It is laudable of Tony Blair to include the teaching of a foreign language in all primary schools in his party's education plan. At present, those who can afford it learn French in a private club after school, while those who can't are taught a foreign language in under-resourced schools - if they are lucky. Classes are invariably oversized and teachers often have not been given the necessary linguistic or methodological skills to do the job properly.
Of course well-timed pre-election promises are nothing new. Let's assume, however, that Tony Blair is serious in his intention. Let's also assume that he did some homework before he made his promise and that he has evaluated research findings past and present. Let's hope that he knows how young children learn a foreign language in the classroom and that he knows what he wants.
Let's assume that he has thought about the age he wants children to start learning a language, that he knows which language or languages he wants them to learn, including community languages, and how much time he wants them to spend learning.
Most importantly, however, let's hope he knows where the teachers will come from, how they will be trained and who will train them in schools during the school-based component of their course.
Let's also hope that he's allocated sufficient funding and that he has thought about the possibility of having to rewrite the national curriculum for key stages 3 and 4. Unless, of course, he's talking about the year 2000.
In which case there's still time to do the thinking.
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