Languages plea to state schools
State school pupils risk losing out on top jobs and university places because of a lack of opportunities to study languages, it has been suggested.
Private schools were more likely to make the subject compulsory and enter the majority of their pupils for a GCSE than state schools, according to the latest Language Trends survey from CILT, the National Centre for Languages.
In many maintained secondaries, pupils spend just two years studying another language, it found.
The study shows that the proportion of schools where more than half of Year 11 pupils are studying a language dropped to 38% in 2010 from 43% the year before.
In comparison, some 94% of private schools had more than 50% of Year 11 pupils taking the subject.
And while languages were compulsory in 89% of independent schools, the same was true in just 20% of state schools.
CILT chief executive Kathryn Board said: "The coalition Government have talked about closing the gap. Even in terms of opportunities what's happening with languages is that gap is widening, not closing.
"In order to close that gap, from an educational point of view, many, many more children in state schools have to have the opportunity to learn a language, and understand the benefit of learning a language for social mobility, for employment as well as for leisure."
Professor Mike Kelly, programme director of Links into Languages, suggested that in future most universities will be looking for applicants with the Government's new English Baccalaureate, of which a language is a key part.
"At the moment universities are finding it very difficult to recruit language undergraduates from the maintained sector, as a result of which increasing proportions of students doing languages degrees are from independent schools," he said.