Teacher and student

Mat Wright

Language Trends Wales 2022

Since 2015 we have undertaken an annual survey of schools in Wales, asking for teachers to feed back their views on the teaching of International Languages (previously titled/called modern foreign languages). 

Language Trends Wales 2022 is published as the new Curriculum for Wales, with its emphasis on promoting a holistic, multilingual, plurilingual approach to language education, takes effect.

This year our report includes findings from our survey of primary and secondary schools in Wales and a focus on international language learning in post-16 colleges.

If you would like to join or find out more, please contact TeamWales@britishcouncil.org.

Language Trends Wales 2021

Language Trends Wales 2021

Since 2015 we have undertaken an annual survey of schools in Wales, asking for teachers to feed back their views on the teaching of international languages (previously titled/called modern foreign languages). 

Language Trends Wales 2021 was published in the context of a global pandemic. We were astounded by the way in which teachers and students rose to  unprecedented challenges.

In 2021 our report focused on analysing the situation for international language teaching and learning in secondary schools and post-16 colleges in Wales. The report also included international case studies on language learning to demonstrate how multilingual approaches are implemented in varied contexts.

Language Trends Wales 2020

British Council Wales published its sixth Language Trends Wales report in 2020, which found that whilst Covid-19 had a significant impact on school examinations in 2020, the findings were nonetheless indicative of longer-term trends and continued to highlight the overall low numbers of learners of languages in education in Wales.

Headline statistics from the report include: 

• Pupil entries for modern foreign languages (MFL) continue to fall in Wales with a 10% decrease at GCSE and a 16% decrease at A-level since 2019.

• While numbers for French and German GCSE stabilised slightly, Spanish saw a 19% fall at GCSE and a 15% decrease at A-level compared to last year.

• The largest decrease in entries between 2019-2020 has been for ‘other languages’ with a fall of 54% and 34% at GCSE and A-level respectively.

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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