Leading modern languages advisers are warning that schools should approach the new key stage 4 option of a short course with caution.
Schools will be able to offer a short-course minumum from September 1996, when studying a language will become compulsory for all pupils. But David Sword, chair of the National Association of Language Advisers, said: "We find it very difficult to see who this is going to suit other than curriculum planners. "
Two means of accreditation have been agreed: a freestanding GCSE (short course) or combined GCSE offering a language with another subject.
While advisers welcome the broadening of the requirement, they believe that the short-course option is not suitable for less able pupils, because it demands they achieve GCSE standards in half the time. They also say it is unsuitable for able pupils, because it blocks progress towards A-level.
Sheila Rowell, of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, said that the short-course options allow schools to keep breadth while doing less in some subjects.
But Mary Ryan, a general adviser in Avon, said she was concerned schools already devoting 10 per cent of the curriculum to languages may want to reduce that proportion.