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Foreign Language Teaching

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he is taking to promote foreign language teaching in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools; and if he will make a statement. (98080)

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. From January 2007 we will be providing additional Key Stage 3 training for teachers.

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 21 languages. It 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 to 90 per cent. of a school’s Key Stage 4 cohort should study a foreign language leading to a recognised qualification.

The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has asked Lord Dearing to carry out a review of languages. Working with key partners and stakeholders, the review will examine the scope for action in the following areas: with secondary schools to support them in making available a wider range of more flexible language courses, so that more young people continue language learning even if they are not doing a full GCSE course; further strengthening the incentives for schools and young people to continue language learning post-14; with Further Education and Higher Education institutions, to examine what more can be done to widen access to and increase interest in language learning among the student population; with employer organisations, to consider what more they can do to promote the value of language skills for business and to give stronger market signals to young people about language skills and employability; and finally, what broader communication effort is needed to get across the importance of language skills to all sections of the population.

Lord Dearing is expected to submit his interim report to the Secretary of State in December, and his final report by the end of February 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether there is a minimum percentage of students that a school is required to have taking up a foreign language at age 14 years. (98109)

At Key Stage 3, language learning for all 14-year-olds is compulsory.

At Key Stage 4 (14 to 16-year-olds), where compulsion was replaced by a statutory entitlement in September 2004, schools must provide access to language learning to any pupil who wishes to study a language. From September 2006 we expect, as a minimum, 50 per cent. of a school’s Key Stage 4 cohort of pupils to be studying a language leading to a recognised qualification.