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Foreign languages in UK schools - really poor offer and take up - WHY?

(147 Posts)
jura2 Sat 24-Aug-19 21:07:41

Following from another thread - what do you think?

Lessismore Sat 24-Aug-19 21:09:17

Because it's difficult and requires study and application.

Callistemon Sat 24-Aug-19 21:14:05

Perhaps because of the lack of qualified teachers?
Is this a result of years of a lack of interest and students not taking up modern languages at university?

I was told that qualified teachers of eg Spanish and Mandarin can have their pick of jobs.

jura2 Sat 24-Aug-19 21:15:49

When did you learn? Methods have changed massively, with more emphasis on communication and comprehension, rather than grammar in a silly irrelevant context (le singe est sur la télévision, la plume de ma tante, etc). It gets harder at A' Level, but then all subjects do.

MawB Sat 24-Aug-19 21:17:39

Since Languages were dropped as a compulsory subject numbers have plummeted, not least because it is really hard to get an A* or whatever the equivalent is this year.(9?)
Schools are under pressure to score highly on league tables and subjects such as Maths seem to be easier to “cram for”
I taught MFL. and examined for several GCSE boards and it came to my notice that we had many native speakers who clearly were at an advantage and given the system of allocating grades, this skewed the achievement of the non native speakers.
I also deplored the system of a total maximum score of less than 100 marks but which was then scaled up so that one mark difference on the paper translated to perhaps 3 or 4 which could make all the difference to the grade.
So double whammy- pressure from schools who wanted a high % of top grades and the difficulty for students however well they had raised.
Sadly it is also something many English seem to take a “pride” in- “Only schoolboy French I’m afraid, ha, ha”

Callistemon Sat 24-Aug-19 21:21:07

Welsh is compulsory here which, of course, takes time out of the curriculum which could be spent on learning a world language.
I am not against it being an option.

MawB Sat 24-Aug-19 21:23:35

“Revised” not “raised” - sorry

GagaJo Sat 24-Aug-19 21:31:06

The answer to this is political I'm afraid. We can thank the Tories for it.

It isn't a lack of qualified teachers. Lots of languages teachers were made redundant less than 5 years ago.

The problem is the enforced academisation of uk schools. Every school that is now an academy is a profit making business (regardless of what they claim). The money is in getting good Maths, English and Science results. The core subjects as they are called.

Other subjects are called Options subjects and are not valued. I worked in an academy for 4 months last year that only offered 4 options subjects. When I was at school I had a choice of between 12 & 15. Schools will offer 1 language or at the most, 2.

MawB Sat 24-Aug-19 21:34:16

The pressure of league tables predates even academies, I am afraid.

Ellianne Sat 24-Aug-19 22:10:49

Maybe it's because we start learning a foreign language too late. Surely the ideal age is around 7 or 8 years old when children have no inhibitions and find new learning experiences fun. The problem with that is that schools would need to employ specialist linguists to teach the subject properly from the beginning.

maddyone Sun 25-Aug-19 10:34:35

Gagajo, wrong!

We can thank LABOUR for changing the goalposts, in 2004 to be precise, Labour dropped the requirement for students to study a foreign language.

I really dislike it when people express an opinion and call it a fact!

Greta Sun 25-Aug-19 11:06:45

I agree with you, MawB, that league tables have a lot to answer for. The secondary school I worked in had an excellent language department. Fifty percent of year 7 started French, the other fifty German. This worked well. Then league tables came in and it was soon realised that modern languages dragged down the school's overall result. German in particular was problematic. Solution? Remove German and the requirement that all pupils must study a foreign language. Tony Blair's mantra ”Education, Education, Education” had little effect on language teaching. The league tables became more important. It's therefore not about giving children a well-rounded education – it's about manipulating league tables.

Lessismore Sun 25-Aug-19 11:12:35

As I said, it's hard , it requires application and a great deal of parental nagging I found.

WOODMOUSE49 Sun 25-Aug-19 11:23:22


Unless things have changed in the past 8 years, languages have been taught in primaries from age of 7.

Well they were in schools I visited in Derbyshire as a consultant and in my grandchildren's schools in Yorkshire and Hertfordshire.

trisher Sun 25-Aug-19 11:29:10

This was one of Gove's initiatives in 2012-
Like most things to do with him we just don't talk about it!!!
There were no resources of course and no more teachers!

glammanana Sun 25-Aug-19 11:41:39

All my older DGCs speak fluent Spanish and have done since they where 2/3yrs old their mum my DD lived in Spain then and they didn't have any problem with the 2 x languages proving the earlier you start a foreign language the easier it is.
When they came back to UK lessons where not available until they went to senior school luckily my DD is fluent enough to have kept them interested in the language.

Sussexborn Sun 25-Aug-19 12:28:14

My grandsons in the West Midlands take languages though GS1 is dropping Spanish and just doing German as it fits better with his other GCSEs.

Some schools here start languages in the primary schools which is much more sensible. I started senior school coming from a small RC school. Didn’t know anyone, incredibly shy and then expected to start learning French. Much happier at college where I did conversational French.

OH passed A level French but it was often me who knew the name for spoon, fork etc when we were on holiday.

growstuff Sun 25-Aug-19 12:35:12

Woodmouse, The standard of language teaching in primary schools is inconsistent at best, appalling and inadequate at worst. Primary schools drop languages at the drop of a hat for all sorts of reasons, such as sports day or cramming for SATs, because very few take languages seriously. Most of them don't have teachers capable of teaching any language to a reasonable level.

Secondary schools with a number of different feeder primaries can't rely on their new pupils' having reached a reasonable standard. In some cases, they haven't even learnt the same language. They have to start from scratch, because they really don't have much choice.

yggdrasil Sun 25-Aug-19 12:39:24

Elianne: even 7 is a bit late. If you learn a second language by age 5, your brain will make learning a third or 4th easier. Even if you just hear it spoken regularly without actually deciphering it

PamelaJ1 Sun 25-Aug-19 12:58:40

Because we’re waiting for the whole world to wake up and speak English!!

Joke, joke, joke😜🤪

MawB Sun 25-Aug-19 13:23:35

Greta - exactly!
Someone else who knows that whereof she speaks smile

Callistemon Sun 25-Aug-19 13:26:33

Pamela you might have said it as a joke, but all over the world teachers of English as a foreign language are in high demand!

trisher Sun 25-Aug-19 13:28:37

Primary schools drop languages at the drop of a hat for all sorts of reasons, such as sports day or cramming for SATs
Primary schools drop languages because actually there isn't really any space to fit in a language in the very tight curriculum they have to teach. But you are absolutely right about the teachers. That's what happens when you have a government that imposes an educational requirement it's impossible to meet. Incidentally did you read the link? Gove's asserion that every child would be speaking another language by 11 hasn't materialised has it?

Callistemon Sun 25-Aug-19 13:29:35

That's very interesting about the league tables being a factor jn the poor take up of foreign languages.

Perhaps we need to get back to basics, at least until the end of Y11

maddyone Sun 25-Aug-19 14:26:06

Growstuff is correct, primary schools drop, or don’t teach modern languages, not because the curriculum is too crowded (which it is) but because there are no properly qualified language teachers to teach the children. The few, and diminishing, language teachers that there are are found in secondary/senior schools and increasingly in independent schools.