Bethan Rhys Roberts explores concerns over a decline in the number of Welsh pupils learning a modern foreign language.
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Tonight, on the Wales Report, why are fewer children in Wales
We hear concerns that Welsh schoolchildren are missing out.
Plans take shape to reform Britain's relationship
with the European Union, but what does it all mean for Wales?
And claims from a top economist that the current
devolution settlement makes Wales impossible to govern.
Good evening and welcome to the Wales Report.
According to research by the British Council,
there has been a steep decline in the number of pupils learning
modern foreign languages in schools over the last ten years.
And, in a country where for many, bilingualism is the norm,
there are concerns that this low uptake of foreign languages could be
Remember, you can join in the conversation on social media.
As part of BBC Wales' How Wales Works season,
Felicity Evans has gone back to school.
It is great to learn another language.
I think it would really help me in University.
They would open different doors and I would be able to speak
to new people as well as people in my own culture.
I would be able to experience other peoples' culture.
It would also help for holiday, so when you go to speak to them
in their own language, it will be useful.
I chose languages as I believe that in the future, when I go to apply
for jobs and staff, they are more likely to employ someone who speaks
a second language than someone who can speak one.
These pupils at this comprehensive in Barry do not need convincing
about the importance of learning a modern foreign language.
There has been a steep decline in pupils choosing to study
languages at GCSE level and beyond over the last decade.
A recent report for the British Council found that Wales has
the lowest take-up of all of the UK home nations.
The author of this report says it is a grim situation.
The last ten years, the number of students taking French and German
at GCSE has about halved, slightly more than halved.
It looks like there is 20% of pupils now taking up
For Wales' place in the world, and the preparation that Welsh
children have for life in the global economy.
And for many potential employers, securing Wales' place in the global
economy involves being able to recruit workers
Creditsafe has offices in Caerphilly and Cardiff,
as well as nine other countries around the world.
But the decline in language learning means that the local language talent
I think it is true to say that the number of people
that we recruit now compared to ten years ago, the number of people
who have taken modern foreign languages right the way
level or even beyond that, that number has fallen,
and of course, it is a sad reflection, because what we want is,
when we have people open to those opportunities,
we can give them support, we can provide additional language
We don't expect people to know everything, but if they have taken
modern foreign languages up to a certain level,
they are more open and able to take those things on in the future.
With offices all round Europe, there are always opportunities.
We have people that started working here on the telephone in Caerphilly,
who are now working in our operations across Europe.
The manager of our sales division in Germany works in Berlin,
and he started on the phones here in South Wales.
One of the particularly disappointing things
about the decline in modern foreign languages in Wales over the last
decade is that we are squandering a natural advantage.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that being bilingual
makes it much easier to learn a third or even fourth language.
Here at this school, they are harnessing the power
of Welsh by joining modern foreign languages to it to in one faculty.
The school's enthusiasm for modern foreign languages,
or MFL, and its good results, have made it a key part of the Welsh
government's attempts to rescue the subject.
They set up regional centres of excellence.
This school is the one for South Wales Central.
It is to share good practice and drive improvement
Amy Walters Bresner is the regional languages coordinator.
In languages, we teach the skills of reading,
And that skill is what employers aren't looking for.
And we have almost forgot about that, I think,
whereas now, the spotlight is on MFL.
I think we have a place in modern society today to make language
The Welsh government's new push on modern foreign languages
languages is generating excitement within the sector.
It only started in September, and there is a lot of ground
But how will any progress be measured?
Experts say it is difficult to get figures on how Welsh schools
are doing an take-up and performance, and there are calls
to use the schools inspectorate took monitor the situation better.
At the moment, language does not have any special status little
in the performance measures, and it is quite difficult to get
information about the number of pupils who are taking a foreign
I think they could do more to monitor what is happening,
and to publish figures, and to hold schools responsible
through ESTIN and around the proportions of pupils that take
a language at GCSE and the standards that they reach.
