The British Council has published its annual report on language teaching in English schools. The report looks at teaching and uptake of languages in both primary and secondary schools, as well as the transition between these phases.
The report concludes that:
a system wide approach is needed to address disparities in the quality of teaching provision at key stage 2
teachers report benefits of language teaching in key stage 2 for social inclusion (particularly for lower attaining pupils and those with English as an additional language) and this should be carried through to key stage 3
schools are increasingly focusing on key stage 3 in order to prepare pupils for the new language GCSEs
schools are expecting an increase in the number of pupils studying language GCSEs, driven by the EBacc, but are concerned that the new GCSE specification will produce poor results
the decline in the number of pupils taking A-level languages is likely to continue unless the bodies involved come together to address it
a reduction in opportunities such as overseas trips and contact with native-speaker language assistants mean that language learning is becoming exclusively classroom-based
Overall, the report concludes that while many teachers are working hard to address issues in language teaching, the British Council “would welcome concerted action on an increased scale in order to ensure that the many positive aspirations in current government policy are successfully implemented”.
Many of the challenges highlighted in this report will be familiar to governing boards – 26% of secondary school governors and trustees who responded to last year’s National Governance Association & TES survey reported difficulties in recruiting modern foreign languages teachers. Languages are an important part of a broad and balanced curriculum and governing boards should ask questions about what provision is available in their school and plan for any future risks to language teaching capacity.