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British Council

Language Trends Wales 2020 - The Conversation

Since 2015 we have undertaken an annual survey of schools in Wales, asking teachers to tell us about the teaching of modern foreign languages (MFL). 

This year, the year of Covid-19, we’ve analysed the A level and GCSE results for 2020.  And, for the first time, we've asked experts and commentators to tell us their views on MFL education in Wales. 

We asked them to look to the future, to tell us how Wales might become a beacon of excellence for language learning. We wanted to consider what opportunities Wales’ new curriculum could offer MFL education.  Our commentators have also thought about how a post-Brexit Wales might approach MFL.

Find out more here: Language Trends Wales 2020 - The Conversation

Language Trends Wales 2019

British Council Wales published its fifth Language Trends Wales report  in 2019, which found that the huge decline in modern foreign language exam entries in secondary schools continued, however a more positive picture was emerging at primary level.

Headline statistics from the report include: 

Secondary schools

•Since 2002, entries for GCSE in MFL have declined by 60% in Wales and continue to fall year-on-year

•39% of responding secondary schools have no take up or provision of MFL for A-Level in 2019 compared to 29% in 2018 and 20% in 2017

•73% of schools say the difficulty of MFL exams is putting off pupils at GCSE and A level. 

•MFL GCSE take-up is stratified along both academic and socio-economic lines, with students receiving free school meals or with special educational needs or disabilities less likely to take the subject

•The implications of Brexit are seen as a challenge in 41% of schools. 

•Welsh is seen as fulfilling the ‘language slot’; responses show a connection between the decline in MFL entries over the past five years and the increase in entries for Welsh

 Primary schools

•Primary schools are increasing their MFL provision – 39% of schools said they provide some form of MFL lesson, compared to 28% in 2016.  Welsh medium primary schools are embracing international languages at a faster pace than their English-medium counterparts.

•There is a danger of a lost generation of language learners as children engaged at primary find no provision in secondary.

•Welsh-medium primary schools are more likely to be teaching international languages than other types of school. 

Language Trends Wales 2018

British Council Wales published its fourth Language Trends Wales report in 2018, which found that Welsh school children continue to turn their backs on international languages. 

Headline statistics from the report included:

  • 37% of schools said that Brexit is having a negative effect on attitudes towards studying modern foreign languages 
  • Continued falls in the number of entries for A-level German -33%, Spanish -12%, French -6%
  • Decline in German GCSE numbers halted, but Spanish entries dropped by 23%

Language Trends Wales 2017

British Council Wales published the third Language Trends Wales report in 2017, which found that teachers were ‘extremely worried about the future of modern foreign languages’.

Headline statistics from the report included:

  • More than a third of Welsh schools had less than 10% of Year 10 (14-15 year olds) studying a modern foreign language.
  • 44% of schools had fewer than five pupils studying a foreign language at AS level and 61% had fewer than five foreign language pupils at A level
  • 64% of MFL departments had just one or two full-time teachers, with one third depending on non-British EU nationals for their staff
  • Take up of modern foreign languages continued to fall in years 10 and 11 indicating that numbers would decline further in 2018

Language Trends Wales 2016

British Council Wales and the Education Development Trust published the second national survey of modern foreign language teaching in Welsh schools in 2016. 

The report found: 

• the majority of schools - more than two thirds - had less than 25 per cent of pupils studying a modern foreign language (MFL) at GCSE level

• schools in more disadvantaged areas were more likely to report very low take-up of MFL 

• there was widespread support for the Welsh Government’s ambition to see MFL taught from a younger age, but primary schools want to see more resources and training.

Language Trends Wales 2015

The first Language Trends Wales survey was published on June 2, 2015, creating widespread interest in modern foreign language teaching and education among the Welsh public, press and broadcast media, and the Welsh Government.

The first report found:

• MFL was becoming increasingly marginalised within the Welsh curriculum

• Many pupils were receiving only a minimal or fragmented experience of language learning

• The potential benefits of bilingualism in Wales were not being realised when it comes to learning a modern foreign language

• In the ten year period from 2005-2014 A-level entries for French, German and Spanish halved

• Only 22% of Welsh pupils take a GCSE in a language other than Welsh or English.

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