Languages Barrier May Persist despite EBac Boost: News

Article excerpt

Survey finds that growth in GCSE uptake is unlikely to last.

The focus on academic subjects included in the English Baccalaureate (EBac) performance measure will fail to produce sustained growth in the number of students studying foreign languages, a new survey suggests.

Take-up of language GCSEs grew significantly after the introduction of the EBac, but the annual Language Trends survey has found little evidence that this rise will continue.

Institutions responded quickly to the introduction of the EBac in January 2011, with 40 per cent of state-funded schools bringing in changes to language provision, including making languages compulsory for some students.

Examination data shows that 41 per cent of students took a language GCSE in 2012, and statistics from the Department for Education suggest that this will rise to 54 per cent by the summer of 2014.

But according to the survey, which questioned more than 500 secondary schools, there is little evidence that this upward trend will continue. "The survey confirms the impact on languages of the introduction of the English Baccalaureate as a performance measure," the report said. "Many schools are now making languages compulsory up to GCSE for some pupils. However, schools are not planning any further measures to increase take- up."

The proportion of students taking a language GCSE plummeted from about 79 per cent to 40 per cent after the decision to end compulsory study in 2004.

Over the years the Language Trends survey, carried out by CfBT Education Trust, the Association for Language Learning and the Independent Schools' Modern Languages Association, has found a widening gap between language provision in the state sector and the independent sector, where many schools insist that students study a language until 16.

The initial spike in interest following the introduction of the EBac has helped to close that gap, but has also encouraged schools to restrict language study to "academic pupils", the survey said.

Teresa Tinsley, an independent languages consultant and co-author of the report, said that wider provision, not just GCSEs, should be available for all students. …

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