Here we are, nearing half term of the Autumn term of the very first year that this country has had languages on the curriculum IN CURRICULUM TIME for pupils aged 7 and up – COMPULSORY!

How are we doing? Probably many primary teachers are pedaling hard as usual, getting their heads around the new programme of study, trying to get to grips with assessment but no levels and settling down with their new classes, but I hope that by now you have had time to get some language teaching started and enjoy the challenge……

Let me tell you a bit about the project that Network for Languages London is involved with at the moment and the feedback that we have been getting from teachers around London……

“Professional Language Networks” is a large London Schools Excellence Fund project, funded by the mayor of London and the DFE, working with schools in 8 London Boroughs, mostly primaries but some secondaries. Our role is to help facilitate the start up of primary languages, or mentor the practice already in place, in both primary and secondary schools and to set up discussion and networking between the primary schools and their secondary counterparts.

I think I can speak for all the mentors involved in the project when I say that our findings are very positive so far – schools are embracing languages, there are a great many teachers open to trying this curriculum area for the very first time and above all, they are loving the networking that the project facilitates. With the arrival of languages compulsory on the curriculum from 7 years of age, there are bound to be teething problems, there are a lot of choices, there is a lot to smooth out – what language, who teaches it, what resources, what methodology? etc, etc. A lot can be made of this seeming chaos, and some cynics will always be ready to pour cold water on – but dedication, the commitment we see on a daily basis in the schools we are supporting has been inspiring.

One “Bête noir”, and one that we hope to address during the project, is that universal issue -transition from primary to secondary school. Secondary teachers grumble that they have to “start again at the beginning” because the pupils coming up from primary schools have such a varied range of previous experience (or previously, none at all) from their primary languages lessons. But the concept of language having “a beginning” is a very flawed one. There is no official “start” to a language – we probably all instinctively start with “greetings”, but actually we can take anything we like and start talking about it. Why not start with a good book, or a cultural theme, such as, for example, French impressionist paintings and, using very simple French language, explore this topic as an interesting kick-off for all pupils, both those with some previous knowledge of French and those with none.

Are you facing challenges with the start of languages in KS2 in your Primary School? Are you being given the support you need to offer good quality language lessons? Are you successfully delivering languages and in a place to share your good practice? Leave your comments here on the blog and let’s hear from you!

Let’s remember as we work through the many challenges ahead of us, that the curriculum change making languages available to all our pupils from age 7 represents an important acknowledgment that this country NEEDS to start early in order to raise children able to speak other languages other than English. It is a huge step forwards and little by little, we will reach our goal.

(More news and feedback will be available on this website during the course of this 18 month project, giving details of case studies, solutions we found in regard to problems such as transition, sustainability, use of local networks for peer support etc.)