I was sorry to read George Varnava's uncritical plea for primary French teaching.
As a modern linguist like myself and a secondary headteacher, Mr Varnava must surely recognise the importance of having trained linguists to teach a foreign language.
The successful introduction of primary French teaching depends on the ability of the schools to recruit competent linguists. Since the supply of linguists is barely sufficient even to meet the demands of secondary schools, it would appear that the staffing of French classes in primary schools would be at the expense of secondary schools. Is this what Mr Varnava is advocating?
I recently inspected the teaching of French in a primary school where, indeed, the young pupils were "receptive mimics": they were rapidly picking up the poor accents and incorrect pronunciation of their teachers, none of whom had the qualifications or skills to teach French.
Some pupils had also recognised that their teachers lacked confidence in using French, and they were beginning to display negative attitudes to the subject. It was clear that the secondary school these pupils would go on to was going to have problems rekindling their enthusiasm and correcting their bad habits.
The 1970 report on primary French identified the importance of having well-trained teachers as well as continuity between primary and secondary schools. If these conditions are not met, then it is far better to leave French to the secondary schools.
J E TRICKEY
6 Sandhurst Close South Croydon Surrey