Teachers encouraged to use more of the assessed language in modern foreign language lessons


Despite continuing improvements in pupil outcomes and in GCSE and A level results, the number of students learning a modern foreign language in Wales continues to fall.


Estyn’s report on ‘Modern Foreign Languages’ looks at the quality of teaching and learning in modern foreign languages.  It also looks at developments and issues in modern foreign language teaching in Wales since the last Estyn report published in 2009.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says,

“Too many learners, even the more able, do not speak a modern foreign language fluently. The extent to which teachers teach through the assessed language has declined. 

“Core curriculum requirements and limited option choices can also deter students from studying modern languages to GCSE level and beyond.  School leaders can counter this by being flexible and creative with timetabling.”   

The findings

  • Despite good results and supportive school leaders, the number of students learning a modern foreign language to GCSE or A level continues to fall

  • Grammar and written exercises are often prioritised over speaking and listening.  As a result, even able learners make basic mistakes with intonation and pronunciation.
  • Preparing conversation topics in writing and using English to explain even simple class instructions hinders pupils from developing real-life fluency.

  • The use of digital technology to engage and motivate learners is showing encouraging results

  • Typically learners get just 3 hours of modern foreign language learning across a 2-week timetable - less than the 2 hours a week recommended by Estyn

  • The dominance of core subjects and the structure of option choices deters many pupils from choosing a modern foreign language at key stage 4

The recommendations

Teachers and schools should:

  • increase the use of the assessed language to deliver lessons

  • keep an appropriate balance between the teaching of grammar and the four key language skills, particularly speaking and listening

  • encourage continued professional development for teachers via regional training and networks

  • review curriculum planning and timetabling arrangements to increase opportunities to study a modern foreign language alongside core curriculum subjects.

Notes to Editors:

About the report

  • The report was commissioned before the Welsh Government’s Global Futures Steering Group started its work in September 2015.  Therefore it is too soon to comment on the impact of any initiatives the Global Futures Working Group put into place during 2015 – 2016)  
  • It considers:

    • the quality of teaching and learning in modern foreign languages

    • developments and issues in modern foreign language teaching in Wales since 2009

Inspectors gathered evidence from:

  • visits to 20 randomly selected schools across Wales

  • interviews with head teachers, senior leaders responsible for curriculum, heads ofmodern foreign language departments and careers advisers

  • interviews with learners from key stage 3 and key stage 4

  • inspections of modern foreign language learning, teaching and leadership

  • recently published research and reports

  • a survey of parents

  • lead representatives for modern foreign languages in the regional consortia.

  • GCSE and A level entries for modern foreign languages across Wales (Welsh Government 2015):

  • 77% of GCSE entries achieved grades A*-C

  • 82% of A level entries gained grades A*-C

  • Only 28% of learners who achieved the expected levels at key stage 3, went on to enter at least one modern foreign language at GCSE,

  • Entries at A level continue to decline with only 700 entriesacross Wales

Publication date

Monday, 11 July, 2016