Ofsted plan to hit 90% MFL target is 'unrealistic'

School leaders say primaries and secondaries working more closely on languages won't be enough to meet EBacc target

John Roberts

MFL: Ofsted plan to hit 90% languages target is 'unrealistic', says school leaders

Headteachers’ leaders have warned that schools cannot be expected to meet the government English Baccalaureate (EBacc) targets without more language teachers coming into the system.

Ofsted has suggested that getting primary and secondary schools to work together more closely on languages could help to meet the government targets of having 90 per cent of students studying the subjects needed for the EBacc by 2025.

However, the Association of School and College Leaders has said that Ofsted’s idea is unrealistic and warned that achieving the Department for Education’s target will be impossible because of a lack of language teachers in the system.


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Ofsted has been producing a series of reports looking in depth at subject teaching following a series of inspections carried out before the Covid pandemic.

Shortage of languages teachers

In its most recent blog on the teaching of foreign languages, inspectors said that they did not see much evidence of a joined-up approach to language teaching between key stage 2 and key stage 3.

It is suggested that more focus on progression between primary and secondary schools would support the government's EBacc target for 2025 of having 90 per cent of students studying for the qualifications needed.

However, the ASCL's director of policy, Julie McCulloch, has cast doubt over this.

She said: “We think the principle of Ofsted subject reviews is good in that it allows the inspectorate to share and disseminate findings which can be useful to the wider sector.

“The subject review about languages in primary schools makes some interesting points, but the idea that improving transition between key stage 2 and 3 will support the EBacc ‘ambition’ of 90 per cent take-up is unrealistic.

“The take-up of languages has been problematic for many years and it would require a huge turnaround to hit the target of 90 per cent.

“Despite the enormous benefit of learning languages, there is a perception among pupils that these are difficult subjects and they often opt for other options.

"As it stands, it would not be possible to hit the 90 per cent target purely on the practical grounds that there aren’t enough language teachers in the system.

"Improving the transition between languages at key stage 2 and 3 could be one strand of a wider strategy but there would need to be a much broader effort to tackle this issue.”

The EBacc is a set of academic subjects at GCSE, comprising English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language. 

It was created as a performance measure by the DfE to encourage more schools and students to study for core academic subjects.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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