Headlines: January 13th, 2011

Ofsted is concerned about language teaching in secondary schools and is critical of failure to make use of freely available material such as foreign language websites.

Ofsted inspectors found that one of the main barriers to effective learning is a lack of opportunity for students to listen and communicate in the target language at secondary school. In particular, students had insufficient opportunities to talk in the chosen language in a realistic way. Many teachers make insufficient use of authentic written material such as foreign language websites. Secondary schools were also not always building effectively on the progress made by children at primary school.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said: “Young people can gain tremendously from learning an additional language, acquiring invaluable skills for their lives ahead, so it’s good to see the progress made in our primary schools over the last few years. However, too many students are failing to reach their potential, and do not choose to undertake more advanced study beyond 16, because of the way they are taught languages in many secondary schools.”

She added “To raise standards and increase enthusiasm for languages further, schools should address the areas of concern highlighted in this report. In particular, secondary schools should ensure their students get regular opportunities to speak and read realistic material in the target language so they build the confidence to use their skills in the world beyond the classroom.”

Learning a language has become less popular in the last 5 years since the legal requirement to do was removed. The proportion of students at Key Stage 4 taking a language qualification has gradually declined from 61% in 2005 to 44% in 2010.