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Plunge in popularity

CERI Henkus knows how valuable modern foreign languages are to employers. The head of foreign languages at St James' high school, Exeter, used French and Spanish for three years at Centrax Ltd, a gas turbine company in Newton Abbot that exported to Europe.

She used her work experience to persuade around 20 boys who wanted to drop French and study ICT, that having a foreign language would improve their prospects of better-paid jobs in electronic engineering. The boys all went on to take an extra GCSE in French, passing with grades A* to C.

Ms Henkus has to market French and Spanish, the two languages offered at St James, as both are options competing with subjects such as geography, music, drama and vocational subjects including ICT.

Five years ago half of 15 and 16-year-olds took a language. Now it is only a third. This year Ms Henkus has seen three-quarters of her able girls drop out, more than ever before. "It disproves the theory that inspiring children at key stage 3 will make them go for a language," she said.

She added that pupils had not chosen French because they found other subjects easier, enjoyed them more, or liked their teachers better.

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