Teachers call for greater Department for Education commitment to languages in schools – new Scholastic survey

Teachers are calling for the Department for Education to place more importance on modern foreign languages (MFL), according to new research published by Mary Glasgow Magazines, part of Scholastic’s education group.


A survey of 101 secondary schools asked language teachers how important they thought the Department for Education currently sees MFL in schools on a scale of 0-10 – with the average response being just 5/10. When asked how important the Department for Education should see MFL in schools the response rose to 9/10.


The research, undertaken in September 2016, also found that the importance of the subject in schools was lower than teachers perceived it should be. Teachers rated the importance of MFL in their schools at an average of 7/10. However, when asked how important their school should see MFL, this also increased to 9/10.


Respondents said the main reasons to learn a language in school was to develop pupils’ understanding of cultural practices (77%), build pupils’ interpersonal skills (74%) and to establish a path for lifelong learning (61%).


Yet 55% of teachers said they were concerned about the take up of MFL courses at Key Stage 4, despite 83% of schools surveyed offering such courses at GCSE. And 86.5% reported that less than 25% of their students take language courses at A-Level. Overall, 98% of schools offered French, 81% Spanish and 47.5% German.


Gordon Knowles, Managing Director of Mary Glasgow Magazines, said the survey findings supported calls for a joined up national strategy where the full contribution of languages to the economy and society are fully recognised.


“The survey clearly reflects that teachers recognise the need for understanding of other cultures and communication across country barriers. This underpins why Mary Glasgow Magazines came into existence 60 years ago and the message is more relevant than ever in our post-Brexit world.


“The steep decline in the number of pupils in this country taking French, German and Spanish should concern us all. Language learning, as well as being hugely rewarding in itself, is increasingly valued by employers as global communication becomes the norm.


“At Mary Glasgow Magazines, we’ve been very effective in engaging young people in language learning; our magazines and online resources are a way of connecting teenagers to the real lives of their counterparts across the world and bringing other cultures vividly to life in a way that excites teens.”


Mary Glasgow Magazines, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, publishes 17 magazines aimed at secondary school language learners around the world specialising in French, German, Spanish and English as a foreign language. The magazines are sold in 45 countries with over half a million students annually receiving a subscription and circulation within classrooms estimated at almost double that figure.