A number of issues are encumbering primary and secondary teachers in their efforts to teach children to speak a foreign language, according to a new report.
Last June, a European Commission survey found that only nine per cent of English pupils surveyed at age 15 were competent in their first foreign language beyond a basic level, compared to 42 per cent of their peers across all European countries participating.
The government has sought to tackle this issue through curricular reforms including making the learning of a language compulsory at key stage (KS) two as of 2014.
A new CfBT Trust study has now revealed that while more than 80 per cent of primary schools are confident in their ability to meet this new statutory commitment, they are less confident in their capacity to deliver the more technical and rigorous aspects of language teaching.
At present, 23 per cent of schools surveyed might have no member of staff with language competence higher than GCSE level, while up to 8.5 per cent might have no language expertise at all amongst their staff.
Lack of continuity is also an issue: only a minority of primaries liaised with secondary schools over languages and only 11 per cent of responding state secondary schools had put arrangements in place to enable pupils to continue with the languages they learnt in KS2.
Moreover, around one in five of all schools have reduced the number of hours spent learning languages at KS3, while one in five also 'disapplied' lower ability pupils from having to learn a language at all.
The report also warned that this could be exacerbated at KS4 by the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), with 'academic' pupils encouraged to learn a language at GCSE and those not entering the EBacc discouraged from doing so.
Secondary teachers surveyed were divided over whether making languages compulsory again at KS4 would prove beneficial, with many citing lack of motivation among pupils, parents' attitudes, timetable constraints and a lack of suitably qualified teachers as barriers.
The proportion of pupils taking a language at GCSE rose slightly from 40 to 41 per cent in 2012, with the number taking French and German falling, while there was a rise in the number taking Spanish or another foreign language.
Posted by Alan Douglas