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Languages to Become Compulsory in Primary Schools


Learning a foreign language is to become compulsory for 7-14 year olds in England.

The anouncement from Education Secretary Alan Johnson follows a review of Languages policy by Lord Dearing and the government's national director for languages Dr Lid King.

The main recommendations of the report by include:

  • Languages to become a compulsory part of the curriculum from 7 to 14;

  • A three year blueprint of fresh measures to secure a renaissance of languages in secondary schools, including establishing an Open School for Languages, introducing more engaging courses and assessment and expanding training opportunities for secondary teachers;

  • An annual budget of over £50 m a year to support teaching in primary and secondary schools and to help fund supporting organisations.

Lord Dearing’s final report does not support a return to compulsion at GCSE, pointing out that even in 2000, when languages were still compulsory, one in five pupils were giving up languages.

Although the numbers studying GCSE have fallen since, the proportion getting an A*-C grade increased from 50% five years ago to 64% in 2006. The report uses this as evidence that compulsion at this stage is not the route to get more children achieving good grades in languages.

Johnson said the government would support making languages compulsory for primary schools when the primary National Curriculum is next reviewed. This is expected to be in place in 2010.

He said: “By the time they reach Key Stage 4 pupils will have built up a critical mass of knowledge – and hopefully a love - of languages. We need to demonstrate languages are both a useful skill and something to enjoy if we are to have better motivated learners.”

According to the government, 70% of primary schools are currently starting to teach a language to 7-11 year olds.

Lord Dearing said “Pupils need to have the flexibility and desire to succeed and teachers need greater training and support. Employers can also play their part by showing their commitment to learning other tongues so our future workers are equipped to compete in the global economy.”


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