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CILT director Isabella Moores monthly column, exclusive to FE News

Findings from CILT’s annual survey of secondary schools, carried out this autumn in conjunction with the Association for Language Learning and the Independent Schools” Modern Language Association, show that the rapid decline in pupil numbers studying languages in Key Stage 4 may at last be stabilising. The figures for participation in Year 11 are not showing the dramatic decline in take up which has been a feature of previous years, and in Year 10 the situation appears to be stable.

Although the picture is bleak, this now gives us a platform to build on. The challenge is to rebuild provision along the lines proposed by Lord Dearing in his Languages Review earlier this year ““ and to ensure that languages are represented in the developing Diplomas.

This challenge will be particularly fierce in schools which have allowed language learning in Key Stage 4 to drop to a very low level. One in 10 schools have under 10% of their pupils studying a language after 14. And these schools are overwhelmingly those with lower achievement rates and higher proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals. There is a gulf in practice between these schools, and those where languages are well supported, particularly Specialist Language Colleges, grammar schools and independent schools. CILT’s survey shows that schools with the lowest take up are reluctant to set targets to improve and act on the Government’s requirement to set a benchmark for participation in language learning after 14. Language departments are keen to set targets, but their senior managers reluctant to do so. No doubt many languages staff in FE Colleges feel they are in a similar position. In schools as in FE, rebuilding language provision will mean not only responding to the challenge of curriculum innovation, but also promoting the value of languages to senior managers.

Isabella Moore, director, CILT “

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