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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Heads call for compulsory languages
Languages have proved unpopular with many students

Foreign languages should be compulsory for sixth formers doing the diploma that is set to replace A-levels and GCSEs, head teachers have said.

The Secondary Heads Association (SHA) also said existing exams did not need to be scrapped but could "evolve" into part of the qualification being worked on by the Government's committee on education of 14 to 19 year olds.

Students doing the academic or "general" advanced diploma - set at A-level standard - should also be required to achieve credits for covering maths, information technology and "critical thinking or theory of knowledge", it added.

The government wants to encourage more people to stay at school until 18 and to raise the status of vocational courses.

End of A-levels?

The final proposals of its review committee, headed by former chief inspector of schools Mike Tomlinson, are due out next June.

Education Secretary Clarke will then decide if A-levels should go after more than 60 years.

Mr Tomlinson has invited all those interested in responding to his first set of proposals to do so before the end of October.

So far, he has recommended a unified diploma system for students aged 14 to 19, to replace separate GCSEs and A-levels.

The SHA said that, even though foreign languages should be required, sixth formers would not necessarily need to study them at advanced, or A-Level standard.

Intermediate, or GCSE level, could be enough.

Even this requirement would represent a government U-turn, as it has just made foreign languages optional for GCSE pupils because of their unpopularity, particularly among boys.

SHA general secretary John Dunford said: "We have always believed that modern languages should be part of people's education until at least the age of 16.

"In the context in which the island of Britain finds itself, it makes no sense to discourage people from doing a modern language, as is currently happening."

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