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Balls promises all pupils lessons in Mandarin and Arabic


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Balls promises all pupils lessons in Mandarin and Arabic as he challenges Tory shadow to live education debate



By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 4:54 PM on 04th January 2010




Every secondary school pupil should have the chance to learn languages like Mandarin and Arabic Children's Secretary Ed Balls said today as the major political parties stepped up their skirmishing ahead of the general election.

Mr Balls said Labour would increase spending on education as he also set out plans to guarantee extra tuition for primary school pupils who fall behind.

And he also appeared to confirm that a general election was some time away.


When asked whether the Conservatives had "stolen a march" on Labour with their campaign plans, he said: "I don't think so, because we are going to have months of this before the actual election comes along."


article-0-07C17CC8000005DC-368_468x286.jpg Back to school: Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls meet school children from St Monica's Primary School in Hackney, east London today


Mr Balls insisted engaging early with pupils with a problem was effective.

"We are saying in law we will set out a guarantee to parents: if your child falls behind, our investment will ensure your child gets that extra help."

The guarantee on extra help for primary school pupils comes as Chancellor Alistair Darling will also go on the offensive over Tory spending plans, briefing journalists on what aides describe as "flaws" in the Opposition's sums.

The Government's finances will be a key battleground during the potentially protracted election campaign, which could last for up to five months.

Mr Brown and Mr Balls will announce this morning that from September 2011 all Key Stage 1 pupils - aged six and seven - will be guaranteed extra help if they fall behind in literacy and numeracy.

The support could include tuition in small groups or one-to-one, or bringing in a dyslexia specialist.






The Prime Minister said: "I want to continue to raise standards across the board and this approach, coupled with an increase of specialist teachers in primary schools in key subjects like maths and foreign languages, will help them succeed in school and get the skills they need to get good quality jobs in the future.

"This is also vital for the country in being able to compete and prosper as the economy grows again."

As Labour continued to face questions over how it would fund its policies, a bullish Mr Balls said he was prepared to stage a live television debate with his Conservative opposite number.

He said he was writing to Tory education spokesman Michael Gove to propose dates for a series of debates and question and answer sessions with parents and pupils.


Mr Ball also announced teenagers will be able to take Mandarin as a GCSE from this year as ties with nations such as China become increasingly important.

It made sense for a specialist language college to help to provide such languages to other secondaries, Mr Balls said.


He suggested that many other countries were becoming increasing important, saying that when looking to the emerging world, Brazil and Argentina were becoming big nations - Portuguese is the language spoken in Brazil. The official language of Argentina is Spanish.

He also suggested that Indonesia was becoming an important country - where Bahasa Indonesia is spoken.

The language came third in a poll by the CBI, to find the languages employers were most looking for.


More than a third (38%) of employers looking for staff with a foreign language were looking for Mandarin or Cantonese, only behind French (52%) and German (43%).

Spanish was fourth, chosen by 28% of employers.


Mr Balls said today: "One in seven secondary schools are offering Mandarin and more are moving towards sharing resources across schools."


"There are a number of big countries as well as China, with large populations, which are important business centres for our country."


"This is not a sort of pledge, but it is certainly an ambition, an aim we have set out."

Mr Balls stressed he did not expect to see all of these languages taught in all schools.


"In this new decade our ties with emerging economies like China will become even more important and it's vital that young people are equipped with the skills which they need, and British businesses need too, in order to succeed in a rapidly changing world," he said.


"That's why we want all secondary pupils to have the opportunity to learn up and coming languages like Mandarin if they choose, either at their own school or a nearby school or college."

But David Laws, the Lib Dem schools spokesman, said: "This is nothing but a headline-grabbing gimmick which will never work in practice.


"It is delusional to think that many children are going to benefit from Mandarin teaching when there are only a handful of such teachers in the country.


"Ed Balls would do better to tackle the collapse in mainstream language teaching in recent years. Britain is becoming a European country in which a minority of students now learn a foreign language."


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1240535/Balls-challenges-Tory-shadow-live-education-debate-promises-Mandarin-pupils.html#ixzz0bg38skTL

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