All primary schools to teach foreign languages by 2010
Monday 12 March 2007
Every child in England will start learning a modern foreign language in primary school from the age of seven, the government announced today.
From 2010, it will be a compulsory part of the national curriculum for children from the age of seven to 14 to study a modern foreign language, as the government attempts "to put languages at the heart of learning", said the education secretary, Alan Johnson.
The recommendation to put modern foreign languages on the primary school timetable was made by Lord Dearing today in his final report which followed his comprehensive review of school languages policy.
But the report did not recommend a return to making a foreign language a compulsory choice at GCSE level.
A move in that direction, according to Lord Dearing, would not guarantee more children achieving high standards in modern languages.
He recommended that all schools should aim to have at least 50% of pupils sitting a modern language at GCSE. But, he said, schools should look at developing "alternatives to GCSEs for a range of learners and creating more overseas visits and work experience".
Modern languages were dropped as a compulsory subject for 14 to 16-year-olds in 2002, despite protests from teachers and other organisations with an interest in promoting language.
This year's GCSE results reflected a fall in the number of teenagers choosing to study a modern language. The number of candidates studying French fell by 13.2% compared with last year, while those teenagers opting for German fell by 14.2%. There was also a small fall in students choosing GCSE Spanish.
Welcoming today's report, Mr Johnson said: "We are about to embark on a renaissance in languages in schools and beyond."
He said: "I want languages to be at the heart of learning. The earlier you start learning a language the better. Making language study compulsory from seven to 14 will give pupils seven years to build their knowledge, confidence and experience."
The Dearing report said an extra £50m a year was needed to help primary and secondary school teachers deliver the new compulsory modern languages curriculum.
In his report, Lord Dearing suggested that secondary school language teachers could support primary school teachers new to teaching a modern language. This was a model tried out in some Scottish schools in the 1990s before it became compulsory for all 10 and 11-year-olds to learn a modern language from 2001.
The introduction of "immersion courses" in modern languages - which would help children transferring from primary to secondary school - should also be developed, he recommended.
Lord Dearing said he also wanted to see the number of specialist language colleges increased from 300 to 400 and suggested that in future, language indicators should be included as a measure in school league tables.
He said: " The results of the consultation on my interim report were clear - headteachers agreed this was not an issue for a quick fix.
"We learnt from pupils during the consultation that one menu does not fit all. We want to see pupils, whatever their backgrounds, achieve at levels appropriate to them - recognising their achievements and providing greater choice."
· © 2012 Guardian News