Tue 5 Mar 19
Four years after it became compulsory for children to learn a foreign language at primary school, researchers have assessed the success of the new policy and have concluded that while it has potential, it needs more support to ensure its success
The Research in Primary Languages (RiPL) network, which includes academics from seven leading universities, teachers, and policy makers, found language provision across the country was patchy and Britain lags behind other European countries when it comes to language learning and teaching.
Professor Florence Myles, from our Department of Language and Linguistics, leads the RiPL network and explained: “It’s clear from our research that simply requiring all primary schools to teach a foreign language is not enough.
“There are schools which illustrate exemplary practice, but a high-quality curriculum is not consistently provided in all schools and children do not receive equal opportunities to learn a new language. To raise standards in language proficiency, in line with other European countries, schools need central guidance and support in a number of key areas.
“At this critical moment in the country’s history, it is particularly important for young people to develop a global outlook and the confidence and motivation to connect with others around the world. Getting the right skills in languages from an early age assumes an even greater importance. This is crucial if we are to reverse the falling number of pupils studying languages at GCSE and A-Level.”
Following a policy summit, held at the British Academy and attended by major national stakeholders, the RiPL network are publishing a White Paper with recommendations for an implementation strategy for primary languages in England including:
RiPL also suggests language provision should be included in Ofsted inspections and says the Department for Education should consider setting up a National Task Force for Primary Languages, which would support school-led improvement in the teaching of languages in primary schools.