The Secretary of State for Education has announced that learning a foreign language will be compulsory from the age of seven in England’s primary schools in an overhaul of the national curriculum. Alongside the publication of draft programmes of study for English, Mathematics and Science,, outline decisions have also been taken on the shape of the curriculum. Most of the subjects currently taught will be retained, but with considerably slimmed down statutory elements. A language will also be included.

In line with his view on the primacy of content, the Secretary of State has already outlined the main elements of the new primary languages curriculum – a balance between spoken and written language, speaking in sentences, appropriate pronunciation, expressing simple ideas with clarity, writing phrases and short sentences from memory, basic grammar, songs and poems.

It has also been decided that “teaching should focus on making substantial progress in one language”, so implicitly rejecting the possibility floated in the Expert Panel’s report that the curriculum for 7-9 year olds might centre of language awareness programmes.

At some point it will be possible to comment on the new proposals.

Read the full curriculum review update here


CfBT Education Trust is working on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE) to support schools in improving languages education ensuring that more children have a positive experience of language learning from primary through to Key Stage 4. A key aim is to increase the numbers of children gaining a GCSE qualification in a language and consequently the number of children achieving the EBac.

The DfE has asked CFBT to run a programme with a selection of schools from the first cohort of new Teaching Schools and their alliance schools to establish clear models of best practice for languages education which can be shared and replicated by primary and secondary schools across the country. The programme runs until March 2013 and pays particular attention to the recommendations of the recent OFSTED report on languages education. By the end of this period it is envisaged that the Teaching Schools will be able to continue leading improvements in languages education without the support provided by the programme.

For more information contact:

Carmel O’Hagan (Lead for Languages Education – Secondary) Email:

Therese Comfort (Lead for Languages Education – Primary) Email:

Speak to the Future Campaign for languages

A new campaign, called Speak to the Future, has been launched with the support of over 30 organisations. The campaign calls for urgent action on policy to safeguard and revitalise language learning across all phases of education in order to boost educational and career opportunities for young people and our ability to compete in the global economy. Campaigners have united to send a powerful public message highlighting the vital national importance of foreign language capacity in today’s global world.

Baroness Jean Coussins, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on modern languages, welcomed the campaign and said: ‘A national languages recovery programme is needed to improve the quality of our children’s education, their future employment prospects and the influence of the UK on the international stage. ‘

The campaign has five key aims, designed to create a coherent approach to language learning across all phases of education:

  1. Every language valued as an asset
  2. A coherent experience of languages for all children in primary school
  3. A basic working knowledge of at least two languages including English for every child leaving
  4. secondary school
  5. Every graduate qualified in a second language
  6. An increase in the number of highly qualified linguists

Further details are available from