The education minister, Hugh Lewis, is stepping down at the election.
So it will be up to his successor to see through the new initiative
Without effective action, it looks like their viability
in schools across Wales will be at risk.
Education Minister Hugh Lewis was unavailable for interview,
but how Welsh government spokesman told the Welsh report that they want
more young people to learn foreign languages and benefit
The Minister has introduced Global Futures, a five year
strategy to improve the take-up and teaching
Joining me now is Professor Claire Gorrara, head of modern languages
Why do think there is this decline in the take-up of foreign
I think it links firstly to a sense of doing a language
Looking at the results, we do very well in Wales in terms
I think it is also linked to a sense that parents aren't always aware
of the intercultural benefits of learning languages,
not just the linguistic skills but the world more generally.
And also, I think about curriculum time, and the way it has
been set up in the curriculum by the Welsh school system.
This decline that the British Council sought was also seen
But is it fair to say that they acted sooner?
They put the brake on a bit sooner, they made it more compulsory
Is Wales a bit slow in trying to right a wrong here?
I think certainly within England and Scotland, there was a sense
for international competitiveness, the need to educate students
from a very early age, with modern foreign languages.
It is for greater economic outward visibility and profile.
In Wales, there has been a slow start, but I am keen and optimistic
about the new partnership we are operating.
Again, Wales behind the curve for you, and Wales taking its eye
I think partly, because we have had a different approach in terms
of the school system, obviously devolution plays a part,
but it is about looking a new way to approach it,
following a period of a lack of focus on modern foreign-language
is, looking at stem subjects and the importance
And they are taking their eye off the ball.
Looking at it now, there is a real strong awareness that it is a very
Global Futures, this strategy, ?500,000 are available
One, it is creating a strong model of partnership between universities
and secondary schools, visual consortia and the Welsh government.
Two, there are some new things developing that are coming along,
school students under understanding the value of languages.
Wales very proud of it bilingual heritage, and many see it
Are there those who think well, hang on, Little John
They don't have time to do something on top?
In many ways, we have to try and reflect on Welsh as a second
language can really improve the take-up of an, to improve
language skills across one or two languages.
We have a heritage language, it may come from a different
We have students with a wonderful multilingual skills,
We heard about job opportunities there, and the benefits of
languages. There are those who say forget French and German, let's do
Arabic and Urdu and Chinese. Is that the way forward? Any language from
the very early age has a wonderful impact on your brain synapses. It
helps the way your brain competes. Having that second or third language
as a learning experience early on is a key thing. Looking forward to the
Welsh economy, the Spanish and Chinese art ain't much more visible
on the global stage. I had any language has a wonderful impact on
linguistic ability and international awareness. It is take-up is not
reversed, what will be the impact for Wales? It will make Wales less
globally competitive. They will not be able to secure jobs in
multinational countries within Wales. -- companies within Wales. It
will be a lack of broadened horizons. So the message to
ministers is to get this right, and quickly. We send up 40
undergraduates to schools across Wales to mentor people at GCSE 's.
We are working on a pan-Wales initiative. Thank you very much.
Whatever language -- in whatever language, the debate over Europe is
suddenly going to be lively. When you have details on a potential deal
on the potential relationship between the UK and the rest of the
European Union. David Cameron is setting out his terms in
Westminster. If we stay, we will be protecting our rebate, stripping
away unnecessary regulation, and is stepping up our commitments. We will
truly have the best of both worlds. The draft deal by Donald Tusk
prominence -- promises an emergency brake on my current benefits. A key
legal statement. But those campaigning for UK to leave the
European Union, say it does not come close to beat changes Mr Cameron had
promised. If you look at the substance of the renegotiations,
what is being asked for is fairly weak. So it is almost as if the
strategy is to ask for nothing and then you get nothing in return. Yet
it gives the Prime Minister the opportunity to wave the white flag
and says that he has done a great job for Wales and the United
Kingdom, which is not necessarily the case. If European leaders steal
the deal in a crucial European summer, then Britain's EU referendum
could be held as soon as June. So, what does it all mean for us here in
Wales? Joining us now art to political commentators. Thanks,
I think almost certainly. both. Kevin, is it going to be June?
