Cash-strapped sixth forms dropping language A-levels

More than half of colleges have ditched at least one language, with German the chief victim


More than half of sixth forms in England have dropped at least one foreign language A-level, according to a new survey of school leaders.

A total of 271 headteachers were surveyed by the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), on behalf of the Raise the Rate Campaign, which calls for an increase per-student government spending on sixth form education.

The research found that 51% of schools and colleges have dropped language courses due to funding pressures.

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“French, Spanish and German have been hardest hit – 57% of sixth form leaders who took part in a survey said German courses had been axed, 38% have dropped Spanish, 35% had ditched French,” says The Guardian.

The strain on modern languages departments has been exacerbated by the UK’s upcoming departure from the European Union, according a British Council survey of school leaders

More than two-thirds of state schools in England employ teaching staff from EU countries, many of them as foreign language instructors, and school leaders report “negative impacts on staffing, and fears about future recruitment and retention of language teachers” since the Brexit vote.

The alarming findings come days after the publication of a report by an all-parliamentary committee warned that drastic action is needed to avert a “disastrous” skills shortage.

Baroness Jean Coussins, who co-chaired the group, told the BBC: “We are complacent. In the 21st century, speaking only English is as much of a disadvantage as speaking no English at all.”

Languages are not the only victims of strained budgets. More than a third of the sixth forms surveyed by the SFCA had cut at least one Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) course from its A-level options.

Funding for sixth form education “is one of the hardest hit areas in education”, says The Guardian, citing a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which found that real-term government spending per student in school sixth forms has fallen more than 20% since 2010.

Campaigners for fairer funding are calling for an increase in the annual funding rate from £4,000 per student to at least £4,760.

SFCA chief executive Bill Watkin said their new report “makes it absolutely clear that the government must increase the funding rate for sixth form students in this year’s spending review”.

In a statement, the Department for Education defending its funding of sixth form education, but said: “We recognise that the financial position for sixth form colleges is challenging and are looking carefully at the needs of all colleges in the run-up to the next spending review.”

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