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Foreign Language Study

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he is taking to promote the study of foreign languages in schools. (79401)

To promote the study of foreign languages for learners of all ages, the Government published its national languages strategy: ‘Languages for All: Languages for Life—a strategy for England’ in December 2002. To oversee the implementation of the strategy, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills appointed Dr. Lid King as national director for languages in September 2003.

In March 2005, the Secretary of State announced a £115 million “Boost for Modern Foreign Languages”, providing support for language teaching and learning until March 2008. For primary schools the funding will provide continuing support for initial and existing teacher training as well as training for support staff. To date we have trained over 2,000 new primary teachers with a specialism in languages. Last October we published, in hard copy and online, our ‘Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages’, which sets out learning objectives for the four years of key stage 2. It is supported by a national training programme, guidance and a planning tool.

The funding will also support new approaches for teaching and learning for 11 to 18-year-olds, including alternative qualifications and vocational options at key stage 4 which will provide more flexibility for pupils in their studies. We are also funding a range of projects and materials to promote languages and to develop innovative curricular models which will be show-cased to provide schools with delivery ideas and support. For example, we funded CILT, the National Centre for Languages to produce ‘Languages Work’, a suite of materials designed to promote the value of language learning, support take-up of languages beyond key stage 3, and how language skills can enhance future employability.

Our key stage 3 strategy continues to impact positively on pupils’ attainment in languages, especially boys. We plan to provide additional key stage 3 strategy training for teachers in the next academic year.

We have expanded the list of qualifications that count towards performance table scores to include more language qualifications. Most significantly, in September 2005 the new national, voluntary languages recognition scheme, the languages ladder, became available nationally. The scheme can be used by learners of all ages and is currently available in eight languages, including Mandarin Chinese. In September 2006, 13 other languages will be made available through the scheme. The scheme differs from existing approaches to assessment in that there are separate qualifications in each language for reading, writing, listening and speaking. To date over 800 centres—including local authorities and specialist language colleges—have registered to take part in the scheme, with over 10,000 learners entered for qualifications across all sectors taking over 26,000 qualifications.

To address the decline in take-up at key stage 4, my predecessor wrote to all secondary schools setting out her expectations that, from September 2006, 50-90 per cent. of a school’s key stage 4 cohort should study a foreign language leading to a recognised qualification.