Saturday, 17 November 2012
More Primary Languages news
At the end of September the consultation on the proposal to make languages a compulsory subject in Key Stage 2 ended. Today the report was published.
There were 318 responses (perhaps because the consultation took place over the summer?) and "the vast majority" (91%) of those who responded agreed with the Government's proposal. Because of this strong support, the Government has decided to proceed with making the learning of a language statutory in Key Stage 2 from September 2014.
The responses were, gladly, as anticipated. Younger children are more open and receptive to learning another language, learning in primary lays the foundation for Key Stage 3 and, hopefully, Key Stage 4, it is vital for intercultural learning and plays a fundamental part in cross-curricular learning. And so on.
Respondents have also made it clear that if compulsory primary languages is to succeed, there will have to be significant investment of money and time in teacher training and support networks. Many of the classroom teachers who are currently teaching the language are non-specialist, other schools are not teaching a language at all and will need to start from scratch.
The second part of the report is dedicated to the language or languages that primary children should learn. Respondents were asked which language their school would be likely to teach, and, not surprisingly, French comes top of the list followed by Spanish and German. Community languages, Italian and Mandarin are a lot lower on the list. A quarter of respondents said that "primary schools should teach the same language as their local secondary or partner schools......(to) ensure that coherent programmes of learning were available to children to continue their study of a specific language across all key stages." This is where the main difficulty lies.
The CofE primary school where I teach Spanish feeds to the local CofE secondary school, who chose Spanish as their first foreign language when they opened. Out of last year's 27 Year 6 children, seventeen of them went to this secondary school and are therefore continuing with Spanish. However, when they got there, they were in the same classes as children from other primary schools who had done French to very varying levels and no Spanish at all. In addition, the ten children who didn't go to the CofE secondary school went to various other schools in the city, and most of them have ended up doing French and not Spanish. Now Sunderland is a small city and a small local authority. The problems that we encounter here are much worse in other parts of the country. It just isn't as simple as "teaching the same language as your local secondary school". I have written before about a possible solution to this problem and a couple of years ago worked on a transition project which tried to find some ways of overcoming this significant obstacle to primary languages' success.
The Government is now consulting on a new proposal: "to require primary schools to teach one or more of the following languages at Key Stage 2: French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish or a classical language (Latin or ancient Greek). Schools would, of course, be free to teach other languages in addition to one of these." The draft of the Order by which languages will be made statutory at Key Stage 2 is also published as part of this new consultation. They say that they will also "consider the points made about workforce training and support" and that there will be a further consultation in early 2013 on the proposed content for the Programmes of Study.
The consultation opened yesterday (16th November) and we only have until 16th December to register our views. Every response counts!