Children in Northern England are almost 50% less likely to take a modern language GCSE than their counterparts in the South, an annual survey from the British Council has revealed.
Some areas of London are seeing 75% of their pupils taking modern language exams whilst in Middlesborough and Blackpool only 30% of students continue learning a foreign language at GCSE level.
The Ofqual report also demonstrates a decrease in the number of students continuing second language learning past GCSE level. The provisional figures released yesterday show a fall of one third in the percentage of students taking A-Level French exams from 1990 until now.
Entries for GCSE English Language on the other hand have skyrocketed by 52%. This is thought to be due in part to the new Progress 8 formula – the government’s latest accountability measure – which ‘double weights’ English if a student takes both English Language and Literature, so only the highest mark counts towards the overall grade.
The study suggests that more children in areas of economic disparity are allowed to drop foreign language learning at GCSE level or get the chance to learn more than one foreign language. TES states that the current exam system ‘is deterring pupils from taking up languages at GCSE and A-level’ and that the funding is not sufficient in some schools to hire native language assistants and send children on exchange programs.
Whilst not a ‘core’ subject such as English and Maths, a spokeswoman of the Department for Education has claimed that:
“The introduction of languages as a compulsory part of the primary curriculum and, more importantly, the EBacc at GCSE level, has begun to reverse the decline in modern foreign languages.”
Young workers who are not equipped with the necessary language skills for a post Brexit Britain may lose out to their peers who have the ability to communicate in a foreign tongue, The British Council’s annual Language Trends survey of teachers remarks. It also warns of the damage that Brexit could have on the Erasmus programme, leading to budget cuts in Modern Language departments throughout the country.
The British Council has claimed that the reduction in the British workforce’s ability to speak a foreign language could harm international trade and industry, costing the UK “tens of billions in lost trade”.
Professor James Foremen-Peck has reported that the UK is losing an estimated £48bn every year because of poor language skills.
Vicky Gough, the schools advisor at the British Council feels that learning a foreign language at GCSE should be requisite practice. In an statement she said:
“Not only are the personal benefits of learning a language huge, but the country’s current shortage of language skills is already estimated to be costing the economy tens of billions in missed trade and business opportunities every year
“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.”