UK: Schools say policy to blame for lack of language pupils

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri May 4 13:23:29 UTC 2007

Schools say policy to blame for lack of language pupils

SCHOOLS in the region that failed to teach a foreign language to a single
pupil over the age of 14 last year have responded to criticism. The
Conservative party said Government guidelines to make GCSE language
courses voluntary would damage Britain's international competitiveness.
But schools in the North-East said it was not true to say they had
scrapped GCSE language courses. Colin Algie, headteacher at Ormesby
Comprehensive School in Middlesbrough - one of the schools singled out by
the Tories - said that foreign languages were an important part of the
curriculum. He said: "As a teacher of modern languages myself, I hold
these subjects close to my heart.

"I think they are extremely important and now we send our head of
department into primary schools to teach years five and six at primary
school level. "The children then come here at the age of 11 to continue
another three years of languages. "They then make a decision whether to
continue with the subjects as far as GCSE level. "But following Government
policy on this, from the age of 14, children now have the option to drop
their languages. "We, as a school, are taking great strides to encourage
our pupils into learning another language, contrary to this Government
policy." The Tories revealed that 25 schools in England did not teach a
single GCSE language course last year, including Ormesby School, Dyke
House Comprehensive School, in Hartlepool, and the federation of Fyndoune
Community College, in Sacriston, County Durham, and Durham Community
Business College for Technology and Enterprise, in Ushaw Moor.

Bill Jordon CBE, headteacher at Dyke House School, said they participated
in a similar primary school pilot project to Ormesby. He said: "For this
current year, we have 12 pupils taking foreign language exams in the
summer and there will be ten sitting the following academic year." Fiona
Wilson, assistant headteacher (curriculum) at Fyndoune and Durham
Community Business College, said: "Since the curriculum changes of 2004,
we have explored new ways of providing an entitlement to modern foreign
languages at key stage four. "In the past two years, students have
followed a GCSE French course and, from September 2006, it has been
compulsory for students on one of our pathway programmes to study Spanish.
"The federation between Fyndoune and Durham Community Business College
prides itself on the breadth of choice offered to all of our students."

The Government has repeatedly been accused of plunging language teaching
in crisis through its 2004 decision to make it voluntary at GCSE level.
Nick Gibb, Conservative schools' spokesman, said: "We are now seeing an
increasing number of schools not teaching a modern foreign language to any
of their students. "In the long-term, this will present problems for this
country's international competitiveness." The existence of schools failing
to teach any language courses was first revealed last December, in an
independent review carried out for the Government by Lord Dearing. The
peer said it illustrated the "striking" contrast in the way the 2004
guidelines had been adopted by different schools across England.

The Tories highlighted how the proportion of pupils taking a language at
GCSE has dropped from 78 per cent in 2001 to 51 per cent last year.


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