Foreign language take-up falls again

TAKE-up of foreign languages in Suffolk's schools has continued to plummet, new figures revealed today.

TAKE-up of foreign languages in Suffolk's schools has continued to plummet, new figures revealed today.

The decline in numbers studying French and German comes despite the attempts of the county's education bosses to address the issue.

Statistics show that only 25.7 per cent of students sat GCSE French exams in 2008 - compared to 28.2pc in 2007 and 71.8pc a decade ago.

Meanwhile, only 11.2pc took German in 2008, down from 11.8pc in 2007 and 26.5pc in 1998.

Take-up of Spanish, rarely taught at high schools ten years ago, stands at 3.9pc - similar to the 2007 figure.

The fall in Suffolk follows a national trend, which has seen fewer 16-year-olds studying European languages since a 2004 government decision to make the subjects optional.

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Teaching representatives told The Evening Star the continued drop in modern language study was bad news for both the economy and children's social awareness.

Martin Goold, from Suffolk National Union of Teachers, said: “We seem to be returning to a time when English people simply don't learn foreign languages.

“That can not be a good thing for the economy and it's not a good thing for the world awareness of the British public.”

Part of Suffolk's drive to increase take-up has been to reintroduce foreign languages teaching in primary schools.

But Mr Goold said: “We have concerns over the delivery of that teaching, which is by and large not carried out by specifically trained teachers. It remains to be seen whether it has any long-term effect.”

Mr Goold also claimed the language curriculum was not applicable.

“We are seeing A level students who can write essays on pollution but who can't buy a train ticket.”

Suffolk County Council said it had introduced a three-pronged approach to tackling the problem, which, along with introducing primary school youngsters to languages, included boosting interest at Key Stage Three level and making the curriculum more flexible at Key Stage Four.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “Language teachers work tirelessly in their schools to promote the importance of languages in later life, both within lessons and through assemblies, displays, languages days, visits abroad and visiting speakers.”

Should foreign languages be made compulsory in our high schools? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

French German

1998 71.80pc 26.51

1999 70.03 26.41

2000 65.46 22.56

2001 67.17 21.14

2002 60.26 21.79

2003 55.87 19.21

2004 51.54 18.93

2005 43.34 16.20

2006 32.77 14.39

2007 28.25 11.88

2008 25.72 11.20