Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Importance of Teaching, The Schools White Paper 2010-A Turning Point for Languages?

language variety on cadbury's choc

The White Paper highlights the government’s educational philosophy and presents languages as an important subject that is part of the new qualification called “The English Bac”. If you do not fancy reading all 95 pages, ALL, the Association for Language Learning,  has published a handy summary available from here with a number of interesting links on the subject and what it means for Modern Languages.

ALL has also published a summary document to show what the White paper means for languages.

I feel that the proposal is certainly a step in the right direction-even though I would say that the proposed changes for teacher training would not help to develop further the position of languages in schools. In addition, the lack of references to Primary Languages is both disappointing and concerning-a real missed opportunity to re-affirm the place of languages in the primary curriculum and congratulate teachers and managers on all their effort to promote quality early language-learning .

Indeed, a lot more detailed information is needeed to ensure that the proposals have maximum impact in schools.

Is the percentage achieving the “English Bac” going to be published with the old 5A*-C including Maths and English? Is that going to be open for comparisons between schools locally through the local newspaper, for instance? The current indicators for MFL are hidden away and not easily accessible by the public-hence the lack of pressure on schools to improve them.

Is GCSE going to be the only indicator? If this is the case, languages will become even more elitist and there will be very little incentive for some schools to re-launch languages and “sell it” to more students in case they just miss a C. It will also mean that the emphasis will still be on ensuring students get at least a C rather than ensuring every student does his/ her best.

What would happen if a school decided not to make any changes to their curriculum and still have a minority of students not getting the “bac”? Would this trigger an OFSTED inspection? Would this be published in the community? If the school sees this as a legitimate way to create life chances for students and the parents do not voice disagreement-who would challenge this?

I am delighted that our subject has been recognised as an important part of the curriculum but I do feel that we need more than statements of intents to shift the situation and improve participation as well as achievement for all students in all schools.

Michael Gove has written to all schools.  A copy of the letter can be found at . He invites initial responses to the White Paper by 8 December.
They should be sent to 
If you are an ALL member do share your response with them by sending it to as they need to know their members' opinions to be able to represent us effectively.


eurominuteman said...

The Objective of Education is Learning, Not Teaching

John Connor said...

The last paragraph is the key. Remember 1992 - the European Single Market and languages for all? You're right - we need more than pious hopes and aspirational statements. With this government, the devil wil be in the detail, and if "Lanugages for all" translates into "GCSE for all" then we will be no further forward, I fear.

@creativeedu said...

I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here:

IC Jones said...

Thank you for your comments!
Only time will tell what the true answer to this question is...