Embedding languages policy in primary schools in England: summary of the RiPL White Paper proposing solutions
- The statutory requirement to teach a modern or ancient language at Key Stage 2 (ages 7–11) took effect in September 2014; the first cohort of children made the transition to secondary school in September 2018 and are now in their fifth year of language learning.
- The introduction of a modern or ancient language to the national curriculum at Key Stage 2 represents an exciting but challenging requirement for most schools.
- No additional central or regional funding has been made available to support such major reform, and no formal monitoring or evaluation of children’s progress and attainment is in evidence.
- In the absence of a nationally commissioned evaluation of the impact of the new policy, the Research in Primary Languages network (RiPL) undertook a research-informed analysis resulting in a White Paper.
- Drawing on available research and published data, the White Paper outlines the context and nature of particular challenges in implementing policy and offers fresh insights into possible solutions to strengthen provision.
- Analysis of available data found patchy provision in a number of key areas, with large variations between schools in the amount of time dedicated to languages, expectations of children’s progress, teachers’ subject knowledge and professional training, monitoring of pupils’ progress, and transition arrangements between primary and secondary.
- Research evidence has demonstrated the importance of amount of input and age-appropriate activities, a sense of achievement, progress, and motivation. Research has also shown how foreign language learning is closely linked to the development of literacy in the first language.
- Teaching time, teacher language proficiency and teaching approach have also been found to be closely linked to learning outcomes.
- The RiPL White Paper makes ten recommendations, focussing on: time allocation; curriculum planning; transition arrangements; assessment and reporting; use of digital technology; school accountability; school leadership; the strategic role of research; and the setting up of a National Task-Force for Primary Languages (NTPL).