the schools are running the pilot with Y10.  Outlines of these curriculum models can be seen below.

Model A - Language element as part of Leisure and Tourism GCSE

Model B - Group with space on timetable due to previous study or options choices

3 of the schools are running the pilot as a replacement for their usual KS3 Y9 SOW.  Outlines of these curriculum models can be seen below.

Model C - Lower ability group

Model D - Able and average (and boy heavy) ability groups (2 pilot groups running)

Model E - Mixed ability group




2.1 Context

Levels of motivation amongst native English speaker to learn a foreign language famously vary tremendously. Without oversimplifying the case it appears that there is a huge appetite amongst primary aged pupils to engage with language learning (4 to 11 years). Equally, there is considerable demand for foreign language learning provision in the lifelong learning sector. However, where the picture is particularly patchy is during the upper secondary phase of education, which coincides with the optional nature of language learning beyond the age of 14 in England and Wales.

In  England, an entitlement curriculum was introduced in 2002 which resulted in large numbers of learners opting not to continue to study languages beyond the compulsory Key Stage 3 (12 – 14 years). This trend has continued ever since the introduction of the entitlement curriculum, with a dramatic knock-on effect on teaching departments in secondary schools and, naturally, a lack of progression of sufficient numbers of learners into post-16 provision and into Higher Education.

In Wales, no compulsory provision of languages post-14 existed. However, the downwards trend of uptake post-14 has been steady over recent years, and language teachers are increasingly aware that the resulting patchy provision is not satisfactory.

As a result, teachers and languages advisors have been identifying, amongst a range of other measures, alternative progression routes for learners. New qualifications have been emerging, in particular Asset Languages, the government’s new recognition scheme for languages. Though highly welcome due to the breadth of languages for which Asset Languages is available, many teachers identified that Asset in itself does not provide a sufficiently high motivational factor to retain learners in language learning post-14.

As an alternative, many schools have identified business language courses as a real alternative progression route for post-14 learners. The Midlands Curriculum Centre for Languages, based at the University of Wolverhampton, set up a regional centre for one such qualification in order to support schools and colleges in the implementation of this accreditation. In order to do this effectively, four areas of work were developed:

The qualification: CBLC

CBLC stands for Certificate in Business Language Competence. It is a vocationally related qualification which makes possible a tailored approach to accreditation in a variety of languages.  Learners are able to be examined in units they feel confident in and at a time that suits them.  The CBLC qualification builds confidence by allowing a step-by-step approach to accreditation.

At levels 1 2 and 3, there are units in:

Through the support of CiLT Cymru this approach was introduced to a group of schools and one Further Education College in Neath Port Talbot in Wales. This led to development and implementation of a replication project, as outlined in section 1. The project was funded by the regional 14-19 strategy.

2.2 Strategic goals of the initiative

Funding from the 14 – 19 strategy was secured as the replication project, called Languages count – the business way, addressed key priorities with in the strategy:



Initial impact can thus be described as follows:






5.1 Lessons to be learned at institutional level



5.2 Broader implications