Estelle Morris, who was Education Secretary in 2002, told BBC why she scrapped compulsory modern languages in England’s secondary schools:
The scrapping of compulsory modern languages in England’s secondary schools was a consequence of truancy crackdowns, the BBC has learnt.
Former education secretary Estelle Morris, who took the decision in 2002, says the aim was a flexible curriculum for teenagers brought back into school.
Compulsory languages for these returned truants did not seem “appropriate”.
The number of pupils taking French GCSE has dropped 30% since it ceased to be compulsory for the over-14s in 2004.
Basically, languages require a strict cumulative approach to learning: you cannot move further without mastering the previous level. Moreover, languages require a patient gradual accumulation of vocabulary.
My greatest concern is that the same can be said about at least two other school subjects: mathematics and music. Why had Estelle Morris not axed mathematics? Because it was deemed too important? Or maybe because mathematics had been already modularised, was no longer cumulative and was thought to allow an on/off attitude to learning?