Ministers focus on languages

28th September 2001 at 01:00
A new pilot for foreign tongues is being planned in the drive to revamp secondary subjects, reports Julie Henry

FOREIGN languages could be the next subject to be overhauled in the Government's drive to transform secondary education.

English and maths teachers in nearly 4,000 schools in England are getting to grips with the key stage 3 strategy from this term.

Revamped science lessons will start from next spring, with new teaching and learning methods in foundation subjects following in September. Information and communication technology lessons, currently piloted by five local authorities, will also be picked up by schools next year. Now teaching materials are being written for a modern foreign languages pilot which would go national if standards fund money is made available.

Anita Straker, KS3 strategy director, said: "Languages have been identified by the Office for Standards in Education as an area that needs more support, such as ICT." And like English and maths, they also lent themselves to the development of a framework for teaching, she said.

Steven Fawkes, past president of the Association for Language Learning, said focusing on modern languages at KS3 could raise their status.

"It could be particularly helpful for new teachers but it must be supportive and the Government needs to remember that it is trying to recruit and retain language teachers rather than overburden them."

The KS3 strategy is not without its critics but in a recent survey nearly all pilot heads supported it and believed it would improve pupils' literacy and numeracy, teaching standards, planning and curriculum development. Ms Straker said KS3 training had been oversubscribed and well-received and she thanked headteachers for ensuring that staffing problems did not jeopardise the strategy.

A TES survey of national curriculum test results earlier this year - Jin some of the 17 local authorities in the vanguard of the initiative - suggested results had benefited from the strategy. Ms Straker confirmed that pilot school scores in English were similar to the rest of the country but the rate of improvement in maths was slightly higher.

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