Letters Extra: Wrecked by OFSTED

6th December 2002 at 00:00

I read with interest your remarks on the future of Spanish in the curriculum, but feel I must correct the impression your readers may have got regarding its success in Crown Woods School, where I was head of MFL from 1990 until 2001.

It is true that Spanish has been popular with students since its introduction in 1995, and with a GCSE entry of up to 60 students drawn from across the ability range, an average of 37% gained A*- C grades up to 2000. Over the same period, much larger cohorts took French or German, attaining similar grades.

It is therefore not correct to suggest, as your reporter does, that pupils are opting for Spanish instead of French and German. Nor are this year's Spanish results, at 13% A*-C the worst in the history of the department, something that one would wish to offer as an example to other schools.

It is however true that staff shortages have required the school to reduce German teaching, and replace it in some cases with Italian. The staffing crisis was triggered by OFSTED, who made an unscheduled visit to a successful school on the brink of language college status and put it into special measures on the basis of 36 hours' evidence. By the time their judgement had been overturned in the High Court, virtually the entire MFL department had left, with disastrous results for their students.

If there is to be a future for modern languages in the UK, it will not depend on which particular language is flavour of the month, but on what support is available for teachers at the chalk-face. Telling us, as your front page does, how bad we are at our jobs, does nothing for morale.

Alison Noble, Head of MFL, Bideford College,nbsp;Clifton St, Bideford

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