Latest News

A selection of language-related news. Does not claim to be comprehensive or represent the views of SCILT.


Cuts to teacher subject advisers could explain declining exam results

23 February 2020 (Brinkwire)

Cuts to subject specialists, advisers and teacher support networks may be the cause of falling exam results, according to a new report.

An analysis of the falling exam pass rates, published on Thursday evening by the Scottish Government, also cites an growing gap in attainment between the richest and poorest pupils in the country.

Bridging that gap, as well as improving education standards, has long been a key priority for the Scottish Government, which critics now argue they have failed on.

Last night, trade unions and experts spoke out about the contents of the report which had been commissioned by Education Secretary John Swinney last year.

[..] The number of teachers who are specialists in their fields has also declined in the past decade, which has been cited by trade union chiefs as part of the decline in standards.

Figures obtained by the Herald in 2018 show that between 2008 and 2018, the number of subject specialists in secondary schools in Scotland had fallen by 11 per cent overall, with some areas seeing as much as a 44% fall in numbers.

The number of English teachers had fallen by 20% in the decade up to 2018, while the number of French teachers had plummeted by 32%.

German teachers fell by 44%, maths teachers by 15% and general science teachers had declined by 11%.


Language museum hopes to stem a loss in translation

19 October 2019 (The Times)

Cambridge academics are opening the country’s first museum of languages today but it will be located in a shopping centre, not one of its historic colleges.

World-renowned professors of linguistics are desperately trying to stem the decline in modern foreign languages at schools. The number of teenagers taking French GCSE has more than halved in the 15 years since taking a language ceased to be compulsory.

The museum has been set up in a shopping centre alongside high street stores like Clintons and Claire’s accessories, to encourage people – particularly children – to learn.


DfE seeks university language students to mentor year 9 pupils

23 September 2018 (Schools Week)

The government is turning to university students in a bid to plug the falling number of GCSE pupils taking modern foreign languages.


Not speaking another language stops almost five MILLION adults from going abroad

2 June 2017 (Daily Express)

Almost two thirds of Britons admit that they wish they were better at languages as it would allow them to become more deeply immersed in other cultures.

An international study from booking site Hostelworld, questioned more than 8,000 people in six countries about how their language skills impact on travel plans.

The research reveals that one in 10 UK adults (10 per cent) - the equivalent of 4.7 million adults - are put-off traveling because of language barriers, which particularly affects the younger generation (18-24s) where it rises to 15 per cent.


Brexit: English language 'losing importance' - EU's Juncker

5 May 2017 (BBC)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has told a conference in Italy on the EU that "English is losing importance in Europe".

Amid tensions with the UK over looming Brexit negotiations, he said he was delivering his speech in French.

"Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and also because France has an election," he said, explaining his choice of language.

[..] Before the UK joined in 1973, French was the main language of EU business.


'It's a crying shame': teachers on scrapped A-level subjects

21 October 2016 (The Guardian)

There has been an outcry this week over minority A-levels that are being cut from the curriculum, with news that archeology and history of art will no longer be offered to sixth-form students.

Suzanne O’Farrell, Curriculum and assessment specialist for the Association of School and College Leaders discussed modern languages.

O’Farrell fell in love with languages at school. She studied French and German at A-level, then at degree level and went on to teach modern languages in schools for 28 years. This year her son started his A-levels but there was no longer an option to study either French or German. Now she’s trying to teach him herself.


‘The British disease of not trusting “foreign” has infected students deciding against taking languages’

22 May 2016 (TES)

The collapse of MFL uptake will not be solved by any reconfiguring of the education system. It’s a way more ingrained problem than that, writes one leading headteacher.


Teacher shortage means pupils miss out on foreign languages

11 February 2016 (Press and Journal)

A teacher shortage at an Aberdeen secondary school means some of its pupils are missing out on modern languages.

First, second and third year pupils at Kincorth Academy are not being given language lessons, such as French of Spanish, due to staffing difficulties.