Downing Street, we believe, have pencilled
David Cameron is desperate to get it out of the
He fears another migration and refugee crisis in the summer
would influence a result if it was delayed, but also he knows
it is going to dominate British politics
And he doesn't want that to happen, because he could allow his opponents
to get up a head of steam, so he believes if he goes in June
So let's be honest, the protestations from
Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, from Wales or so, basically
Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, from Wales also, basically
they don't register in Downing Street?
I understand why objections are made with huge
elections in May than a referendum in June, there is a real prospect
of chaos, and Europe dominating those
May elections rather than just the referendum itself,
but David Cameron has his own timetable.
He does it because he believes it suits him and Britain's best,
He does it because he believes it suits him and Britain best,
so I am afraid all objections will be ignored, he may
smile and try to smooth ruffled feathers but he is going
Darren, he has bigger fish to fry, basically, doesn't he,
but what will be the impact if it is June 23, on the Welsh Assembly
Let's look at this another way, there were people who objected
when this referendum potentially was going to be called
on the same day as the assembly elections.
There was always going to be some impact.
I think what worries the four main parties in Wales is actually Ukip,
and the closer you hold a referendum to be assembly
and the closer you hold a referendum to the Assembly
elections, the more likely it is to be beneficial to Ukip
in that assembly vote, it's as simple as that.
Talking about Ukip, they expect to do pretty well,
they are targeting Wales more than Scotland
and London, so will they then split their money and think,
"Right, we now have to spend on the referendum," or is it one big
One big campaign, and as soon as they
sort out this local difficulty with finding some candidates
to stand who are acceptable to their party they will be full
steam ahead and you will see the motoring
If they don't make progress in the assembly election it will be
Kevin, the impact on the other parties, we are talking
about splits, potentially big ones, in Labour and the Tories,
Plaid Cymru and Lib Dems perhaps more united on the European issue,
but for those two big parties, they will be split at a time
when they are fighting elections in Wales.
I think the splits are bigger and more fundamental
in the Conservative Party than Labour, but there are people
in Labour, MPs, Assembly members, who are Eurosceptic,
and if you have divided parties, in elections, it becomes very
damaging because the electorate don't know
who to listen to when they hear these many voices.
Again, that is another reason David Cameron wants
to go early, because he knows Europe, as it has in the past,
will split the Conservatives in future.
He thinks he can hold his cabinet relatively strongly together,
a few people will speak out, but as we saw
today, we know there are a lot of Eurosceptic Tory MPs who get out
of bed every day to drag Britain out of
Europe, and they will not be quiet or go meekly into the polling booths
and accept the result if it isn't what they want.
Daran, crystal balls then, let's pretend it's a no,
it's let's get out of Europe, but Wales and Scotland,
in the breakdown, have said yes, what
We are talking about a Scottish referendum, aren't we?
Well, I think it's much more likely, actually, that Scotland would say
If you look at opinion polls, and I don't moment
If you look at opinion polls, and I don't for a moment
suggest we should take them without a pinch of salt after last
year, it has shown a similarity between Welsh
and English voting patterns that isn't there with Scotland.
If Scotland votes a different way to Wales and England,
it is a far more likely scenario, and in that
circumstance it probably would move towards another Scottish referendum.
And then, Kevin, we are talking about a rump UK out
of the European Union, where does that leave Wales?
Yes, it would be the end of the United Kingdom,
One of the nightmares would be Scotland and Wales voting
to stay in, England voting to come out.
