Consultation report. Foreign languages at Key Stage 2

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1 Consultation report Foreign languages at Key Stage 2 February 2013

2 Contents Introduction 3 Headline findings 4 Next steps 5 Overview of responses 6 Summary of responses 7 2

3 Introduction In the autumn of 2012 the Government consulted on its proposal to make foreign languages a compulsory National Curriculum subject at Key Stage 2. Over 90% of respondents expressed their support for the proposal, and on 16 November 2012 the Government announced its decision to proceed. On the same date the Government launched a second consultation on the draft Order needed to bring this policy into force, and also sought views on a new proposal to require primary schools to teach one of the following languages at Key Stage 2: French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish or a classical language (Latin or Ancient Greek). The consultation ran until 16 December This report summarises the 601 responses to this second consultation. 3

4 Headline findings Although the decision to make languages compulsory at Key Stage 2 had already been taken following the previous consultation, the majority of respondents to this second consultation took the opportunity to express their support for the policy intention, as set out in the draft Order. Respondents reasons, among others, were: that it was the only way to secure equal opportunity for pupils to have access to foreign language teaching at Key Stage 2; that younger children learn languages more easily and so starting in Key Stage 2 will build their confidence for further learning in Key Stage 3 and beyond; that it was important to align England with other countries which begin language teaching earlier; and that it would enhance pupils career prospects in a global market and broaden their cultural horizons. One third of respondents supported the proposal to require primary schools to teach one of the seven stated languages. Among the reasons given were that this approach had the potential to create continuity and progression in learning across the key stages; that it would allow for strategic planning of teaching at the point of transition to Key Stage 3; and that it would provide a helpful focus for clusters of schools and for networking between primary and secondary schools. A majority of respondents were not in favour of the proposal for a set list of languages. Many respondents argued that schools should be free to choose from a variety of languages and that there should be no restrictions; that the proposed list implied that certain languages were more important than others; and that one could not predict the important languages of the future. There were also calls for the inclusion of a range of other languages in the list. Hebrew, in particular, was the subject of a significant campaign, as well as Japanese, Sanskrit and others. Some respondents highlighted the quality of teaching and appropriate training and funding as important for the success of foreign language teaching at Key Stage 2. 4

5 Next steps Having carefully considered the responses to this consultation, the Government has decided to proceed with the Order to make foreign languages a compulsory subject within the National Curriculum at Key Stage 2 from September In addition, the Government has decided, on balance, to proceed with requiring primary schools to teach one of the following languages at Key Stage 2: French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Latin or Ancient Greek. Schools will be free to teach another language or languages in addition, should they wish to do so. Having carefully considered the responses to the consultation, the Government s view is that this is the most sensible approach to establishing the range of languages on offer at Key Stage 2. It broadly reflects the languages that primary schools intend to teach, as indicated in the response to the original consultation on making languages compulsory. However, it does not restrict them unnecessarily, instead giving them a choice that extends to Mandarin, which is important economically, and Latin and Ancient Greek, which provide an important foundation to a number of modern languages, as well as covering the major European languages. The languages in the list comprise a sample of important languages that, each in its own right, give a good grounding for further languages study. A number of consultation responses to this proposal made the case for a wide range of languages to be added to the list: Arabic, Esperanto, Hebrew, Japanese, Russian, Sanskrit, Urdu and sign language, among others. In doing this, they actually highlighted the difficulties that could come from not specifying the choice of language in primary schools. In particular, having such a large array of languages in primary schools could have the potential to undermine secondary schools efforts to build on teaching in primary schools. This is a significant issue, widely recognised by schools, teachers and Ofsted. The proposed list provides a sound basis for primary and secondary schools to work together in clusters on languages provision and effective transition between the key stages. The list is therefore an important building block for introducing languages successfully in the primary phase. We are working with a range of stakeholders, including publishers, educational suppliers, teaching schools and subject associations, to make sure that high-quality support and adaptable models of Key Stage 2 foreign language teaching become available for schools. The Teaching Agency is working with Initial Teacher Training providers to influence training from 2013/2014 onwards and we will consider further the possible demand for primary teachers with a foreign language specialism. In parallel to this report, the Government has launched a statutory consultation on the proposed programmes of study for all subjects in the National Curriculum, including the new programme of study for languages at Key Stage 2. 5