The school is also lacking a teacher for home economics.

Head teacher Grahame Whyte told a meeting of Kincorth and Leggart Community Council that about 15 staff had left before the 2016/17 academic year.


Nearly half of MFL teacher-training places are left unfilled, Ucas reveals

1 October 2015 (TES)

(Applies to England) Official figures on recruitment to teacher-training courses released this morning show drastic shortages in key subjects in the final days before training courses began.

The figures, published by university admissions body Ucas, paint a disastrous picture across a range of core subjects, and could make the growing recruitment crisis across England's teaching profession even worse in the years ahead.

For modern foreign languages, an English Baccalaureate subject, only 810 places had been filled – just 54 per cent of the 1,514 trainees needed according to the government’s teacher-supply model.


Science A-levels cut in sixth form college cash squeeze

11 August 2015 (BBC News)

Sixth form colleges in England say they have had to cut the number of science and foreign language courses they offer, because of financial pressures.

[..] A-levels in modern languages have been cut in 28 colleges (over a third), while 17 (just under a quarter) reported cuts in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.


Languages in Wales

19 November 2014 (The Wales Report)

Report on the state of languages in Wales. Watch from 20:50 minutes.


Classics example: any answers for modern languages’ decline?

12 June 2014 (THE)

Modern languages departments and scholars should look at how Classics has reinvented itself since the 1980s in order to boost its appeal to undergraduates, a scholar has argued.
It success was reflected, noted Roderick Beaton, Koraes professor of modern Greek and Byzantine history, language and culture at King’s College London, in “a large enough undergraduate cohort in over 20 higher education institutions to sustain a robust and internationally envied research culture”.

His argument was among many at a debate held at the British Academy on 27 May on the study of languages in the UK, which discussed the dramatic decline of modern languages in the nation’s higher education sector, the implications for employment and security, and strategies for reversing the trend.


Modern languages in Wales - House of Lords Debate

25 February 2014 (CILT Cymru)

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Modern Languages, chaired by the Baroness Jean Coussins, will hold a debate on the challenges facing MFL in Wales at the House of Lords at 16.00 on March 12th. Amongst the speakers will be Ceri James, Director of CILT Cymru, Professor Claire Gorrara, Chair of the Routes into Languages Cymru project and Sarah Grain of Eriez Magnetics Ltd. Following 3 short presentations there will be an opportunity for guests to ask questions and take part in the debate. If you wish to be added to the guest list for this event, please contact Philip Harding-Esch :

Annual survey of Institution Wide Language Programme take-up in UK universities

11 February 2014 (UCML)

The report from the annual survey of Institution Wide Language Programme take-up in UK universities has now been published. The responses indicate an increase in numbers of students enrolled on such programmes nationally, even taking into account a slight increase in the number of universities responding this year.


Allan Massie: Gaelic will only be a hobby language

15 October 2013 (The Scotsman)

The indulgent pretence surrounding Gaelic does nothing to halt the language’s decline and amounts to intellectual dishonesty, writes Allan Massie.


The Catalan language is still in danger, despite its resurgence

23 November 2012 (The Guardian)

Other languages have a state to defend them and their speakers don't have to contend with a state that acts against their tongue.


Regional and Minority Languages: An inevitable decline?

13 November 2012 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Martin Dowle, Director British Council Ukraine, presented the language situation in Wales at last week's Language Rich Europe launch in Kyiv. In this blog post, he summarises the approaches Wales is taking in order to promote Welsh and prevent its decline.
Is it inevitable that minority languages will always suffer decline? The case of Welsh shows this does not need to be the case. Since its low point in 1991, when just 18% of the Welsh population spoke Welsh, it has started to make a modest recovery. Today, 37% of 3 to 14 year-olds are able to speak Welsh, compared to just 15% in 1971, fuelling recovery from the cradle upwards.


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SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages