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Sixth form French flourishes

The number of teenagers studying languages in sixth forms is holding up and even improving in some areas, despite the continuing decline in interest at GCSE level.

Most schools reported increased demand for Spanish and French at AS and A-level, according to a survey of more than 1,000 schools by Cilt, the national centre for languages.

This year 90 per cent of state sixth forms are offering French, 42 per cent Spanish and 69 per cent German, despite a drop in demand for this subject.

At private schools 97 per cent of sixth forms are offering French, 82 per cent German and 77 per cent Spanish.

The good news for A-level languages teachers comes against a background of falling numbers at GCSE, to the point where most state schools no longer have a majority of 14 to 16-year-olds studying for the exam.

Linda Parker, director of the Association for Language Learning, said:

"While there is no point in compelling pupils to do something they do not really want to do, it is sad that languages have not been considered important enough to maintain a place in the core curriculum.

"It seems as though society does not value the intercultural skills that can be developed as part of learning a foreign language."

Ms Parker said that when languages were compulsory at key stage 4, fewer students continued to study them atA-level.

"We will contribute to the Government's review and hope to see recommendations coming from it which will revitalise language learning in our schools, encouraging all students in the 14 to 19-year-old phase to continue learning languages and enjoy the experience," she said.

The Cilt survey also revealed that as well as the three main languages, one in five private schools offer Italian, Chinese and Russian. "In the independent sector there is no market failure of languages and no questioning of the place of language in the curriculum," the researchers found.


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