Language lesson gap means poorest miss out, says report

The BBC is reporting that children from poorer backgrounds in England are increasingly likely to miss out on learning a foreign language, suggests a report.

Some teachers blame new tougher GCSEs for putting lower ability pupils off language learning. There is also a perception that languages are less important since the vote to leave the European Union, says the British Council study.

The Language Trends Survey has published an annual report since 2002 when more than three-quarters of pupils (76%) took a modern language GCSE. By 2011, only 40% of pupils took a language at GCSE.

The subject has recovered in recent years – in 2016 almost half of 16-year-olds took a language GCSE – but this figure fell to 47% last year.

This year’s report shows uptake of modern languages is disproportionately lower at state schools in more disadvantaged areas, with a widening gap between schools which are moving towards the government’s ambition of 90% of pupils taking a language and others where languages are not a priority.

More than one-third of the schools surveyed said most students dropped languages by Year 9.

These schools are more likely to:

  • have a large proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals
  • have lower educational attainment overall
  • be academies rather than local authority schools
  • require improvement, according to Ofsted
  • be in urban areas, often in northern England

But both state and private schools reported a concentration of higher ability pupils taking GCSE languages, with teachers blaming England’s new tougher GCSE and A-level syllabuses for excluding lower ability pupils from the subject.

Long-term trends suggest that Spanish is surging in popularity and is likely to overtake French as the main modern language taught in secondary schools, within a decade, says the report.

Read more Language lesson gap means poorest miss out, says report

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