School chiefs try to stop language shun

EDUCATION bosses today said they are working hard to address why young people are shunning foreign languages at school.

EDUCATION bosses today said they are working hard to address why young people are shunning foreign languages at school.

The take up of foreign languages in schools has plummeted in the last decade with a mere 28per cent of pupils learning French and 12pc German in 2007, down from 71pc and 27pc in 1998.

The figures were revealed in the Evening Star earlier this week.

Today, Patricia O'Brien, Suffolk County councillor portfolio responsible for children, schools and young people's services, said a programme of training and support for primary schools was being introduced as well as trying to make language lessons for younger students more interesting to encourage uptake later on.

She said: “And lastly, we are encouraging schools to offer creative timetabling for languages, and more vocational alternatives to GCSE for older pupils, including the Applied GCSE in French, the Certificate in Business Language Competence, NVQ and Asset Languages.

“There are also opportunities to learn languages through the extended schools programme and the Children's University.”

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The new qualifications are being trialled in three Ipswich secondary schools, Northgate High, Chantry High and Holywells High.

Gill Ramage, a secondary level language consultant who works for Suffolk County Council, said: “There has always been a feeling that we don't need to learn another language because people speak our language.

“This view rubs off on young people from their parents and it makes it difficult for schools to fight against that attitude.

“Sometimes kids also see it as too difficult and when it is an option to be chosen against subjects which may seem more appealing, like drama or music, they may not chose to take a language.”

But pupils at Northgate High School - a specialist language and science college - are bucking the trend, with nearly all pupils taking a GCSE in a modern language.

Headteacher Neil Watts said: “We think it is right to teach languages.

“We live in an increasingly cosmopolitan and international world. We think it is important pupils should speak a language other than just English.

“The trends nationally and in Suffolk are worrying. I think it was a mistake to make languages at GCSE optional.

“It led to a dramatic change in people's attitudes and reinforced the view that everyone speaks English so we don't need to learn other languages.”

n Do you think it's important young people learn languages? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email

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