Foreign languages for primary schools

Learning a foreign language should become compulsory in England’s primary schools.

That is the conclusion of a government report led by Lord Dearing, which recommends pupils should be made to learn a modern foreign language from the age of seven to 14.

And the report looks set to be adopted by government.

“I want languages to be at the heart of learning. That’s why I accept Lord Dearing’s recommendation that we look to fully embed languages in the primary curriculum when it is next reviewed,” said education secretary Alan Johnson.

“The earlier you start learning a language the better. Making language study compulsory from 7 to 14 will give pupils seven years to build up their knowledge, confidence and experience.”

However, while recommending pupils should be required to learn languages at a young age, it stops short of recommending that modern languages are re-introduced as compulsory GSCE subjects, a policy which was dropped in 2004.

The key recommendations of the Dearing report are that languages become a compulsory part of the curriculum for 7 to 14-year-olds; that a three-year plan be drawn up for a “renaissance of languages in secondary schools”; and an annual budget of more than £50 million-a-year be introduced to support language teaching.

“The results of the consultation on my interim report were clear – head teachers agreed this was not an issue for a quick fix,” Lord Dearing said.

“We learnt from pupils during the consultation that one menu does not suit all. We want to see pupils, whatever their backgrounds, achieve at levels appropriate to them – recognising their achievements and providing greater choice.

“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.”