The government has announced the creation of a national language centre and nine schools that will lead language hubs in a drive to improve the teaching of Spanish, French and German.
The DfE said the centre of excellence would be backed by £4.8 million over the next four years, and aims to raise the standard of teaching in languages based on the Latin alphabet like French, Spanish and German.
It said the move takes forward recommendations made in the Teaching Schools Council’s Modern Foreign Language Pedagogy Review led by headteacher and linguist Ian Bauckham.
The review noted that weaknesses in British graduates’ translation and interpreting skills loses the UK an estimated 3.5 per cent of economic performance and concluded that the vast majority of pupils should study a modern foreign language until they are 16-years-old.
School standards minister Nick Gibb said: “It has never been more important for young people to learn a foreign language than now. An outward-looking global nation needs a new generation of young people comfortable with the language and culture of our overseas trading partners.
“This programme will give teachers the expertise and support they need to teach pupils key languages such as Spanish, French and German – languages that businesses say they want from their employees. The knowledge pupils will gain in this subject at GCSE and A level will help deliver the skilled workforce we need and build a Britain that is fit for the future.”
Ros McNeil, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “We should be alarmed by the decline in take-up in MFL subjects, particularly Spanish, French and German. These are such important subjects and we need more young people confident in new languages, not fewer.
“However, hubs on their own won't be enough to keep and develop the community of MFL teachers needed, or address why these language subjects are in decline. The shortage of MFL teachers is serious and is storing up long-term problems."
The DfE said the centre of excellence will support schools leading hubs across the country, which will work with local schools in to drive up standards in language teaching by sharing resources and best practice.
The centre will start working with the first hubs from the autumn. The nine hubs will be led by:
1. Dartford Grammar School, Dartford;
2. Dixons Kings Academy, Bradford;
3. Presdales School, Ware, Hertfordshire;
4. Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Marlow;
5. St James’ School, Exeter;
6. The Broxbourne School, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire;
7. Archbishop Temple School, Preston;
8. Blatchington Mill School and Sixth Form, Hove; and
9. Cardinal Hume Catholic School, Gateshead.