6 Overview of responses As some respondents might have offered a number of options in answering the consultation questions, total percentages listed under any one question might exceed 100%. Throughout the report, percentages are expressed as a proportion of those answering each question, not as a proportion of all respondents. The breakdown of respondents was as follows: Parent 218 Individual 84 Primary school 78 Higher education 52 Other* 44 Teacher/consultant/tutor 39 Secondary school 38 Employer/business sector 14 Local authority 11 Academy/Free School 10 Organisations representing school teachers 8 Subject associations Total *These include eight from different Japanese organisations in addition to associations, partnerships and those that did not specify a type. 6

7 Summary of responses Q1 Do you have any comments on the draft Order to make foreign languages a statutory subject at Key Stage 2? There were 538 responses to this question. Very few respondents actually commented on the draft Order, but many took the opportunity to comment on the principle of making languages compulsory in primary schools or to give their opinions on the proposed list. The list itself does not appear in the draft Order, but will be contained in the programme of study for Key Stage 2. The responses below reflect this, and contain some overlap with answers to question (54%) respondents were very supportive of making foreign languages statutory and were of the opinion that this was the only way to make sure there was an equal opportunity for pupils at Key Stage 2 to have access to language teaching. However, 299 (56%) respondents opposed restricting the list to just seven languages. They felt that schools should be free to choose the language that they wished to teach and that, in practice, teaching languages in addition to one from the list would put a strain on what was already regarded as a crowded curriculum. 262 (49%) respondents felt that the proposed list of languages was too limited and should be extended to allow pupils the opportunity to learn community languages and a language or languages of their own culture. Respondents believed that schools should be free to choose a language that would reflect the needs and strengths of their community as well as the aspirations for their pupils as they transferred to secondary schools. It was mentioned that exclusion from the list would threaten the teaching of community languages and would affect pupils access to literacy in their home language, such as Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi. Respondents believed that the proposal also took insufficient account of the cultural and faith needs of particular communities, for example by not including Hebrew and Arabic. A significant proportion of the responses that mentioned community languages resulted from a campaign from Jewish schools in support of Hebrew (see below). 103 (19%) respondents, including seven primary schools, welcomed the proposal to include Latin and Ancient Greek. They believed that these languages helped pupils to understand the structure of all languages and the working of grammar, and provided the vocabulary base for most European languages. Sanskrit was put forward by some respondents for inclusion as a classical language. Conversely, 73 (14%) respondents, including 14 primary schools, raised concerns about teaching a classical language. Many felt that learning a classical language was not as important as learning a modern language. They thought that the focus should be on using modern languages in an engaging way in order to foster pupils speaking, communication and social skills, as well as to develop their openness to other people s 7

8 ways of life and points of view. It was suggested that these benefits were absent in the case of teaching Latin and Ancient Greek, as they are not spoken now. 49 (9%) said qualified teachers, confident and competent to teach a foreign language and trained to teach primary school pupils, were key to the success of this proposal. Therefore, appropriate and sufficient funding for initial and continuing training was needed for staff to teach languages in Key Stage 2. Q2a Do you agree with the Government s proposal to require primary schools to teach one or more of French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish or a classical language (Latin or Ancient Greek) at Key Stage 2? There were 562 responses to this question. 185 (33%) Yes 343 (61%) No 34 (6%) Not Sure Q2b Please explain the reasons for your answer. There were 512 responses to this question. Respondents who agreed with the proposal said it had the potential to create continuity and progression in learning across the key stages and allow for strategic planning at the point of transition from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3. It was noted that a specific list of languages would allow for more effective use of clusters and networking between primary and secondary schools. While agreeing with the idea of providing a list, a number of respondents felt, nevertheless, that it should include a greater range of modern and classical languages. Respondents also suggested that adequate funding and training must be provided to primary schools and their teachers. Respondents who disagreed were generally unsupportive of the Government s proposal for a list of seven languages at Key Stage 2. They believed that schools should be able to choose from a variety of languages and said that there should be no list or restrictions. It was mentioned that if restrictions were to be put in place, then the list should at least include all the languages given as examples in the current Key Stage 3 programme of study, or include the languages most spoken in the emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies. The languages most frequently mentioned for inclusion in addition to the proposed list of seven were Hebrew, Japanese, Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu, Russian, Portuguese and Hindi. 226 (44%) respondents said it was essential that Jewish schools had the option of choosing Hebrew as their foreign language. 196 of these responses were from a campaign by Jewish schools. It was mentioned that Hebrew formed an integral part of the ethos of Jewish schools and this was one reason why parents sent their children to these schools. Respondents urged the Government either to add modern and Biblical Hebrew to the list of selected languages, or to allow schools to select a language of their own choosing particularly if it was already embedded in their school curriculum. 8

