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Let us learn languages

JUST back from taking our Year 6 pupils on their week-long residential visit to France, it was a shock to clap eyes on your front-page story "Schools jump gun in ditching languages" (TES, May 24). Out went the planned literacy lesson that day. Instead, we had a heated classroom debate about the teaching of modern foreign languages based around the facts and opinions found in your article.

Obviously, as leader of our French trip and strong supporter and teacher of some of the French lessons taught to our Years 5 and 6, my views are partisan. However, I was delighted by the response of the pupils in my class who all expressed agreement that they should have opportunities to learn languages. There were some forthright views put forward about the age at which pupils might give up learning a language, the upshot being that six pupils felt that a choice at age 14 was appropriate, (interestingly, all boys), whereas 21 pupils felt that 16 was a much better age at which to make a choice that will affect future lives and careers. I asked the pupils to express their personal views in a letter to you (literacy skills - writing for real purposes and real audiences).

It is gratifying that the children feel such enthusiasm for being able to communicate in different languages. Our recent visit to France involved our pupils encountering their peers at a French primary school. Shy at first, they were thrilled to discover that their basic French skills worked, and were soon eagerly requesting new words and phrases to be able to express themselves to their new friends.

Surely this is what foreign language skills are all about: being able to communicate? Perhaps choices at 14 are too influenced by the expected burden of GCSE exams. Why not make foreign languages compulsory to 16, but exams in foreign languages optional?

Daryl Bailey

Year 6 class teacher

Benfield junior school, Brighton

(Editor's note: A letter from one of Daryl Bailey's pupils is reproduced below).

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