THE number of school children taking GCSE French this year fell by 13 per cent, with a teachers’ union leader saying modern languages are in ‘free fall’.
For the second year in a row, French showed the biggest decline among the major GCSE subjects, with the fact that languages are no longer compulsory being blamed for the fall.
John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Entries for modern foreign language GCSEs are in free fall and this is a major concern.
“Fourteen year-olds are putting themselves at a disadvantage in the job market by giving up modern languages. I fear we have passed the point of no return for language GCSEs.”
The number of people studying French was 236,189, compared with 272,140 last year. Whilst German fell through the 100,000 barrier to 90,311 and Spanish was down to 62,143.
Dr Dunford says that schools are asking children to sit ‘easier’ subjects to boost their standings in comparison to others.
“The increases in religious studies, PE and citizenship short courses suggest that schools are seeking to boost their league table position by entering students for more exams,” he said.
“It is not in the interest of young people for league tables to drive an increase in entries.”
The government is looking to increase the take-up of French and German in primary schools but general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said languages had to be made compulsory again.