9 Respondents also mentioned that it would be unlikely that Jewish schools would remove Hebrew from their curriculum, so if they were required to teach an additional language, it would have a significant impact on resources and their ability to deliver the core subjects. This group of respondents also noted that many specialist teachers are already trained to teach Hebrew; that Jewish schools have developed specific and appropriate resources; and that virtually all Jewish primary schools teach Hebrew, with most pupils transferring to Jewish secondary schools where this is taught as a compulsory subject. In relation to other languages: A small campaign was identified of 67 (13%) respondents favouring the inclusion of Japanese in the list. Those who offered reasons suggested that the language was important to the UK economy and business as well as being culturally and historically important. Its importance was compared to that of Mandarin. 62 (12%) respondents argued for including Sanskrit as a classical language, on the basis that it was important for understanding many Asian cultures, their philosophies and their languages. 49 (10%) respondents were concerned that Arabic, as a major world language, had been excluded. 48 (9%) respondents were concerned about the absence of Urdu, despite the fact that it is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and one of the languages of the emerging economy of India. 134 (26%) respondents suggested that teaching more than one language at primary level would have a severe impact on the teaching of other curriculum subjects. These respondents thought that the demands of a busy primary school curriculum were being ignored and that, unless the current curriculum was slimmed down, it would be difficult to fit in anything else. Respondents raised concerns about the suggestion that schools, if they wished to, could teach other languages in addition to the seven languages proposed and felt that this was impractical. The campaign for Hebrew (mentioned above) had a significant impact on the number of respondents making this point. 73 (14%) respondents mentioned that, from a global business perspective, in order to improve the country's competiveness, it was important to select the right languages. They said that, in a global society, understanding and appreciation of different values and cultures were vital and that learning foreign languages was one of the most efficient ways to achieve these. As well as commenting on the proposed list of languages, many respondents aired their views on wider issues, such as the benefits of early language learning and concerns about implementation and transition. 108 (21%) respondents were of the opinion that the younger children were, the more easily they learnt new languages. They suggested that learning a language at Key Stage 9

10 2 would give pupils more confidence and a stronger platform to continue into Key Stage 3 and beyond. It was mentioned that countries other than the UK started teaching languages when pupils were much younger; respondents felt, therefore, that implementing the draft Order was important. Some also felt that, once languages have been embedded at Key Stage 2, steps should be taken to introduce language learning even earlier. It was evident throughout that these respondents felt that earlier language learning gave pupils a better cultural grounding and enhanced their global career prospects. 51 (10%) respondents were concerned about the quality of teaching, levels of funding and the time it would take to train or recruit specialists to secure successful Key Stage 2 foreign language teaching. They were of the opinion that poor teaching of languages would have a negative impact on pupils wish to continue learning a language to GCSE level. A high proportion of respondents felt that training of Key Stage 2 teachers and recruiting language specialists were essential and that adequate funding should be made available to meet these requirements. Finally, 45 (9%) respondents said primary schools should teach the same language as their local secondary or partner schools. They said it was essential that pupils had the opportunity to study a specific language across all key stages. Some respondents felt that reducing the number of languages being taught would increase the chances of pupils continuing to study a language at Key Stage 4. Respondents also mentioned that it was crucial that foreign language learning at Key Stage 2 should be structured to provide a sound basis for pupils to move on to Key Stage 3 and to allow for real progress in learning a foreign language. 10

11 Crown copyright 2013 You may re-use this information (excluding logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence. To view this licence, visit or e- mail: Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned. Any enquiries regarding this publication should be sent to us at This document is also available from our website at 11

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