University of York to run national language centre


The University of York will run the new national ‘centre of excellence’ for modern foreign languages, the government has announced.

The higher education institution will coordinate efforts by schools to boost the quality of language teaching.

It comes after the Department for Education revealed that £4.8 million would be made available to develop the national language centre, supported by nine hub schools, last summer.

Cardiff University will also run a mentoring project at ten schools designed to increase the number of pupils studying languages at GCSE level.

It forms part of government plans to get more pupils to consider modern foreign languages and acts on several recommendations included in MFL pedagogy review, completed in 2016.

A 2018 language trends study by the British Council found that more than a third of state schools give pupils the choice to opt out of studying a language in year 9. 

The new Centre for Excellence for Languages Pedagogy will seek to address concerns around language uptake by looking at ways of increasing standards in French, German and Spanish teaching, among other languages.

Professor at the University of York’s education department, Emma Marsden, welcomed the investment, adding that it will help the UK to nurture relations with other cultures and provide a broader education for all.

“Learning languages is associated with a whole raft of benefits - personal, cognitive, cultural, social, and economic,” she explained.

She said that the centre will “help teachers to make the most of every opportunity that can be offered by secondary schools.

“In the history of public support for languages education in England, this investment offers a unique opportunity for researchers and expert teachers to work together and draw on high quality, international research into language learning and teaching,” she added.

Ms Marsden added that the materials produced at the new centre will be available to schools for free.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb revealed that the hub schools were already having a “positive impact” and praised the University of York for having “the vision and expertise” needed to improve how modern foreign languages are taught in schools.

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