New government-backed initiative to save language teaching announced

A new national teacher training centre for linguists is to be established in a bid to stop the crisis in modern foreign language skills in the UK, the Annual Conference of leading independent school heads was told todayHMC Chairman, Mike Buchanan, announced that schools willing to train language teachers would be identified across the country.  He told the conference of over 300 leading head teachers that the “ground-breaking collaboration” was initially to be based in Sheffield and was the first time such a scheme had been attempted on a national level.

Mr Buchanan said:

“For over 20 years, educationalists and the Government have been concerned about the decline in numbers of students choosing to study languages. This is not only culturally impoverishing, but likely to put UK pupils at a major disadvantage in a global marketplace in which 75% of people do not speak English.

“The reasons for this are complex but include the difficulty of achieving a top grade compared with other subjects, leading to less take up, smaller departments and fewer teachers.

“The details are being worked out, but there is huge energy behind the project from all the partners.”

Led by Silverdale School in Sheffield, a state school experienced in such work, the plan is to find schools of all types willing to train language teachers. This is the first time such a project has been attempted on a national level.

Mr Buchanan said:

“This is a truly exciting project which serves to show the many different ways in which Government, state schools and the independent sector can use their individual strengths to build a better education system for everyone. I thank him for his encouraging words.

Education Minister Nick Gibb endorsed the move telling the delegates by video link that the next generation needs to be outward facing and he is delighted by this unique partnership.

State-funded Silverdale is one of the government’s Teaching Schools, it leads a Multi- Academy trust and is currently rated by OFSTED as ‘Outstanding’ in all categories of its work.

Strategic Manager at Silverdale, Gaynor Jones, said:

“Silverdale Multi-Academy Trust is thrilled to be leading the way in School Centered Initial Teacher Training by creating an innovative national SCITT which will focus on Modern Languages.  Our highly successful School Direct work has paved the way for us to create a new partnership between state and independent schools where we will train the next generation of outstanding Modern Languages teachers’.

Peter Hamilton, Head of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School and Chair of HMC’s Academic Policy Committee, himself a linguist, said:

“Independent schools want to be part of the solution to the critical problems of capacity faced by school language departments across the country.  Solutions are urgent because, nationally, language learning remains in steady retreat”.

The Silverdale project, the first national school-based training project of its kind, is expected to take its first trainees next autumn.