Yet another depressing report into the state of language learning in schools from the Education Development Trust (EDT). For the last 14 years the EDT has published reports on language learning in UK schools. Initially this was for secondary schools and has included primary schools since 2012 when language learning in Primary School was made compulsory. This year’s report shows primary schools struggling to provide the now-compulsory language lessons as well as a decline in GCSE language entries.

Languages in Primary Schools

It is now compulsory for primary schools to teach a language in Key Stage 2. However, schools are finding difficulty in timetabling languages, and lack teachers with language skills. Some are using outside providers such as la Academia – many more are struggling by, using teachers with low-level language qualifications.
Just over three quarters of primaries are teaching French. Spanish is on the rise and is now at 10%, with German responsible for only 4% of language classes in Primary school.

Languages in secondary schools

The rise in GCSEs caused by EBacc has halted. Introduction of the EBacc halted the long-term decline in GCSE language entries with entries jumping to 48% of pupils in 2013 and increasing slightly again to 49% in 2014. But this appears to have plateaued and entries slipped back to 48% (54% of girls and 41% of boys) in 2015.
Percentage of students taking a foreign language at GCSE in 2015

In the North West the figure actually went up to 51% in 2014, but slipped back to 48% in 2015. Government plans are for 90% of school students to take a language GCSE, but we are a long way from that, and progress looks to have halted. Entries for the main 3 languages – French, German and Spanish – all fell, but German fared worst, with a worrying 10% fall in German GCSE entries – their lowest-ever level.

Since 2002, entries for A level French have declined by about one third, and those for German by nearly half. Although more pupils are taking A levels in Spanish and other languages, these increases have not involved enough pupils to make up for the shortfalls in French and German.

All in all it’s a worrying picture for languages. La Academia has seen the changes over the past 12 years, and we support many primary schools with in-class language teaching as well as our after-school language clubs. Back in January we asked for your thoughts on a campaign for joined-up language teaching in UK schools, and we feel this is now more necessary than ever.