'Entitlement' is not enough

THOSE of us with a concern for the provision of modern languages must be grateful to you for highlighting the predicament in which the subject seems now to find itself in England and Wales.

Teachers, educationists, business people and diplomats plus the reports of inquiries conducted by such bodies as the Nuffield Foundation have all called for an increased emphasis on languages.

In response to this the Government proposes an "entitlement" to languages at primary level, and at post-14 level, but languages would be removed from the statutory core curriculum offered to the older pupils.

The primary initiative is to be commended, and few would doubt the importance of an early start, provided only that an adequate supply of gifted linguists, trained in the teaching of the subject at this level, can be found.

A narrow interpretation of entitlement at the post-14 level is, however, likely to result in a downward spiral. If we are not careful there will soon be too few teachers available to cope with any demand there might be, let alone the hoped-for increased demand from the first primary-trained linguists.

If we are ever to match our European partners' abilities on this front, it seems essential that there should be a continuum of languages through all sectors. This will need meticulous planning, considerable funding, a rethinking of the national core curriculum and possibly even additional legislation if errors such as those reported in your article are to be avoided.

In an excellent response to the Green Paper, the Centre for Information on Language Teaching (CILT) suggests a way out of the current impasse involving, among other things, a closer look at the idea of entitlement. This response has been forwarded to the Department for Education and Skills and is available on the CILT website.

David Cragg-James

Rose Cottage

Stonegrave, York

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