Last reviewed 1 August 2022

Schools in England are unlikely to meet the Government’s EBacc target for many pupils learning a language according to Language Trends 2022, a report produced by the British Council.

Available here, the report highlights that the amount of time devoted to languages in different primary schools across the country varies, with some pupils receiving fewer than 30 minutes per week.

The ideal conditions are, the British Council notes, a minimum of one hour per week, delivered by a teacher with degree-level proficiency in the language.

The report, which surveyed teachers at more than 1500 primary, secondary and independent schools across England, is now in its 20th edition and this year saw its biggest ever response rate.

A huge majority, 93%, allocate a set time each week for language learning; the remainder teach through collapsible timetable days or on a more ad hoc basis. In practice, in one in four schools, weekly language teaching does not happen because of an array of issues.

These include ongoing staffing issues, extra-curricular activities with languages usually the first subject to be dropped and split teacher time between year groups so that, for example, Year 6 have languages for half of the year and Year 5 have languages for the other half of the year.

The Government is currently on track to meet all its EBacc targets, except for languages. As part of the National Curriculum Framework, it is compulsory for children aged seven to 14 to study a language.

Vicky Gough, British Council Schools Adviser, said: “Our survey highlights the impact that Covid-19 still has on the teaching and learning of languages and shows that the past couple of years have been extremely challenging for schools. It is vital that schools prioritise language learning and re-establish connections with national and international schools and universities.”

She also noted that Spanish will overtake French as the most popular language at GCSE by 2026 if current trends continue.