Is Brexit causing a shift away from languages?

Posted: Wed, Jul 3, 2019 8:21 PM

The British Council has released a report to suggest that already, Brexit is causing children in England to fall behind in learning a foreign language. 

It claims that there has been a disappointing shift in attitude, with a number of parents telling teachers that languages will be of “little use” as the UK is due to leave the European Union. 

The report also warns that language GCSEs and A-Levels are seen as particularly hard subjects, in which it is difficult to get a good grade. 

This supports the BBC’s findings, released earlier in the year, which highlighted a steep decline in the number of UK teenagers learning a second language. Many schools have suggested that the reason for this decline is the perception among pupils that languages are a difficult subject. 

Angela Sterling, an experienced languages teacher and founder of Lingotot, said: “I’m really saddened by the continuing decline of language skills in Britain. Language learning is so much more than being able to order an ice cream when you’re abroad. It opens the door to new cultures, new understanding and new opportunities and our children deserve the opportunity to experience that within their education”.

The Government has said that the state of language learning in England is improving as primary school children, aged 7 - 11, are now expected to study a foreign language as part of their curriculum. 

Ms Tinsley, author of the British Council’s report, worries that while some schools are embracing this change in policy, many schools are struggling because of a lack of expertise or support from nearby secondary schools. She comments: “Schools that are not achieving well are focussing on core subjects and primary Sats tests because these are the outcomes that Ofsted will look at”.

Angela continues: “If the Government is serious about reversing this decline through engaging children at a younger age - which language professionals fully endorse - it is essential that there is an obvious pathway for progression. 

“Having official qualifications at primary level will help secondary schools to ensure progression continues from the outset which will go a long way to fulfilling the Government’s pledge to make MFL a priority. We are seeing this in action as Lingotot children move from primary to secondary school.”

Listen to Zak talking about how Lingotot classes in primary school prepared him for success in secondary school. 

Lingotot partner with schools and home educators throughout the UK and Ireland to deliver a bespoke and fully accredited KS1 & KS2 programme mapped to the British curriculum. Their courses are accredited by NCFE, an Ofqual regulated awarding body, and are benchmarked at entry level - one step before GCSE - which sets children on the right path for progression in language learning. This is a first for the UK!