Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Consultation: Making Primary Languages Compulsory at Key Stage 2


The deadline for the consultation is 28th September 2012 and all related documents can be downloaded here.

My own response is as follows…
...We are seeking to make provision under the 2002 Education Act to ensure that all maintained schools must teach a foreign language at Key Stage 2, from Year 3 to Year 6. This could be either a modern foreign language or an ancient language such as Latin or ancient Greek.

Q1 a) Do you agree with the Government's proposal that foreign languages should become compulsory at Key Stage 2 in maintained schools in England from September 2014?

Q1 b) Please explain the reasons for your answer:
Our world is multilingual and young children need exposure to other languages to be able to reflect more deeply about how their own language functions and strengthen their literacy skills. Research also shows that younger children are more willing to try languages than teenagers who are often even more self-conscious than adults. Last but not least, starting early is a way to promote languages as an important part of the curriculum and should encourage more pupils to carry on studying languages later in life. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on our country’s linguistic capacity and improve our ability to do business abroad.   .   

The Government is not minded to specify the language to be taught, but rather give full flexibility to schools in their choice of languages. We are therefore interested in finding out more about the language(s) that primary schools would be likely to provide.
Q2 a) If you are responding on behalf of a primary school, what language(s) would your school be likely to teach and why?
As a secondary teacher who goes to some of our feeder primary schools to teach languages, I often see a choice based on the strengths displayed by more than one member of staff.  I agree that the actual language does not matter as much as the ability to deliver quality provision with enthusiasm. French and Spanish are often taught by our feeder primary schools for that particular reason.

Q2 b) If you replied to the question above, would the language(s) your school teaches be likely to change over time and if so, why?
The only reason to change the language would be linked to change in staffing, hence the real need for all members of staff to get appropriate training rather than relying on one person to deliver the language in rotation to different classes. There is a real need for planning medium and long term for schools to develop their capacity to deliver modern languages effectively and fairly independently.

The proposal to make languages compulsory at Key Stage 2 should impact positively on all groups of pupils.

Q3) How might the proposals affect different groups of pupils?
Pupils from underprivileged background who may not have had any opportunities to go abroad will have a better exposure to foreign languages and cultures.
Pupils with low literacy levels will benefit from learning foreign languages as it provide them with an opportunity to revisit key literacy skills through the foreign language.
Bilingual pupils will see their linguistic skills valued and special needs pupils will be given a chance to start something new and feel on an equal footing with the other pupils.
High ability pupils will be stretched by the challenge posed by the study of a foreign language and will benefit from the opportunity to deepen their thoughts about language in general and broaden their horizons.

We will consider the challenges that requiring primary schools to teach a foreign language will pose and how schools might best meet them.

Q4) How might the proposal affect different types of schools? Please consider in particular small and large schools, rural and urban schools, those that already teach languages at Key Stage 2 and those that do not.
The proposal will affect schools differently depending on the way languages have been prioritised in their curriculum. If the schools have continued to embed the foreign language over the past few years through developing the skills of their own teachers rather than relying on visiting teachers only, the provision is likely to be good. However, schools that have been unable to do this until now will require substantial support in order to develop their teachers’ expertise and ability to develop quality in-house language provision. If schools rely on external providers only, the language provision will be more likely to be unsuccessful, with pupils making limited progress. 

Q5 a) If the proposals go ahead, what do you think the priorities will be for training and professional development of teachers?
Links with secondary schools must be strengthened by allowing secondary teachers to support primary colleagues’ training at their request and share their good practice through face-to-face meetings, online platforms and video-conferencing.
Primary colleagues must be made aware of where to find good quality resources, particularly to enhance their pupils’ pronunciation of the foreign language, an area which is often a challenge for non-specialists.
Adequate funding and time must be allocated for primary teachers to go to the target-language country to gain a better understanding of the foreign language and/or learn it for a formal qualification.

Q5 b) Do you have any suggestions for how schools and other stakeholders could work together to meet these needs?
The creation of MFL Primary/Secondary clusters would be useful to develop secondary teachers’ understanding of how to build on successful primary literacy practice and primary teachers’ knowledge of foreign language pedagogy.
Primary schools should also join forces to share the cost and expertise needed to develop appropriate schemes of work for KS2.

Q6) Please let us know if you have any further comments you would like to make about the proposals in this consultation document.
The allocation of time and resources is key to making Primary Languages a success especially for the schools that are lagging behind in terms of developing their own capacity to deliver languages.
The issue of assessment also needs to be tackled as well as some guidelines provided regarding expected content to ensure a smoother transition to secondary school.

Please share you views by uploading the questionnaire here.
If you are a member of ALL, the Association for Language Learning, you can  email them your views so that they can be shared through your subject association.
Not yet a member of ALL? Time to join! J

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