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Hear and say

Business-style immersion courses, where children spend all day hearing and speaking the target language, could help boost interest in languages, a major review is expected to recommend on Monday.

Lord Dearing was asked to carry out a review following a severe fall in the numbers of 14-year-olds taking languages after the Government made them optional in 2004.

The review is expected to emphasise continued professional development for teachers, transition arrangements between primary and secondary schools and flexible teaching methods. Only 51 per cent of key stage 4 pupils now take a language GCSE compared to 80 per cent in 2000 - and numbers are set to fall further over the next two years.

Lord Dearing has already suggested there is no case for returning to a blanket compulsion to study languages at GCSE. But in his interim report, published in December, he suggested secondaries could be required to set a target for the number of pupils achieving a language qualification - not necessarily GCSE. He also floated the idea of a "qualified compulsion", which would mean pupils did not necessarily have to study to GCSE level and from which those struggling with English and maths would be exempt.

He has also said that language GCSEs should be made more relevant to 14-year-olds. Lord Dearing said: "The consultation brought out clearly that one menu does not suit all. We want people to achieve at levels appropriate to them."

Primaries have a crucial role to play, but the difficulty of staffing should not be underestimated.

Lord Dearing said: "There needs to be continued investment in primary teachers. Our thinking is very much people-centred. The focus is teachers, headteachers and pupils and helping them to succeed.

"Heads say this isn't an issue for a quick fix. They are absolutely right.

The issues we face are going to be embedded progressively through people and through the curriculum. Action on both fronts is required."

* helen.ward@tes.co.uk

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