Page last updated at 06:31 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 07:31 UK

Drop in modern language learning

Language lesson
Language classes were outstanding in some cases, inspectors found

Schools in Wales should do more to encourage pupils to learn modern languages, say education inspectors.

They cite an award-winning teacher who encouraged her class by asking three Spanish footballers with Swansea City to talk to her pupils in Pembrokeshire.

Ten years ago 41% of pupils in Wales chose to do a foreign language at GCSE. This had fallen to 28% two years ago.

Education watchdog Estyn said secondary schools should promote modern foreign languages to pupils and their parents.

It found the standards of language teaching were much higher than for most subjects, but more could be done.

The inspectorate has called for Wales' secondary sector to provide a minimum of two hours per week at key stage 3 (the first three years of secondary education).

It also wants to see better collaboration between the English, Welsh and modern foreign language departments and more use of languages in vocational courses such as tourism, business and engineering.

It highlighted Cathy Young who last month won Wales' outstanding new teacher award.

Mrs Young, who teaches French and Spanish at Pembroke School, was praised by judges for her innovation, which included asking three Spanish-speaking footballers from Swansea City FC to talk to her GCSE pupils.

Estyn inspectors sent questionnaires to more than 50 secondary schools and visited 14.

The report found the standards of achievement were generally good, and in some cases outstanding.

However, the study found the attainment gap between boys and girls was greater than in other subjects, with girls having much better results on average.

CILT Cymru, Wales' national centre of expertise on language teaching, said it was essential for language learning to be "slotted in" to vocational courses as an alternative to the academic route.

Claire Parry, language advisor for 14-19 year-olds, said: "Children need context for the language that they are learning. We need to ensure that language skills are linked to all subjects.

'International economy'

"There will always be a minority, perhaps 20%, who will go down the academic route. There may be 80% for whom a language is not going to be their main subject, but the language element is absolutely important.

"It's a skill that's vital for an international economy."

Chief inspector Dr Bill Maxwell said: "Although there is some evidence of good practice at work across secondary schools in Wales, more needs to be done at all levels to encourage both boys and girls to study a modern foreign language."

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson welcomed Estyn's report.

He said: "The good practice identified by Estyn alongside the areas of improvement will inform further work with schools and local authorities to ensure that there are effective arrangements in place for the provision of modern foreign languages."



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