We know what would happen if in that rump different England and Wales
be huge tensions, and there would not be soluble
A lot of economic chaos would happen should Britain come out
of the European Union, with also added
You are both seasoned commentators that have covered a lot
of elections, have the stakes ever been
It seems to be a roller-coaster the last couple of years
This is probably the most profound we have had yet,
not just because of the relationship with Europe but because of
the future of the rest of the UK as we
Will this put an end to the questioning and the major
I am not sure, but it is certainly a hugely
Kevin Maguire, final question, where will we be
I kind of feel that Britain will vote to remain,
not least because you have the leaders of the Conservative Party,
Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the SMP
Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the SNP
all campaigning to remain in, but you will not solve this
question, it will go on, because the problems
Europe gets blamed for a lot of things, a lot of questions
are more fundamental than Britain's membership,
including the question of refugees and migration.
Thank you both, Daran Hill, thank you, Kevin
Whichever party ends up in charge of the Senedd after the elections
in May, they will have to grapple with
a devolution settlement that is being called deeply problematic.
Today in Westminster row erupted over the UK Government's attempt
Labour say they will not now support the draft Wales Bill
All this after a report by respected academics this week said the draft
legislation was constricting, clunky and short-sighted.
So is Wales as it currently stands ungovernable?
Professor Calvin Jones from Cardiff Business School
The path of Wales since devolution is a great disappointment
The devolution project, which I supported, which once had
How do we make Wales work better and how should it be
After 16 years and four governments we can no longer use
excuses of growing pains and bedding in to explain poor performance.
If devolution were going to be economically transformative
Devolution has not just failed, it cannot work.
This is the great unmentionable in all political
Wales in our modern globalised world cannot be governed
For an economist like me, this is obvious, the economy
of industrial South Wales is nothing like that of north-east Wales,
separate markets, different skills needs, different customers,
North West Wales like another country
again, and Powys - Powys is just Powys.
The idea that these disparate economies can be effectively managed
and directed from Cardiff Bay is bizarre.
Especially when actual economic power over interest rates,
energy, currency and most taxes lives in London.
Businesspeople in places like North Wales are not just
on the outside, they are on the periphery of the periphery.
Far from turning the clock back on devolution, I think we need
The Welsh Government needs to give away power,
transferring resources, financial and human,
Resources, policy and landscape should be controlled locally
at the level of the functional economic
Strawberries a pound, raspberries a pound.
What then would be left the Welsh Government to do?
Must the turkeys then vote for Christmas?
We could build a more agile Government,
narrow in scope and all the better for it.
It should be focused on sustainability, evaluating public
bodies in Wales and holding them to account when they fail,
and running key services and infrastructure
where the argument for economies of scale are strong.
We might even enjoy this new approach.
It is tempting to blame politicians but we failed the devolution era
largely because of the way it was dealt.
Lack of civic resources, public enthusiasm and economic
control, together with the grumpy and petty process of devolution
from Whitehall, has stymied any effort to
It is time for a fundamental change in the way we approach
Politicians in Cardiff Bay have to start trusting those in the rest
With the new Welsh Government coming in May, now is the perfect
I am joined now by Manon George from the Wales
Governance Centre and from Westminster, the Liberal Democrat
peer and former First Minister of Wales, Mike German.
peer and former Deputy First Minister of Wales,
Manon first of all, has he got a point, is Wales that the moment
ungovernable with the current settlement?
I think the point I would like to make is that Wales
doesn't have the tools to do the job.
I don't think we can just blame politicians that they don't
We are working with a third settlement, a third Welsh devolution
settlement, and I would argue old settlements
have been a failure and we are looking at a fourth
settlement, and the way that is looking at the moment
I would argue that will also be a constitutional failure.
Yes, and you have written as part of your
organisation a critical report about that.
We will come onto that, but Mike German, this fourth
settlement as proposed at the moment by the
Draft Wales Bill, a big row erupting all around you in Westminster today,
Labour withdrawing support for the Bill.
As a Lib Dem do you still support what that proposes?
