Language policy & practice in the UK
Language policy & practice in the UK
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
UK BOTTOM OF THE CLASS BUT LATEST EUROBAROMETER SHOWS A DESIRE TO IMPROVE.
The first European Survey on Language Competences shows that 9% of 14-15 year old pupils studying French in England reach the level of being “an independent language user who can deal with straightforward, familiar matters”
The corresponding figure for the 14 countries surveyed – usually for pupils learning English – is 42%. Sweden and Malta reach 82% and the Netherlands 66 %. France is on 14%.
30% of pupils in English schools do not reach the level of “a basic user who can use very simple language, with support”. Here France scores marginally worse, with 31%.
More positively, second language learners (in the case of the UK learners of German) perform relatively better.
A linked Eurobarometer opinion poll on EU citizens’ attitudes towards multilingualism and foreign language learning shows a rather more positive picture . Seventy-two per cent of people in the UK (84% EU-wide) think everyone in the EU should be able to speak at least one other language as well as their mother tongue.
However, only 39% in the UK – a quarter of whom are native speakers of other languages who can converse in English – can in practice have a conversation in a foreign language, according to those polled. This compares to an EU average of 54%.
The UK remains near the bottom of the EU table, despite a one percentage point improvement since 2005. Only Hungary (35% able to speak another language) and Italy (38%) are below. Portugal at 39% is equal with the UK and Ireland marginally above (40%).
For more details see the EU press release 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: COHagan@cfbt.com
Therese Comfort (Lead for Languages Education – Primary) Email: TComfort@cfbt.com
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