§ Mr. Kidney
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many secondary schools in Staffordshire offered the teaching of more than one foreign language to(a) GCSE level and (b) A level in the latest year for which figures are available; what assessment he has made of the advantages of all such 196W schools offering more than one foreign language to these levels; and what plans he has to change the national curriculum requirement in respect of the number of foreign languages to be offered. 
§ Ms Estelle Morris
The latest figures we have are for the 1995–96 school year and relate to pupils attempting GCSE or GCE A level examinations in two or more foreign languages. We do not have separate information on how many pupils were actually taught the languages. All of the seventy-one secondary schools in Staffordshire had pupils tgaking at least two GCSEs in foreign languages. The most popular languages were French, German and Spanish. Forty-six had pupils taking at least two GCE A levels in foreign languages. French and German were by far the most popular languages at that level.
All secondary schools must now teach pupils at least one modern foreign language, and they are free to offer more than one if they have the resources to do so and the demand is there. Foreign language learning is important in promoting international understanding, and in providing insights into other cultures, and our own. For the United Kingdom as a trading nation, competence in modern foreign languages is of crucial importance in an increasingly competitive world. Nineteen modern foreign languages are eligible to be National Curriculum foundation subjects.
We have promised stability in the National Curriculum at key stages 1 to 3 until the year 2000. The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority are currently monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the revised National Curriculum introduced in schools in 1995, and will provide advice to Ministers in due course on the need for and nature of any future modifications.