The principle of the Bill is about a reserve powers model,
which I believe is the right way to approach
it, a similar approach they did with Scotland right at the very
What I do regret is it has taken so many struggles to keep
us moving over the hurdles each time to get a straightforward and clear
You have a clear distinction between what you can do in Wales
and what you can do in the UK Government.
The trouble is, the Governance Centre has rightly
pointed out, there is still a good deal of confusion about that
division, so what I think we need to do is clarified that
I think the Government has a job to do in trying to explain that
better, it also has to make sure the legislation is clearer,
but those changes can be made, and I am sure
it is listening to this because it understands it needs to carry people
Just to be clear, Mr German, you are still backing that Bill
The principle of the Bill is absolutely right.
I think there is a great deal to do in terms of detail to make
those changes, to straighten the curves which are now appearing
to be in the way the text is written in the legislation.
Manon George, you are more critical as an institution,
Are you saying scrap it or just pause here and have a think?
We don't actually think it is rooted in principles,
because the reserve powers model, letting Wales do anything
except for what is reserved to Westminster, isn't necessarily
the best model if it doesn't provide clarity,
This is the model you are asking for, though, and the Secretary
of State would say if he way here tonight, it provides
of State would say if he were here tonight, it provides
clarity, it is robust, simpler and clarified
There is a long list of matters I reserved,
There is a long list of matters which are reserved,
so we are arguing that Wales doesn't have as much power as it has under
There are also test that exist in Wales that don't exist
in Scotland, for example in Wales we would not be
allowed to change ministers with crown functions
without the consent of the Westminster Parliament first.
There is also a necessity test, so where it is
Mike German, here we are again, once again talking about
When will devolution start looking about what these politicians
and people like you actually do with those powers?
Indeed, and that is why it is so important to get this settlement
absolutely right, and that is why it is important to ensure the powers
Wales has and will have had clearly described and written down. It is
right they should be a debate about these issues because there are
people who pour over the detail and find out the wrinkles in the text,
and we have do straighten that out, but more importantly, we need to use
powers properly and fundamentally Wales's economy is lagging behind
the rest of the UK, meaning jobs and the pounds in your pocket which
peoples in -- people in Wales have are not as strong as the rest of the
UK, that is the fundamental problem we have to address through
legislation. Manon George, you could argue, you don't like this Bill, but
it focuses on process, why not let it pass and see if they can use the
powers? That is our concern, that they won't be able to use them, that
there will be so much uncertainty about the powers of the Assembly and
it will be up to the courts to decide whether the Assembly can
legislate or not. It will end up in the courts more often than at the
moment, will it? I hope it won't. That is what clarity means. That is
where you have to have these wrinkles ironed out. There is no
doubt there is confusion, and of course lawyers who like to look at
these things will always find a way through it. Legislation needs to be
as firm as possible, as clear as possible, and the detail needs to be
as worked out as possible, and there is time to do that in the present
process. That is why the arrangements are that this
consultation is still ongoing. I think the Welsh Government and the
UK Government must layout quite clearly what changes they believe
are achievable, but also ensure that for people who are in Wales
listening to the way this debate goes forward, they know at the end
of the process there will be a clear position about what you can do in
Wales and the UK Government. Weather is overlap, because there is bound
to be, there is an arrangement by which the overlap is agreed and
process and agreed for it. There is already something in place for that,
it needs to be straightened. Manon, a final word, anybody thinking, I
don't care about this constitutional confusion, why should people care?
Because we want a sustainable settlement, we don't want to be in
another position in five years redrafting this again. Let's try and
do this properly this time and have a sustainable settlement for Wales.
Manon George, Mike German, thank you. That's it for delight, you can
get in touch with us by e-mail or follow us on social media. We will
be back next week, but until then, thanks for watching, Diolch am eich
cwmni, nos da. Good night.
On The Wales Report with Bethan Rhys Roberts this week: concerns over a decline in the number of Welsh pupils learning a modern foreign language. And in or out? What does the proposed referendum on Britain's membership of the EU mean for Wales?