“WHERE other schools have used the decline in language learning as a way to reduce costs, we have not been afraid to invest”.

Those are the words of Head of German at King’s Ely Senior, Neil Urwin, in response to reports today (February 27th) that ‘foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium’.

A report published by the BBC says that there have been drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 in the number of students taking GCSE language courses in England. A separate survey of secondary schools suggests a third have dropped at least one language from their GCSE options, with German and French falling the most.

Mr Urwin said: “We are bucking this trend at King’s Ely that is for sure. The MFL Department here is a vibrant and exciting place to be, where students are given every chance to succeed in their study of French, German and Spanish. We very successfully take language learning outside the classroom, so that our students have a much richer experience and understanding of why they are learning a language. We have exchange schools in each of the three countries, with an extra link in the Reunion Islands, where French is the official language.

“King’s Ely has achieved International School status through our well-structured e-Twinning links and the current Erasmus Plus project in French and Spanish. A group of students have just returned from Reunion and the next group is heading off to Spain next week, followed by the French Exchange with Toulouse in March and the German Exchange with Remchingen taking place in June.

“The number of students learning German has increased significantly in recent years at King’s Ely, while French and Spanish remain popular choices. Our students start their first real communication with other students in France, Germany and Spain in Year 7 through our pen-friend projects, leading to the exchange option from Year 9. All languages offer support sessions at lunchtime or after school and there is a vast array of other activities for students to be involved in, such as the Inde-Film Awards, debating, plays and theatre, languages and business days, International Week and the ever popular Language Leader Award in conjunction with Routes into Languages.

“We are constantly reviewing our practice and updating our programmes of study to ensure that modern teaching and learning techniques are embedded in all that we do. All of our students have access to native speakers during language lessons. Where other schools have used the decline in language learning as a way to reduce costs, we have not been afraid to invest.”

In their report, the BBC say they attempted to contact every one of the almost 4,000 mainstream secondary schools in the UK, and more than half – 2,048 – responded.

Of the schools which replied, most said the perception of languages as a difficult subject was the main reason behind a drop in the number of pupils studying for exams.

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