Ecoutez! Listen to the linguists

24th December 2004 at 00:00
Judith Judd (TES, December 3) hits the nail on the head with her reasons for the collapse of the primary languages' initiative of the Seventies.

The transition to the secondary stage can only succeed if there is uniform language provision in feeder primaries. The secondary school must know at what level to pitch its Year 7 course(s), if progression rather than boredom and disillusion is to take place.

At present, co-ordination of primary provision seems largely to be left to the secondary school fed by a particular cluster, this being much more likely if the secondary has language college status with advanced skills teachers in situ and involved with the feeder primaries.

I know of excellent examples of such co-ordination here in North Yorkshire.

Overall, though, provision seems to be hit and miss in the primaries and there can be no guarantee that all of the seven-plus cohort will benefit.

As Judith argues, it will be difficult to rescue languages in the short term without considerable government expenditure in the training of linguists as teachers, both for secondary primary.

Urgent consideration should be given to making a key stage 2 scheme of work mandatory from a set date throughout the primary sector, notwithstanding the expense. This way, the secondary sector might be able to cope with the transition.

Judith's case for the teaching of languages is unassailable. Industry too is making the case more urgently.

There are aesthetic and cultural reasons for learning languages and the brain-enhancing effect of early learning of a foreign language has recently been demonstrated.

The Government is, I believe, at least listening, thanks to the good effrots of the national director for languages, the Centre for Information on Language Teaching (Cilt) and its off-shoot NACELL, and language teachers' professional associations.

It is to be hoped that the discussion of the 14 to 19 curriculum, that has started with the publication of the Tomlinson Report, will lead to a compulsory language study post 16, in most, if not all, of the strands of the suggested diploma for those seeking a merit or distinction.

David Cragg-James

Rose Cottage

Stonegrave, York

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