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The government has rejected calls for foreign language teaching to begin in primary school, preferring to concentrate resources into specialist secondaries.

Labour has revealed its thinking in a response to a report from the Nuffield Languages Inquiry, which looked into improving language learning in Britain.

The two-year inquiry, chaired by broadcaster Sir Trevor MacDonald, called for language lessons from the age of even, linguistic training for teachers and the setting up of international primary schools. Currently only a minority of primaries offer languages.

Schools minister Jacqui Smith said that, instead of offering formal language courses in more primary schools, increasing numbers of specialist language colleges would share expertise with primaries and adult learners, and online courses would be available for juniors.

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