GOVERNMENT curriculum advisers are launching a research project into how modern foreign languages can become a compulsory part of primary schooling.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is to commission a six-month project to begin next month.
The project will monitor how modern languages are currently taught in some primary and middle schools. It will also investigate how the secondary curriculum would need to change if languages were taught to all eight to 11-year-olds.
Researchers will also evaluate the extra staff and training that would be needed if primary modern languages were introduced.
The shortage of teachers and the expense of training have been identified as major problems which could hamper the introduction of languages to younger children.
Ministers would like more primaries to teach foreign languages and more support for those who already do.
It is still relatively unusual for primary pupils to learn a foreign language in state schools. Although nine out of 10 independent schools teach lanuages to primary-age children, only a quarter do so in the state sector, mainly through out-of-school clubs.
The QCA was asked to investigate the feasibility of putting languages on the primary timetable last year as part of an ongoing review of the national curriculum.
For the first time, the curriculum documents which come into force in September include guidance on how to teach modern foreign languages to young children.
The new guidelines are non-
statutory and are designed for use with nine, 10 and 11-year-olds, but may be adapted for use with even younger children.
Introducing foreign languages in primary schools was one of Tony Blair's first education proposals on becoming Labour leader, although it was not included in the party's election manifesto.
Earlier this month the Nuffield Inquiry, co-chaired by Trevor McDonald, the ITN newsreader, and Sir John Boyd, Master of Churchill College, Cambridge, recommended the Government demand that all pupils learn a language from the age of seven by 2010.