Skip to main content

CfBT survey on Language Trends

This is the major annual report on trends on modern language teaching in England. The executive summary and conclusion may be worth reading if you don't have time to read all the data.

A number of things struck me:
  • Ebacc is having a notable effect on take-up, as predicted
  • A-level still on the slide because of harsh grading and lure of STEM subjects
  • Severe grading at GCSE and A-level still an issue, including difficulty of reaching A* at A-level
  • Lack of curriculum time at KS3 and KS4. Not enough "little and often" to embed learning
  • Controlled assessments come under fire - too much time to prepare and too much memory learning
  • GCSE too dull
  • Continued dominance of independent sector in MFL - it's a subject area for posh kids
  • German still suffering badly, Spanish less so
  • Continuity with primary MFL proving a challenge
The "expert panel" on the national curriculum recommends that MFL become compulsory again. I remain, on balance, unconvinced about this. Even if the severe grading issue were dealt with (and it won't be), MFL remains fundamentally hard and apparently irrelevant for many children. EBacc may provide a useful correction to the recent trends, but to force the vast majority into modern languages up to 16 may just be counter-productive. We have the experience of pre-2003 to demonstrate this, a period when many children were "disapplied" in any case. I am not sure whether that era raised the status of MFL and I am sure that there are thousands of disillusioned pupils and teachers who would bear witness to the futility of the exercise.


  1. Thanks for this summary. I have to disagree with the fact MFL shouldn't be compulsory in KS4. I would completely disagree with the notion of every student had to sit a GCSE, however, what is the problem with students developing their skills through MFL whilst sitting a qualification suitable for their level of learning and general needs?

    Despite being (very) new to the profession, I can think of many benefits the study of a foreign language alongside language acquisition. How would you feel about languages generally being continued up to age 16 but through ASSET or FCSE languages for lower ability students?



  2. I don't think anyone is suggesting GCSE for all. Even so, I would argue that The fact we are an Anglophone nation makes selling MFL quite hard here. The pre 2003 experience was often very unproductive and hard for teachers and pupils so Labour decided to make MFL optional. I agreed with that decision as I think there are other things some 15-16 year olds may be better served studying. I suspect mine is a minority view among language teachers.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.


An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

Learning strategies (3)

This is the third in the mini-series of blogs about learning strategies. So far, we have looked at some (rather scant) research evidence for the effectiveness of strategies. Bear in mind that a lack of research evidence does not mean strategies do not work; if there is any consensus, it is that they are probably useful and probably best used when integrated into a normal teaching sequence. We then looked at a classification of different types of strategies.

In this blog Gianfanco and I look at how you might integrate strategies into your teaching. There is nothing revolutionary about this stuff! You may do a good deal of this type of thing already, but you may also be new to the concepts and applications of learning strategies.

Let's look at how you might use strategies, particularly with regard to the teaching of listening and reading. Remember: this is just about how you help students to use strategies to become better listeners and readers.

How to teach strategies 

The research …