Take languages to next level

15th July 2005 at 01:00
Ofsted praises primary expansion but says staff need training to make lessons more challenging. Jon Slater reports

A project to boost primary languages has succeeded, despite the need for extra staff training and uncertainty over funding, say inspectors.

Ofsted's evaluation of schools in 10 pathfinder local authorities found that only 43 per cent of primaries were able to offer a foreign language to seven to 11-year-olds.

Of that 43 per cent, half taught languages very well, said inspectors. Most pupils were confident speakers and their listening skills were very good but reading and writing skills were underdeveloped, the report said.

The quality of teaching was at least satisfactory in almost all schools, but many staff needed further training to challenge older pupils.

"Teachers' linguistic competence was at least adequate, although many needed further training to teach at a higher level. Individual lessons were planned well, but few teachers had a clear sense of longer-term learning outcomes," said the report.

Examples of good teaching included All Saints primary in Coventry, which gave pupils Harry Potter texts in French, German and Spanish and asked them to work out which was which.

Nineteen pathfinder partnerships between local authorities and schools were set up in 2003 to develop the teaching of languages in primaries.

They shared a total of pound;4.6 million over two years and will finish this summer.

The Government has promised that every child will be entitled to learn a modern foreign language at primary school by 2010.

Inspectors noted that few secondaries, including those involved in primary outreach work, took into account the language skills of primary children when planning their transfer. This could lead to pupils repeating work in Year 7.

Primary lessons were taught by a mix of regular class teachers and modern foreign language specialists, including teaching assistants in some schools.

Although lessons were good at instilling a positive attitude to languages among pupils, few gave them a sense of how different languages work.

The majority followed the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority schemes of work for key stage 2 French, German and Spanish.

The inspectors recommended that councils should include primary language expansion in their education development plans and that primaries should make training available for staff and identify strategies for sustaining language learning.

Secondary schools must liaise with primaries to ensure they are up to date with what primary pupils have been taught.

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