The survey was carried out during
the autumn term of 2011 by CfBT Education Trust with support
from the Association for
Language Learning and the Independent Schools’ Modern Language
It is based on responses to a questionnaire
sent to a representative sample of 2,000 secondary schools in
England (1,500 maintained schools and 500 independent schools).
The survey has been carried out annually since
2002 to track developments in language provision and take-up in
secondary schools. (Please use the left-hand menu to access earlier
surveys with secondary schools.)
The findings are based on a response rate of 43% from 856
- The downward trend in numbers of students
taking a GCSE in a language continued in 2011. The decline over the
last decade has been from 78% in 2001 to 40% in summer 2011.
- The greatest decline is in the two most
commonly taught languages, French and German, with a decline of 56%
over the decade 2001 – 2011. The number of pupils taking a GCSE in
Spanish has increased in the same period by 29%.
- There is a notable increase in the take up of
languages in the current Year 10 following the publication of the
Education White Paper (DfE 2010) and changes to the Performances
Tables from 2010 to include the English Baccalaureate. 40% of
maintained schools report changes to their language provision
following the announcement of the EBacc and another 14% plan to
introduce changes over the next year or two.
- Schools are dropping the offer of alternative
accreditation in spite of dissatisfaction with GCSE. In the last
year this has dropped from 45% to 33%.
- The languages on offer in secondary schools
are still largely French, Spanish and German. Pupils in independent
schools have more opportunities to learn a wider range of
languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek. For example, Mandarin
is offered in 36% of independent schools and only 14% of maintained
- Teachers in both the maintained and
independent sectors remain gravely concerned about the nature of
the GCSE and the way it is assessed as well as the distribution of
time within the curriculum for languages study.
- Post 16 there is a decline in take up for
languages across both maintained and independent sectors. One
reason given is dissatisfaction with assessment at GCSE and A
level. The decline in German is particularly notable.
- The considerable disparity between take up in
languages at A level remains between the independent and maintained
- The introduction of language learning in
primary schools has not yet raised secondary teachers’ expectations
of what pupils will be able to achieve by the time they are 16.
There are a number of factors including an inconsistency in the
quality of languages teaching in primary schools and uncertainty
about the status of languages in KS2.
- While 4 out of 5 schools make regular use of
ICT for language teaching, there is little class use of social
networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook and relatively few
schools use electronic links with schools abroad in class
here to download the full report and the presentation
slides from launch of the research findings.