Your article reporting on a Guardian round table (Speaking up for foreign language, June 19) gives a pessimistic view of the state of language teaching in England. This government introduced a series of reforms that led to a revival of languages in primary and secondary classrooms across the country.
Some of the roundtable participants paint a picture of primary schools struggling to cope. Yet 95% already teach a foreign language. From September, children will have to learn a language from the age of seven – so pupils will have four years of learning under their belt before secondary school.
In secondary school, it is true that the number of children learning languages was in free fall until 2010, but we are in the process of reversing the trend. Thanks to our EBacc – a grading measure that encourages core academic subjects at GCSE, including a language – the decline of modern languages has finally been reversed. Last year, turnout for the Languages GCSE rose almost 16% from 2012, to its highest level in five years. The article criticized the inclusion of more literature in A-levels, but it is the universities that are planning to focus more on literature. Speaking and listening will remain essential elements of the new qualifications.
Far from stifling languages, free schools and academies liberate innovation. At Bohunt Secondary Academy in Hampshire, pupils are taught in Mandarin for a third of their timetable. After two years, their results are almost a year ahead of their peers – in all subjects, not just languages. And at Europa Free Primary School in Oxfordshire, pupils learn a second language from the age of four, with half of the week’s lessons taught in French or German. Languages thrive on academic freedom, not in spite of it.
These reforms show that this government places languages at the heart of our school system so that every young person in the country can benefit from a rich and enriching language education.
Elizabeth Truss, MP