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Languages in Main Stream Education

This section is here to try and help you assess what is being done in your children's schools and to help you help your school provide better language provisions.

15/06/2012 - New National Curriculum for primary schools proposals

The Government has now announced its proposals on the new National Curriculum for primary schools. Michael Gove has written to Tim Oates, the Chair of the Expert Panel on the New Curriculum, with his response to the panel’s recommendations for the primary curriculum.

Here is the part of the letter which refers explicitly to languages:

“In common with high-performing schools in this country and other high-performing jurisdictions, I want to add breadth to the primary curriculum by requiring all schools to teach a foreign language at Key Stage 2, from Year 3 to Year 6.

The new foreign languages Programme of Study will require an appropriate balance of spoken and written language. Pupils must learn to speak in sentences, with appropriate pronunciation. They will have to express simple ideas with clarity. Pupils should also learn to write phrases and short sentences from memory. They should develop an understanding of basic grammar. And they should become acquainted with songs and poems in the language studied. Teaching should focus on making substantial progress in one language.“

Find out more on the Association for Language Learning ALL website.


Previsouly: By 2010, all pupils in Key Stage 2 should be learning a foreign language. The Department for Education stated, in a statement dated 26 August 2010, that over 90% of primary schools are already offering some language teaching to their 7-11 year olds.

Ministers announced on 7 June 2010 that the current government does not intend to proceed with Sir Jim Rose's proposed new primary curriculum but that plans for reforming the national curriculum are underway.

Funding has been given to local authorities to support primary languages until March 2011.  On Monday 13 December 2010, the Department for Education announced the details of the school funding settlement for 2011-12. We now know that the existing grant is to be devolved to schools from April 2011 which means it is no longer ring fenced for its purpose.

As Ofsted often do not ask for the language curriculum for KS2 any longer during their inspections, if the finances are not  present in some other way, many schools will probably stop their language effort in the next year... As a parent, you can talk to your school about the merits of languages in primary schools and try to get them to keep the momentum going. But if you don't speak up, the school will not know...


For more information, see:


Foreign Language Assistants

The Foreign Language Assistants (FLAs) programme has been running for over 110 years with other 2,200 FLAs working in British schools today. The programme provides native speakers of Arabic, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Japanese, from 18 countries worldwide, to support qualified teachers of foreign languages in the UK. It is managed in the UK by the British Council.

In practice, requests should made to the Local Authority or to the British Council by the beginning of March for the following academic year.

For more information, see:


Comenius Assistants

Comenius Assistants are intending and trainee teachers from across Europe. They work 12-16 hours per week, and must teach a minimum of 2 hours of their native language. They can be hosted by any of the following; pre-primary schools, primary schools, secondary schools, special schools, sixth form colleges, further education colleges and adult education institutions. They enhance the European and cultural dimension across the curriculum, and offer classes in their native language.

For more information, see:


Area Links

Funding is available for Local Authorities to link with a counterpart local authority in the EU. 'Area Links' involve schools and other public institutions of local significance (eg libraries, museums, police department, healthcare etc) and community based initiatives.

'Area Links' allow:
- The financing of projects of cooperation (Joint Curriculum Projects);
- Groups of teachers from school clusters in England and Wales to visit partner schools and plan future joint curriculum projects;
- Single teacher (or head teacher or support staff) from schools in England and Wales to visit a partner school and plan future joint curriculum projects.

The advantages are that by working on a subject or a common subject, students maintain close links with the partner school (video conferencing, joint work, school trip). The teachers, in constant contact with their peers, can facilitate the implementation of projects involving different subjects.

The Area Links are initiated by the International Development Unit of your Local Authority. Your school should get in touch with the relevant International Development Unit to find out what links can be created.

For more information, see:


Encourage your School’s Teachers to take on Language Learning Continuing Professional Development

If your school is new to language teaching, a step-by-step guide is provided by Devon Learning and Development Partnership about 'Intoducing Languages into the Primary School'.

The secondary schools to which the pupils of your primary school go to will have a vested interest for their new pupils to have strong bases in languages and therefore should be helpful in ensuring primary school teachers are trained in languages: ask your primary school to inverstigate if help can be sought from their secondary schools.

For more information, see:

  • Links into Languages: provides training, support and advice for language teachers and assistants in primary, secondary and further education
  • National Association of Language Advisers: Language advisers are employed by the Local Auhtority and ensures CPD training of teachers.
  • CILT Plus is a unique community for schools, teachers and languages professionals that has been set up to help inspire and develop language learning across the UK.
  • Primary Languages with training opportunities for teachers
  • 'Our Languages' : a project which supports regional partnerships between schools teaching community languages. The project currently involves 90 schools across England. Amongst other activities, participating schools are dedicated to the accredition of pupils' community language skills.
  • Association for Language Learning (ALL): Organization representing teachers of all languages in the United Kingdom
 Teaching to Bilingual Children - a Teacher's Help

Some advice to primary teachers on how best to support bilingual pupils in their classrooms can be found in these websites:

Be sure to explain your child's level to the teacher and whether your child should be taught 'English as an additional language' or not. Many bilingual children in the UK will not fall into this category and this should be recognised by both parents and teachers. For more information on 'English as an additional language', see:

Also, if your school teaches your language but at a lesser level than your child's, help your child's teacher by providing them with appropriate material as they may not be able to know as well as you. If your child attends a saturday language school, may be the saturday school can provide this...

What greatly matters is that grammar is taught in English so that pupils can relate to the other language where grammar can be very important (such as in French). You can find out about the national literacy strategy, which, although is no longer 'live' (since March 2011), can give you clues as to what to aim for for each year group. It is recommended to ask schools what their own programm is and potentially discuss how you can help your child if some grammar points are not covered in English whilst they need them in their other language. You can find more archive information on the National Archives website.


Why not start an After-School Club?

More simply, why not offer your school to start a language club for 30 minutes a week? It's easier than you may think!


Gifted and Talented

'Gifted and talented' describes children and young people with an ability to develop to a level significantly ahead of their year group (or with the potential to develop those abilities). Bilingual children will probably be ‘talented’ pupils.

Schools have a responsibility to meet the educational needs of all their pupils. For the gifted and talented, this includes providing greater challenges in lessons and opportunities for pupils to develop potential gifts and talents. Schools and local authorities may also provide additional activities beyond the everyday timetable. You should talk to your child's teacher, the school's Leading Teacher for Gifted and Talented Education or the headteacher about the support available. You may also find it helpful to talk to your local authority's Gifted and Talented lead, if they have one. This probably is more relevant for secondary schools, rather than primary schools.

CfBT Education Trust used to manage the Young Gifted &Talented (YG&T) Program but this ended in March 2010.

An interesting article by the Guardian on the YG&T Program.

For more information, see:


Independent Schools

Just over half of the 2,300 independent schools in England have charitable status. Academic scholarships, exhibitions and means-tested bursaries are awarded at some schools and this could be the case for ‘Talented Scholars’. Some schools will offer different diploma such as Baccalauréat International being more geared towards bilingual education and bilingual children can be eligible to ‘Academic Scholarship’.

For more information, see:


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