Critics fear impact of back-tracking on compulsory language commitment

18th June 2010 at 01:00

Concerns have been raised that the Government's decision to scrap Labour's planned curriculum changes could scupper ten years' work on primary language teaching.

The legislation, which would have made teaching a foreign language statutory in key stage 2 from 2011, was lost as a result of the general election. Earlier this month, the Government announced that the current curriculum would remain in place for 201112, while changes are considered.

In 2002, the Labour government said that by 2010 all junior pupils would be entitled to learn a language - but stopped short of making it compulsory at the time because of the lack of qualified staff and pressure on teaching time.

Money and training was then pumped into the sector and by 2007, Lord Dearing recommended in his languages review that it was made statutory.

The then government agreed to find room for this new compulsory element in the new Rose primary curriculum - a process that has now been abandoned.

Baroness Coussins, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on languages, said she was worried.

"I'm concerned that the fact that primary languages are no longer going to be statutory will mean a falling away in provision.

"There is lots of evidence that learning a foreign language helps with development of English skills and this will be lost."

Other experts warn that the subject is still shaky and the current Government's stance could have a negative effect on it.

Catherine Cheater, a languages education consultant, said: "I really hope it will be statutory. So much money has been spent helping us to get to this point, I don't want it to go into reverse gear. Being statutory makes a difference, it is the one thing that will ensure language teaching happens."

CILT, the national training organisation for languages, has warned that primary language teaching is still "at an early and fragile stage of its development" and that it is vital that the new "minimum national entitlement curriculum, organised around subject disciplines" includes genuine opportunities for all primary pupils to begin learning a foreign language.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now