Save UK's 'dwindling' language skills, say MPs and peers

Wednesday 06th March 2019 07:12 EST

Schools should teach a language to pupils from age five to 18 to reverse a "disastrous" decline in language skills, say MPs and peers. It follows a BBC investigation showing falls of between 30 and 50% since 2013 in the numbers taking language GCSEs in some areas of England.

Head teachers warned the aim might not be realistic because of teacher shortages and funding pressures.

Ministers said the picture in England had improved slightly since 2010. This improvement in the overall proportion taking a language GCSE, thanks largely to Spanish and Mandarin, hides a collapse in numbers studying German and French.

Between 2010 and 2018 in England, the numbers of German GCSEs fell from 57,806 to 39,941 and at A-level from 5,055 to 2,785, according to the Department for Education.

The all-party parliamentary group on modern languages called for cross-government action in a recovery plan published on Monday. The report pointed towards a declining proportion of online content in English, and said that according to the British Council, 75% of the world's population does not speak English.

The group is calling for a range of new qualifications, amid concerns that it is seen as harder to get a good grade in GCSEs than other subjects. 

The plan also suggests tax breaks for smaller businesses as part of promoting life-long learning of languages.

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