Spanish will become the most popular language in British classrooms by 2026, figures suggest.

It took over from French as the most popular A-level language in 2019 and is now set to become the modern language of choice for GCSEs in the next five years.

Spanish has soared in popularity in recent years, while uptake of both French and German has seen a sharp decline.

“For the first time since records began, Spanish attracted over 100,000 entries, almost double the 2005 statistic,” the British Council’s annual language trends report said.

“If current trends continue, it is likely that Spanish will be the most popular GCSE language by 2026.”

Last year, there were 104,280 entries for Spanish GCSE, up from 57,731 in 2005. Meanwhile, French had 124,404 entries last year, down from 251,706 in 2005.

The number of pupils taking German has also declined significantly from 101,466 in 2005 to 40,748 last year.

“I think it’s great that people are studying any language and I hope that more kids will study more languages,” said Vicky Gough, schools adviser for the British Council.

“What I hope is that not all of those will be Spanish and that some end up being French. It would be a real shame if Spanish became dominant to the detriment of everything else.”

She said that among children, there was a perception that Spanish was easier, and that German was harder and only for the more academic students.

“There is a perception and reality that Spanish is widely spoken, so students can imagine going to Spain and speaking it,” she added.

“People can’t imagine going to Germany on holiday, so it is less likely to see the practical value. In popular culture, there are some really popular television shows on Netflix in Spanish.”

Language classes stopped during lockdown

The report also found that the majority of primary schools in England stopped teaching languages during the first lockdown.

Covid-19 has had a “negative impact” on language learning for pupils in primary and secondary schools, researchers said.

One in five primary schools continued to suspend language teaching in January and February this year due to Covid-19, the report found.

The report also found a social class divide in the impact of Covid-19 on language learning, with schools in deprived areas feeling the effects more acutely.

It suggests that 71 per cent of state schools in the most deprived areas reported a “big negative impact” on language learning, compared to 52 per cent of state schools in the most affluent areas.

By comparison, just 16 per cent of independent schools reported a “big negative impact” on language learning.