Language teachers quitting

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Nearly a third of language teachers quits within three years of starting in the profession, according to government figures. Only 71 per cent are still in the classroom three years after qualifying – the lowest percentage for any subject.

The Liberal Democrats say that the figures, disclosed in a House of Commons written answer by the Schools minister, Jim Knight, highlight the crisis in teaching languages at secondary school level.

They compare with an average of 80 per cent of all teachers remaining in post after three years.

"The Government turned its back on languages when it made them optional at GCSE and before introducing them at primary school," said David Laws, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for Children, Schools and Families. "It is no surprise that so many teachers are feeling so disillusioned that they are leaving the profession after only a short time in post."

Headteachers' leaders say that the shortage of language specialists often means that teachers who are not trained in the subjects are taking classes and that schools are not pushing languages as an option for study at GCSE.

Studying a modern foreign language was made voluntary for 14- to 16-year-olds as a result of a curriculum review held in 2002, when Estelle Morris was education secretary.