On top of the world: Government praise for RGS languages department

LANGUAGE teachers and pupils at Ripon Grammar School are on top of the world after receiving high praise from schools minister Nick Gibb.

Mr Gibb applauds RGS for its commitment to the teaching of languages, commending it for being among the top schools in England for the proportion of pupils studying a language at GCSE.

In a letter to headmaster Jonathan Webb, he congratulates staff and pupils for their hard work and success, adding: “Thank you for your leadership in continuing to promote the teaching of languages.”

Mr Gibb, who recently launched a drive to increase the take-up of foreign languages, has described the decision to scrap compulsory languages at GCSE in 2004 as a ‘mistake’ and is concerned some languages are increasingly seen as elite subjects

“Languages are an important part of a broad and balanced curriculum,” he says in his letter.

Students at RGS study at least one language at GCSE, choosing from French, German and Spanish, with around two thirds of students achieving a grade 7 or above.

A large number – around 30 each year – take a language at A-level, with more than 80 per cent of pupils achieving A*-B grades.

A-level French student Aimee Childs, 17, from Ripon, plans to study law with French law at university: “I wanted to add something a bit different to my degree and provide myself with the opportunity to potentially live and study abroad. And speaking another language is also a highly regarded skill in the workplace. 

"I am grateful for the skills the RGS language’s department has taught me over the years and I’m sure I am now well equipped to succeed in my degree,” she said.

Like Aimee, classmate Rebecca Worthington, 18, from Bishop Monkton, also studying French, says she plans to use her language skills to work for an international law firm.

RGS head of modern foreign languages Claire-Lise Harrison said Mr Gibb’s letter came as a nice surprise.

“We are very pleased all our students have a free choice of French, German or Spanish. Language GCSEs are extremely challenging, so it is good that language learning is thriving in our school community," she says.

In his letter, Mr Gibb points out that the number of pupils entered for at least one modern foreign language at GCSE makes RGS amongst the top schools in England for the proportion of pupils studying a language.

“In an increasingly globalised economy it has never been more important for our pupils to be taught modern foreign languages. Languages help young people understand culture and societies beyond our own and they help widen career opportunities,” he adds.

Mr Gibb, who reports to Gillian Keegan, the new education secretary, wants to ensure young people aged 14 to 18, from whatever background are encouraged to take the languages that the children of more affluent families take for granted.

Having recently become schools minister for the third time, he is keen to promote the take-up of German in particular with the number of teenagers studying the subject having nosedived in recent years. Fewer than 2,000 state school pupils took the language at A-level in England this summer.

Private schools accounted for 29 per cent of all A-level entries in German this year and it is increasingly seen as a niche or elite subject, a situation Mr Gibb has described as ‘concerning’.

Year 10 student Edward Cassell, studying French and German at GCSE, and hoping to work in geographical engineering, adds: "Learning foreign languages at RGS is really important to me, because it allows me to discover and understand other cultures, whilst also opening so many doors for my life in the future, by breaking down 'the language barrier' and letting me speak with confidence around others, allowing the possibility of living more comfortably in foreign countries. I love learning languages here at RGS."

Emily Hodgson, studying French at A-level, agreed: 'Languages are one of the most important and valuable subjects you can study, they provide a vast range of opportunities and broaden cultural awareness. Communication is a huge part in every aspect of our everyday lives."

The 18-year-old, from North Stainley, who plans to study speech and language therapy at university, added:  "I see myself continuing to develop and utilise my language skills through my career and social life as well as maintain it as a passion."