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Headmaster’s Blog

March 28, 2013

areidlowres41Europhobia or opportunity?
New research just published by CfBT Education Trust (a large UK education charity) has revealed that only 40% of pupils took a Modern Foreign Language (MFL) GCSE last summer. Whilst the report indicated a small increase in candidates over the previous year it still represents a halving in the proportion of teenagers studying a MFL over the past decade. The report shows a move from French and German towards Spanish owing to a perception that it was a ‘global language’ because of its use in the Americas. There was also a suggestion in the study that a rise in anti-EU sentiments may be affecting the perception of other European languages and contributing to the decade long trend in MFL decline.
Here at Ballard we are doing our best to buck these trends. Currently over 60% of our senior pupils study at least one MFL, some do two and a few even manage to squeeze three into their busy week! We are actively pursuing the Comenius Project which would see us link up with schools in Italy, Latvia, the Canaries, Germany and Turkey. Our Director of Development has been to Shanghai to visit a trendsetting Chinese school and this has already led to one pupil ‘exchange’. Our French, German and Spanish annual exchange trips are well established and in the past six months we have had international trips to Venice and northern France not to mention Jersey, New York, Utah and Kenya to come in the summer.
Ballard pupils are embracing opportunities to travel but also to welcome visitors from overseas to school. Last term we hosted a group of Ukrainian singers and dancers and just recently had a Japanese day when visitors from that country taught us about their culture, language and community. In addition, plans are coming together for an Italian after-school club in the Pre-Prep and the stage is set for the re-introduction of Latin into the Prep School (targeting the top English set in Y5) from September.
Europhobia may be a factor in some quarters militating against the study of foreign languages but here at Ballard we are doing all we can to prevent its influence spreading. Our challenge, at least where GCSEs are concerned, is to preserve a wide choice of subjects (which includes three Modern Foreign Languages) and to balance this all with a full extra-curricular and co-curricular programme.

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