FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING IN UK SCHOOLS (Hansard, 18 November 1987)
HL Deb 18 November 1987 vol 490 cc279-81WA
Lord O'Hagan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are satisfied with the teaching of foreign languages in British schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science (Baroness Hooper)

The Government believe there is room for improvement in the teaching of foreign languages in schools. The draft statement of policyForeign Languages in the School Curriculum, published by the Secretaries of State for Education and Science and for Wales last year for consultation, calls for more pupils to study foreign languages throughout secondary education and in the sixth form; for a wider range of languages to be offered; and for more attention to communication skills. A copy of the draft policy statement is in the Library; the final version will be issued shortly. The Government's national curriculum proposals will secure the place of foreign languages in secondary schools.

In Scotland the discussion paper The Provision of Modern Languages in Scottish Secondary Schools, published in 1986 by the Secretary of State's Consultative Committee on the Curriculum, argued for a national policy for modern languages with adequate provision for languages other than French. A position paper in the light of the subsequent consultations is expected later this year. The new Standard Grade courses in Scotland are designed to improve the position for pupils across the whole ability range.

Lord O'Hagan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they will take to ensure that language teaching in British schools compares with that in other member states of the EC.

Baroness Hooper

The UK was a party to the conclusions of European Community Education Ministers on 4th June 1984 concerning various measures to promote the teaching of foreign languages. The main thrusts of the Government's draft policy statementForeign Languages in the School Curriculum, and parallel developments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, are consistent with the decisions of the ministers of education and would bring the teaching and learning of foreign languages in schools nearer to the practice in other member states.

Lord O'Hagan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many teachers of foreign languages have worked in state schools in each of the last five years.

Baroness Hooper

The information is not available on a yearly basis. However, surveys of school staffing carried out individually in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, suggest that overall there were some 29,000 teachers of modern foreign languages in maintained schools in the United Kingdom in 1984.

Lord O'Hagan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are satisfied with the numbers of children who have passed examination in foreign languages in each of the last five years; and whether they will publish the figures.

Baroness Hooper

On the basis of a statistical example, the total number of pupils in England, Northern Ireland and Wales achieving higher graded results in examinations in modern foreign languages at 16+ or 18+ in each of the last five years is estimated to have been as follows:
16+* 18+*
('000s) ('000s)
1981/2 134.0 21.4
1982/3 136.3 21.2
1983/4 134.9 21.9
1984/5 134.7 20.5
1985/6 131.1 18.7
*These data may be subject to sampling error.

Comparable data on examination results in Scotland are not available at the time of answering. I will send my noble friend a complete set of data as soon as possible.

As a proportion of school-leavers, these figures have remained fairly constant throughout the five-year period. The Government's policy of encouraging more pupils to study foreign languages throughout secondary education and in the sixth form should help to increase the number of examination successes in foreign languages.

Lord O'Hagan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether sufficient scope for practical conversational use of foreign languages is encouraged in state schools.

Baroness Hooper

The Government welcome the growing emphasis on the development of practical skills of communication and the ability to understand and use foreign languages, but believe that more could be done. The draft statement of policyForeign Languages in the School Curriculum stresses that full weight should be given to competence in the use of the spoken word and that ample time should be allowed for the practice of the language. The new GCSE courses, and the new Standard Grade courses in Scotland, aim to encourage a communicative approach to the teaching of foreign languages.

GLOBAL ISLES COURT OF RECORD