Bright Scottish state pupils 'forced to enrol in private schools to study subjects they need', teachers warn
11th March 2019
Bright state pupils are being forced to enrol in private schools to study the subjects they need for their future careers, teachers have warned a Holyrood inquiry into the 'narrowing' of Scotland's curriculum.
The NASUWT union told the Scottish Parliament's education committee that "pupil choice has significantly reduced", with staffing shortages and budget cuts "a significant contributing factor in pupils exiting school poorly prepared for the workplace."
Chris Keates, its general secretary, expressed concern at "the fragmentation and narrowing of the curriculum" after it emerged that a majority of secondary schools are teaching their S4 pupils six subjects instead of the traditional gold standard.
Jane Gandee, head of St Swithun’s School in Winchester, argues that learning languages is essential and schools should not be deterred from encouraging their uptake.
I read another disappointing report about the state of language learning in the UK (BBC Online: Language learning: German and French drop by half in UK schools). I suspect that is, at least in part, an unintended consequence of the introduction of league tables all those years ago.
Although exam regulators have done some work to compare the relative difficulty of different subjects and are said to have eased the awarding of grades at A-level, there is still significant anecdotal evidence that it is more difficult to achieve a top grade in modern languages than in many other subjects. That appears to dissuade some schools from encouraging students to choose languages. And students who know that university offers will depend on high grades often avoid subjects which are perceived as harder.
One might argue that doesn’t matter. One might claim that ‘everyone speaks English anyway’. However, this is both untrue and ignores the wider advantages of language learning. Learning languages is certainly about developing fluency and the ability to communicate in another tongue, but it is also about appreciating that although we might live in a different country speaking a different language, we are all human.
"Let’s ensure we offer engaging lessons that use all available resources to encourage language learning and appreciation of other cultures."