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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
Language teachers 'need training'
All primary schools will teach a language in the next five years
Many teachers lack the confidence and skills to implement government plans to extend language learning to all primary schools, research suggests.

A scheme enabling all children to learn a foreign language is to be extended to all primary schools in England.

Ministers are publishing funding plans and guidance for teachers, with the aim of making language lessons available to all seven to 11-year-olds by 2010.

A pilot scheme in 1,400 schools was judged a success in July by inspectors.

Quelling concerns

"Class teachers' confidence in teaching languages remained fairly low," the report said, "despite the majority having obtained some form of qualification."

"Training addressing linguistic competence as well as methodology was found to be vital in addressing this aspect."

Adequate resources were crucial for all teachers to ensure the success of language teaching, the report continued.

The report, carried out by academics at the University of Warwick and commissioned by the government, emphasised the importance of teacher subject knowledge and confidence.

In the pilot schools, languages were most often taught by non-specialist teachers.

But the report said where there was adequate staffing for teachers to be supported by a native speaker or specialist from a secondary school, this can work well.

By trying to raise interest in language learning at an earlier age, ministers are hoping to quell concerns that students leave school with inadequate language skills.

Language learning beyond the age of 14 ceased to be compulsory in September.

The funding includes 49.5m for schools and local authorities to spend on resources and training for teachers between 2006 and 2008.

The guidance is a framework for teachers of learning objectives and teaching activities, focusing on key skills such as speaking, reading and writing.

This was tested in more than 1,400 schools in 19 local authorities.

Business leaders have raised concerns about the lack of language skills in the United Kingdom, claiming it is seriously damaging business.

Pupils who learn languages from a younger age will be more likely to develop a range of language skills
Andrew Adonis

The Minister for Schools, Andrew Adonis, said: "In common with our partners and competitors in other countries, we must shift the emphasis in language learning to give young children a firm foundation for later learning.

"I am confident that pupils who learn languages from a younger age will be more likely to develop a range of language skills in later life."

No inhibitions

Griffydam Primary School in Coalville, Leicestershire, uses French across year groups in the school.

The register is taken every day in French, with pupils ordering their lunch in French also.

Signs around the school are written in French and, when learning to count, children learn to do so in French too.

Head teacher Ursula Smith said the key was getting children interested in languages at a young age.

"Young children will stand up and have a go and not be embarrassed, while older children do feel self-conscious."

She believes the children at her school have benefited from the learning experience.

"They love it - we have a French club and it's always over-subscribed and there's a waiting list for it."

In July, a report from the CILT national language centre attacked "complacency" over the inability to speak other languages.

The group has welcomed the government's new framework, saying it provided a reassurance of its commitment to primary languages.

"Research on the use of languages in business contexts shows that the earlier languages are learned, the more confidence people have in using them," said Isabella Moore, director of CILT.

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