Languages to be compulsory in English primary schools

On 7 January 2014 the BBC posted a video on its website, entitled: Languages to be compulsory in English primary schools

Below is the transcript.

Reporter: “Language teaching is set to change but at this school in South London staff feel they’re ahead of the curve. All pupils from 6 learn a foreign language, and since September it’s been Mandarin.”

Headteacher: “We’re mindful with the requirements of the curriculum for 2014 that it would be good to be ahead of the game. I think Mandarin is going to become increasingly important for the world. We know that. We know with the rise of the Chinese economy.”

Teacher: “It’s been proven that children of this age have their language brain really switched on, ready to learn, and I’ve noticed already as I teach through the school that the younger the children are, the better their pronunciation. They don’t have a barrier; they don’t think there’s something difficult that they may be challenged in mastering. They just think it’s a normal part of their day.”

Still from the BBC video

Still from the BBC video

Reporter: “From September, primary schools in England will have to teach at least one of the following languages from the age of 7 (list: French, Spanish, German). The government wants schools to consider less obvious choices such as Mandarin or Italian, or classical languages such as Latin or Ancient Greek.”

“The European Commission has analysed language skills across 14 countries. Pupils in English schools came bottom when it came to reading, writing and listening in a foreign language. Meanwhile the British Council says language skills across the UK are of real concern. It believes languages should be as prominent in the curriculum as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It’s hoped these changes to the National Curriculum will equip all primary school pupils with better language skills, but it’s not just pupils who will be affected; so too of course will teachers.”

“Stockton Heath primary school in Warrington, and today it’s local teachers who are being taught. Language teaching consultant Janet Lloyd believes the changes to the National Curriculum will present teachers with challenges, and opportunities.”

Consultant: “Some implications will be timetabling – how do we put it on the timetable? Where do we place it? But there are certain parts of the school day where languages can sit within other parts of the curriculum. So for instance I could introduce you to teachers who may deliver some of their languages in PE, or through singing, or in their dance lessons.”

Reporter: “Stockton Heath primary already offer language teaching from the age of 7, but its headteacher believes other schools might struggle come September.”

Headteacher: “For some schools that will be a huge issue if they haven’t got a language specialist in their school, then there’s a serious training implication there. There’s a cost implication in that for schools aswell.”
Reporter: “Do you think that’s been overlooked in some ways?”
Headteacher: “Potentially. I mean, it’s quite a short window. It’s quite a short time scale now to implement this.”

Reporter:  “So, big changes for teachers and pupils lie ahead. However easy or hard foreign languages seem, in English primary schools, avoiding them will no longer be an option.”

Are you a primary teacher? Are you and your school ahead of the curve?!

Feedback welcome!

See you next time,

Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee, where kids learn to speak Spanish together

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two young children. Loves it! More…

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