Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Primary Languages White Paper


On 23rd November last year I took part in a Primary Languages Policy Summit at the British Academy in London.  I was there to represent the Association for Language Learning and to share my experiences "from the chalk face", including the results of my recent survey as an illustration of the state of affairs in the primary languages world.

The summit operated under the Chatham House rule, meaning that I have not been able to discuss what was said there.

The aim of the summit was to formulate a White Paper which would make proposals to increase the impact of the statutory requirement for all children in Key Stage 2 to learn a language.

The White Paper - Primary Languages Policy in England - the way forward - has been released today and can be found on the webpage of Research in Primary Languages (RiPL).  I urge you to read it.  Following news reports (like this one) last week about the lamentable state of language learning in the secondary sector, this white paper is very timely, and addresses a lot of the points that primary colleagues have been making previously and in response to these recent news stories.

The White Paper makes 10 recommendations.  Here is a summary:
  1. Time allocation: clear, non-statutory guidance about optimum time allocation for languages in Key Stage 2
  2. Pedagogy: to strengthen the quality of teaching with investment by the DfE for teachers and ITE
  3. Curriculum planning:  non-statutory guidance on the minimum core content, to define what children should know by the end of KS2
  4. Transition: to encourage collaboration between phases
  5. Assessment and reporting: a nationally-recognised benchmark to be reached by children by the end of KS2
  6. Digital technology: to improve teacher knowledge and to provide high-quality teaching resources
  7. School accountability: Ofsted should focus on languages in the next inspection cycle to gather evidence related to the 3 Is of intent, implementation and impact
  8. School leadership:  school leaders and governors should be supported to strengthen and ensure suitable content for KS2
  9. Strategic role of research:  primary languages should be a DfE focus in the next round of social research aims
  10. Create a National Task Force for Primary Languages
The White Paper is a good read and addresses all the issues that trouble primary languages practitioners.  I'm so pleased that I can finally talk about it!

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