Language learning in primary school can help reverse 18-year low in GCSE MFL entries

Posted: Wed, Feb 27, 2019 9:20 AM

The BBC today released a report showing steep decline in the number of UK teenagers learning a language. The analysis shows drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 in the numbers taking GCSE language courses in the worst affected areas in England. Most schools said the reason for the decline was the perception among pupils of languages being a difficult subject.

This follows the labour government’s decision in 2004 to reverse the “Languages for All” policy and no longer making a languages GCSE a requirement. In 2010 the government attempted to reverse the decline by making language learning compulsory in English primary schools. This coincided with the launch of Lingotot.

Lingotot founder, Angela Sterling, had been a secondary MFL teacher and was concerned about the decline so decided to throw herself into making primary languages provision of a high standard in a bid to help boost the numbers of children taking GCSE and A Level languages.

Since 2016 Lingotot teachers across the country have been delivering their bespoke qualifications in primary school languages accredited by NCFE. They 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.

NCFE is the UK’s longest established awarding body and is respected for its professionalism and quality.

Christine Paxton, Head of Accreditation and Employer Services at NCFE, said: “We’re pleased to have accredited Lingotot’s modern foreign language programme for primary schools. It’s great news for pupils – for the first time they receive formal, external recognition of their achievements. Learning modern foreign languages at a young age is important and Lingotot will help many primary schools to deliver high quality MFL programmes, so we’re delighted to be able to support this by providing recognition to those who complete these courses.”

Nick Gibb, the minister with responsibility for school standards at Westminster, says the overall picture in England is improving. 

"We are taking a range of measures to do this, such as creating a new network of schools that excel in the teaching of languages to share their expertise and best practice with others and setting up a new mentoring project to encourage pupils' interest in languages."

Angela Sterling, former foreign languages teacher and founder of Lingotot added: “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 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 our 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.