[EDLING:1123] Britain: Languages policy reversed

Francis M Hult fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Fri Dec 16 15:55:41 UTC 2005

I know a number of you are following this...

> >From  The Times December 16, 2005
> Languages policy reversed
> By Tony Halpin, Education Editor
> A YEAR after abolishing a requirement for secondary school pupils to take
> a foreign language at GCSE, the Government announced yesterday that
> schools will have to set targets to boost the number of examination
> entries. In an embarrassing U-turn, Jacqui Smith, the School Standards
> Minister, said that every school in England would have to get at least 50
> per cent of students to take a foreign language at GCSE from next
> September. Many would be told to set a target of 90 per cent
> participation.
> The about-turn comes after repeated warnings from schools and curriculum
> advisers about a catastrophic decline in GCSE entries since ministers
> ditched the requirement for language study. The requirement ended formally
> in September 2004, but in practice schools were allowed to end it a year
> early. This summer there was a fall of 14.4 per cent in entries for French
> and 13.7 per cent for German. Head teachers leaders issued a warning of a
> further collapse next summer as the full impact of the new policy was
> felt.
> The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Governments exams
> watchdog, also said in March that language study at A level was in chronic
> decline. Schools feared that it was becoming increasingly uneconomic to
> offer courses. The Government replaced the requirement to take a foreign
> language at GCSE with an entitlement for schools to make courses available
> to those who wanted them. Ms Smith said yesterday that schools would now
> have to ensure that as many pupils as possible took up this entitlement.
> It is imperative that every young person be given the right support to
> make an informed choice, she said. Schools must articulate the arguments
> in favour of language study and to do all that they can to encourage
> take-up so that pupils dont miss out. The Department for Education and
> Skills (DfES) said that schools would be told that the expectation for
> most young people must be that they continued to take a language at GCSE.
> Teachers would have to show Ofsted inspectors what they were doing to
> raise the level of language study.
> A DfES official said that the about-turn was prompted by a desire to
> clarify the entitlement to languages in schools. She added: We are trying
> to give schools a bit more guidance about what the entitlement to
> languages means. Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National
> Association of Head Teachers, said it was astonishing that ministers had
> abandoned compulsory foreign language study at GCSE while making it
> obligatory for junior pupils in primary schools by 2010.
> Government does find it difficult to say that they have got things wrong,
> but perhaps now they are saying they didnt get it right, he said. Nick
> Gibb, shadow minister for schools, said that in this global age it was
> important for pupils to learn foreign languages, particularly Spanish,
> Chinese and Arabic. He said the removal of the requirement to take
> languages had been regrettable, and the Government was having to remedy
> it. Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrats education spokesman, said: This
> Governments answer to every problem is to set targets. Imposing quotas
> will not tackle the underlying weaknesses of the curriculum and the lack
> of qualified teachers.
> http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1933985,00.html

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