03/02/2016 The Wales Report


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?

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