Language Trends Wales 2015/16

Teresa Tinsley

Kathryn Board OBE

Language Trends Wales 2015/16 is the second in a series of annual reports on foreign language teaching in Welsh schools.

This year's report shows the number of pupils in Wales studying a foreign language to GCSE declined by 44% between 2002 and 2015. Against this background, the Welsh Government launched is undertaking extensive educational reform including developing a new curriculum based on the findings of the Donation review, Successful Futures, introducing new GSCEs and A levels, and strengthening the Welsh Baccalaureate.

At secondary level, it was found only a small amount of time is being allocated to teaching modern foreign languages (MFL) in Key Stage 3, which is the only phase the subject is compulsory. Teachers believe that improving careers advice, changing the assessment and marking of the GCSE exam, increasing the number of free choices and ensuring that MFL appears in all option blocks would be the best way to improve take-up of MFL. 

At primary level, the report finds languages are more often taught to older pupils, with the most popular languages being French or Spanish. Primary schools also tend to draw on existing members of staff with the necessary skills. Although the majority of respondents were supportive of the introduction of MFL teaching, there was emphasis that more funding and training is required to make this happen. Many primary headteachers feel overburdened by a crowded curriculum and see MFL as potentially competing with priorities to improve the teaching of Welsh.