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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Rethink on school language study
primary school language lesson
Policy has been to put more emphasis on languages in primary schools
Government ministers are said to be reconsidering their decision to drop compulsory language lessons for England's GCSE students.

Modern foreign language study at Key Stage 4 - 14 to 16-year-olds - was made optional two years ago.

Since then the numbers of pupils taking qualifications in French and German, in particular, have plummeted.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson said ministers were "wondering" whether they had done the right thing.

He was answering questions following a speech in London on Wednesday at the Social Market Foundation think-tank.

He reportedly said of the decision: "We're just having another rethink about that."

'Freefall'

Last December the then Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, announced that schools would have targets of ensuring that at least half their pupils studied a foreign language until they were 16.

The decline in languages featured prominently in reporting of year's GCSE results, published last month.

Entries in German were down by 14.2% while French declined by 13.2%.

John Dunford of the Association of School and College Leaders said the subjects were in "freefall".

The National Centre for Languages welcomed the apparent change of heart.

Opposition support

And shadow schools minister Nick Gibb said: "This is a very pleasing development, for which we have called for some time. It was clearly a huge mistake to end the compulsion to study a foreign language from the age of 14."

If the government decided to reintroduce the requirement to study a modern foreign language it would have full Opposition support, he said.

"It is just a great pity that the decision was taken in the first place with all the damage it has done to over 100,000 young people and to the language departments of hundreds of secondary schools."





SEE ALSO
Languages 'at point of no return'
24 Aug 06 |  Education
Schools to get language targets
15 Dec 05 |  Education
School language decline continues
03 Nov 05 |  Education
Boys unwilling to learn languages
19 Oct 05 |  Education
Language exams in sharp decline
25 Aug 05 |  Education
Languages in schools 'in decline'
28 Feb 05 |  Education
Language teaching pilot 'working'
13 Jul 05 |  Education

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