North missing out on learning languages.

The BBC reports that there is a stark north-south divide in whether young people in England are learning modern languages, an annual survey from the British Council says.

In some London boroughs, 75% of pupils take a language GCSE, while in authorities such as Middlesbrough and Blackpool it is below 30%. The survey also suggests that this languages gap is getting even wider.

The overall national picture suggests numbers taking languages at GCSE have “stabilised” at about 50%, bolstered by the requirement to study a language as part of the English Baccalaureate performance measure.

But provisional figures for this summer’s exam entries, published by Ofqual on Thursday, show slight annual falls in French, German and Spanish.

The council has warned of the economic damage from poor language skills – and that young people without access to languages are missing out on skills that would improve their employability.

Research for the government’s trade and investment agency, carried out by Prof James Foreman-Peck, found that a lack of language skills lost the UK economy an estimated £48bn every year.

Vicky Gough, the British Council’s school adviser said, “If we are to ensure that the UK remains globally competitive in the current and ever-changing landscape, we need all of our young people to be given the chance to acquire these vital skills.”

Read more North missing out on learning languages

What should be done to encourage more pupils in the north to learn a language? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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