Jeremy Moulton, pictured, believes encouraging youngsters to learn to speak more languages will help schools record better scores in the Government’s new English baccalaureate measure for league tables, which aims to show pupils are getting a rounded education.
But he also believes it will help promote community cohesion and boost Southampton’s businesses.
Just a quarter of Southampton’s Year 11 pupils were entered for an EBaccqualifying modern language in last year’s GCSEs, compared to 40 per cent in Hampshire schools, which is a similar level to the national average.
Cllr Moulton believes schools should be looking to improve that figure, as well as offering a wider range of languages.
He said: “With the new EBacc coming in, the area that we need to progress is to do more with languages.
“We’re doing well with science, maths and English and I think a lot of schools are starting to focus more on languages.
“I think it’s going to be increasingly important in the future.
“The EBacc is going to become more important as schools look to move up the league tables.”
The EBacc, which has proved controversial because pupils taking GCSEs last year had already chosen their subjects before it was introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove, is designed to show children are achieving in a range of academic subjects.
As well as English and maths, pupils must gain a grade C or higher in science, history or geography, and a language.
Cllr Moulton said he wants to see children offered the chance to study GCSEs in languages from around the world, with schools working together where only small numbers are interested in a particular subject.
But he believes there are more benefits to encouraging languages in schools than improving league table standings.
He said: “We’re a city of 110 different languages, we’re a port town, we have an airport, and we have the cruise industry with all that goes with it – Southampton is the sort of place where lots of children should be getting a language at GCSE.
“I think it’s important within the community to be better at languages. It’s not just for economic or educational reasons, it’s for social reasons.
“We’re a diverse community and the more children take up languages the more they’re likely to integrate.”