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Language learning in secondary schools in England: findings from the 2011 Language Trends survey

Teresa Tinsley and Youping Han

Language Trends 2011 is one in an annual series of reports charting the health of language learning within the secondary curriculum in English secondary schools.

Based on large-scale annual surveys of heads of language departments, successive Language Trends reports1 have provided a vivid and authoritative picture of the struggle for effective and widespread participation in languages within the context of increased student choice and the pressures of performance tables. Past surveys have been carried out by CILT, the National Centre for Languages, which since April 2011 has been part of Education Development trust (formerly CfBT Education Trust).

There has been a notable increase in the take-up of languages in the current Year 10 (2011/12) cohort. This follows the publication of the 2010 Schools White Paper and changes to Performance Tables from 2010 onwards to include the English Baccalaureate (EBacc hereafter) as a performance measure which recognises students’ achievement at GCSE (C Grade or higher) in English, mathematics, sciences, a language and a humanities subject.

Compared to more than a third (36%) last year, just over half (51%) of maintained schools now provide language teaching in Year 10 to 50% or more of their pupils. Although there is little evidence of schools returning to compulsory languages in KS4 for all pupils, 59% of schools where languages are optional report increases in take-up, among which 62% see this as a significant development rather than a simple fluctuation.