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David Wilson

DfES announces "major investment" for MFL

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Ruth Kelly, the UK Secretary of State for Education and Skills, has just announced that £115 million pounds are due to be invested in modern foreign language learning. The bulk of the money will go to the primary sector to fund an earlier start in foreign language learning: 6000 teachers will need to be recruited. There will also be money for the Languages Ladder, which brings flexibility and structure into MFL accreditation, for language colleges who collaborate with primary schools, and for international school twinning and teacher exchanges. The following links tell the story and initial reactions to it.

Department for Education and Skills

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2005_0034

The funding also has a mention on their Languages Website at

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/languages/

where there's a link to a 6-page leaflet about the "boost to languages" at:

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/languages/uploads/6page_leaflet.pdf

The link isn't functioning yet.

BBC News

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4339591.stm

Times Educational Supplement

http://www.tes.co.uk/2078522

Education Guardian

http://education.guardian.co.uk/primaryedu...1435233,00.html

It's also on the front page of this week's Times Educational Supplement: "Language aid unveiled".

The funding is the subject of a thread on the UK language teachers' forum Linguanet ("the Govt's millions"). See the message archives at:

http://www.mailbase.org.uk/lists/linguanet...um/archive.html

Curiously enough, it hasn't had a mention yet on ELL (Early Language Learning Forum), archived at:

http://www.mailbase.org.uk/lists/ell-forum/archive.html

Maybe that will change over the weekend, or perhaps the primary sector knew about this funding in advance!

Do you think the primary school foreign language learning initiative will succeed this time? The Nuffield Schools Modern Languages Project of the 1960s and 1970s was very successful for a while, lauded by teachers and students, when it ran in a number of primary schools in England and Wales and continuation courses were provided in their feeder secondary schools.

Does primary school foreign language learning fully compensate for the reduction of the status of modern foreign languages in key stage 4 (14- to 16-year-olds) from compulsory to voluntary subjects, resulting in many students abandoning MFL study at age 14?

What are the reactions of colleagues working in other countries? Is primary school foreign language learning effective there? Is it provided universally? How successful do secondary school MFL teachers think the primary school initiative is when they receive students who have completed that element of the MFL course?

Thoughts, anyone?

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

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David asks:

Does primary school foreign language learning fully compensate for the reduction of the status of modern foreign languages in key stage 4 (14- to 16-year-olds) from compulsory to voluntary subjects, resulting in many students abandoning MFL study at age 14?

No, I don't think it does compensate for the reduction in the status of foreign languages at secondary school level. This is not to say, however, that the study of foreign languages should not start at primary school level. The longer a child is exposed to a foreign language the better. Perhaps one should take a look at the way foreign languages are handled in the UK private schools sector. Children attending private schools tend to start learning a foreign language earlier than in the state sector and then what they have learned feeds into the private secondary schools - which tend to draw on groups of primary schools that have followed the same broad foreign languages curriculum. This is where our state schools tend to be a bit chaotic and why the primary languages initiative did not work well the last time around. I taught in a state secondary school in the 1960s and early 1970s. Some of our feeder schools taught French and some did not - which was not an ideal state of affairs.

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Another problem I experience as a teacher of EFL is that you need your most proficient teachers to teach the beginners. By the time the pupils get to secondary school, well, almost anyone could teach them! (OK, with some modifications).

However, if you want pupils to start learning right, rather than having incorrect patterns and practices reinforced, then you need very capable teachers at the lowest levels.

If there are plenty of primary teachers who *can* teach MFL, then it shouldn't be a problem …

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