THE number of language teachers in Scottish secondary schools has fallen by more than two hundred since 2010, according to new figures.

Official statistics from the Scottish Government show there were 1,635 language teachers in 2010 compared to just 1,402 in 2016 - a decline of 15 per cent.

The decline comes at a time when there are significant fears over the future of languages with a long-term fall in the number of pupils sitting exams such as French, German and Italian - although Spanish is still proving popular.

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Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who asked for the figures, called on ministers to explain the falling number.

He said: “It’s extremely disappointing to see such a dramatic fall in the number of secondary school language teachers since 2010.

“Language teaching in schools have been highlighted as a government priority yet the government’s own figures show there are fewer teachers than before, setting language students up for failure.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about getting pupils learning languages then they need to ensure every school has the resources to provide a quality language education.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Association of Language Teaching (SALT) blamed changes to the curriculum for the “hugely concerning” fall.

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Pupils are supposed to have access to languages in the first three years of their secondary education under Curriculum for Excellence, but in some cases options are being restricted much earlier.

The spokeswoman said: “A reorganisation of the curriculum structure has had a dramatic effect on the accessibility of languages for pupils.

“While learners have the entitlement to a language to the end of the broad general education in S3 we are hearing worrying reports that students are not able to access languages after the second year.”

SALT also warned schools were restricting the number of subjects pupils could study in fourth year.

The spokeswoman added: “The study of more than one language can often rely on the goodwill of staff, but teaching multiple languages in one class cannot be something that can be supported.

“The perception that languages are just too hard desperately needs demystified and there is no excuse for any child not to have a good language learning experience.”

The Scottish Government highlighted its 1+2 policy where pupils are to be taught at least two modern languages in addition to their mother tongue by the time they leave primary school.

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Councils have warned the policy is not sufficiently funded while language experts have argued too many languages are being pursued.

However, a government spokeswoman said: “Our 1+2 approach... may influence local authority decisions regarding numbers of language teachers ?in the future.

“We have increased student teacher intake targets for the fifth year in a row, and we are setting targets to train teachers in the subjects where they are needed most.”