Language shake-up for schools

English schools may be allowed to teach Mandarin and Arabic in new curriculum proposals set to be revealed on Monday.

The languages may be allowed to take the place of the mandatory EU language taught to students aged 11 to 14 in secondary schools from September 2008, if the proposals are accepted by ministers.

Under current curriculum guidelines, every secondary school must teach its students one language, such as French, Italian, German or Spanish. Under the new plans, schools will be able to extend the range of languages they offer their students.

A full plan for changes in curriculum, published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), is expected to be presented to ministers on Monday.

“Young people need to be aware that languages can make you attractive to employers – and more employable,” education secretary Alan Johnson said.

“We need to raise our game in languages in schools if we are to compete in an increasingly globalised economy.”

Language is not the only subject that will get a shake-up as a result of the QCA proposals. Geography is set for a change, with students learning about environmental issues such as climate change and global poverty.

The new curriculum also makes recommendations for teaching students to learn essential life skills such as cooking and healthy eating, a move likely to gratify those who have repeatedly campaigned on the issue like TV chef Jamie Oliver.

“I want kids rolling their sleeves up and actually getting to grips with preparing simple healthy meals from scratch,” Mr Johnson explained.