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Languages: Education

Volume 470: debated on Monday 7 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps the Government have taken to improve standards of foreign language education in schools since 1997. (174159)

[holding answer 18 December 2007]: As the hon. Gentleman will be aware from my answer of 8 November, in 2002 the Government published the National Languages Strategy, with the overarching objective of improving the teaching and learning of languages across all phases of education. The Languages review, chaired by Lord Bearing and Lid King, the National Director of Languages, progressed this process further.

We have taken a number of steps to improve standards of foreign language education. This week we have confirmed in the Children's Plan that the review of the primary curriculum will examine how best to introduce languages as a compulsory subject in primary schools, which will include how standards can be assessed.

Standards in languages at key stage 3 are rising faster than in any other subject. The proportion of pupils achieving level 5 and above rose from 54 per cent. to 58 per cent. between 2006 and 2007, while the figure for those who achieved level 6 or above rose from 22 per cent. to 25 per cent. This improvement has been supported by the development of Strategic Learning Networks, enabling language teachers to work together and share good practice. The revised key stage 3 curriculum will be more relevant and engaging for young people and should continue this improvement in standards. Specialist language colleges receive additional money for outreach work with local schools, which can be used to improve standards at key stage 4.

The proportion of those pupils achieving an A*-C grade in a GCSE language subject has increased from 48 per cent. in 1997 to 66 per cent. in 2007.

The Languages Ladder/Asset Languages Scheme, introduced in 2005, complements existing qualifications and allows learners to progress at their own pace in one or more of the four language skills—speaking, listening, reading and writing. This allows pupils who may not previously have achieved a languages qualification to have their achievement recognised.

Finally, we have announced the development of a new diploma in languages to be introduced from 2011.