It is pupils who live in the poorer parts of England who are increasingly likely to miss out on the opportunity of learning a foreign language, a report reveals.
The findings from the British Council highlight that the perception of learning a language is less important after the European referendum.
Also, some teachers are blaming tougher new GCSEs that are leading to pupils with lower abilities being put off from learning a new language.
The government says that its undertaking reforms that will boost the take-up of modern languages in England’s schools.
The Language Trends Survey is a yearly report that reveals that in 2002, 76% of pupils took a modern language GCSE.
However, by 2011, those numbers have fallen to just 40%.
50% of pupils sat a language GCSE exam
Despite recovering in recent years, in 2016 there were 50% of pupils who sat a language GCSE exam but this figure has fallen to 47% in 2017.
The report highlights that there is also a similar decline over the long-term for studying A-level languages.
This year the report makes clear that the take-up of a modern language is disproportionately lower in disadvantaged areas with state schools and there’s now a widening gap between schools.
The government’s ambition is for 90% of pupils to take up a language and those schools with the highest proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals, which is taken as a key measure of deprivation, are three times as likely as those pupils in affluent areas to have a low take-up for language GCSEs.
Most of their pupils had dropped languages
Of the school survey, one in three said that most of their pupils had dropped languages by Year 9.
In addition to having a larger proportion of their pupils having free school meals, the schools are also likely to have a lower educational overall attainment, be an Academy rather than a local authority-run school and also likely to be needing improvement under Ofsted.
The schools are also likely to be in the north of England and be in an urban area.
The general secretary of the ASCL, Geoff Barton, said the approach by the government to language learning is not working and he offered to help them develop a new strategy.
He explained: “There’s seldom been a time when languages have been more important and these are skills that will be vital for international politics and trade post-Brexit.”
Recent increase in the taking up of a language
Nick Gibbs, the school standards minister, said that there has been a recent increase in the taking up of a language, including among disadvantaged pupils who are studying core academic subjects.
He added: “It’s critical that teachers encourage pupils to take up languages and we are supporting this with the creation of expert schools that share best practice across the country.”