Commenting on the British Council study Boys studying foreign languages at GCSE in schools in England, commissioned by the Education Policy Institute, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Gender stereotypes limit opportunities for both boys and girls. While schools do a great deal to provide all students with a broad and balanced curriculum, as this report shows, gender continues to shape the subjects chosen by pupils at GCSE. Girls are more likely to study languages, boys more likely to study physics – and this gender bias limits life chances for both.

“Schools can open up those horizons for both sexes, however Government policy is in many cases a barrier to this.

“Persistent cuts to school and college funding mean that many leaders are faced with having to cut teachers they can no longer afford, which in turn leads to cuts in subject choice. Many of the suggestions of how to teach more inclusively, such as smaller class sizes and more learning time, rely on additional funding and changes to education policy which currently promotes superficial progress over deep learning.

“We are also in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis in education with teachers leaving due to unnecessarily high workload, the high stakes accountability system of Ofsted and league tables and year upon year of real-terms pay cuts. Until Government properly listens to the profession on these issues, Modern Foreign Languages amongst other subjects is unlikely to be available to every student.”