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More teenagers shunning foreign languages at school

New figures show that record numbers of pupils are leaving school without learning a foreign language, as the popularity of French and German slumps to a new low.

New figures show that record numbers of pupils are leaving school without learning a foreign language, as the popularity of French and German slumps to a new low.

Statistics published by the Department for Education show that almost 380,000 teenagers in England failed to take GCSEs in languages last summer opting for sciences and maths instead.

The number of students shunning the subjects between the age of 14 and 16 has more than doubled since the late 90s, it was revealed. The drop has been particularly high in French and German – traditionally the two most popular languages at school – with both being named among the fastest declining subjects at GCSE level last summer.

It follows a decision by Labour to make languages optional for 14-year-olds in England for the first time in 2004. This triggered a sharp drop in the number of teenagers choosing to study the subjects, which are traditionally seen as difficult academic subjects.

In an attempt to reverse the decline, ministers are introducing the English Baccalaureate – a new-style school leaving certificate that rewards pupils who gain good grades in English, maths, science, a foreign language and either history or geography.

But the rapid decline of languages will prompt calls for a more radical solution, including the reintroduction of the subject as a compulsory GCSE.

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