Primary languages optional in Wales

29th August 2008 at 01:00
Primary MFL not compulsory in Wales

Modern foreign languages (MFL) will not be made compulsory in primary schools in Wales, The TES can reveal. The decision is a further sign of divisions between education in England and Wales, which previously abolished key stage tests.

The Welsh Assembly was considering following England's example, where all primary schools must teach a modern foreign language at key stage 2 from 2011.

But Jane Hutt, the assembly's education minister, told The TES she had decided against it after the evaluation of a pilot scheme running in 118 primary schools and 18 secondaries since 2003.

Evaluators doubted compulsory languages would be popular with teachers, despite parental support.

"The piloting across Wales led to the view that we shouldn't make it statutory," said Ms Hutt. "On that consultation and formal evaluation, it's not being made statutory at KS2 - you have got to make policy based on evidence."

However, Ms Hutt stressed that enough funding would be available for every primary in Wales to offer a foreign language.

"In terms of results, MFL in Wales is on par with the rest of the UK anyway, but that's not to say it's good enough," she said.

The percentage of pupils in Wales taking languages at GCSE fell from 41 per cent in 1999 to just 28 per cent in 2007; in England, the decline over the same period has been from 78 per cent to 46 per cent, a drop accelerated by Westminster's decision to stop languages being compulsory at key stage 4 in 2004.

The Welsh figures do not take into account pupils taking GCSEs in Welsh as a second language, which nearly matches the combined total sitting French, German and Spanish.

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