Schools set the trail for a language revolution

News summary

Plans to introduce language learning in every primary school in England have taken a step forward, with the announcement of pilot projects and a new national director for teaching languages.

DfES press release: 09 June 2003

Education Minister Catherine Ashton today set out how schools in nineteen local education authorities will set the trail for a revolution in language learning as a first step towards ensuring all 7- 11 year olds have the opportunity to learn a foreign language. She also announced Dr Lid King’s appointment as the new National Director for Languages.

Nineteen Local Education Authorities (LEAs) have been selected to take part in pilot projects and develop strategies that will: introduce language learning for seven to eleven year olds; share good practice both within and outside their LEA; share resources such as experienced staff and specialist equipment; foster professional development; and develop local, regional, national and international partnerships.

The nineteen LEA areas are: Barking & Dagenham; Birmingham; Brighton & Hove; Bury; Coventry; East Riding; Enfield; Hammersmith & Fulham; Hampshire; Kent; Knowsley; Liverpool; Norfolk; North Tyneside; Nottinghamshire; Oldham; Richmond upon Thames, Sheffield and Lancashire. Some of these LEAs will be working together as joint projects.

Catherine Ashton also announced today the appointment of Dr Lid King as the new National Director for Languages. Dr King will play a key role in the implementation of the Government’s National Languages Strategy published last December, giving strategic direction and stimulating and co-ordinating action across all sectors.

Catherine Ashton said:

“Every primary pupil will have the opportunity to study at least one foreign language by 2010. This is an exciting chance to get children learning languages earlier.

“In the past, children have not started to learn languages until secondary school, when for many children it is too late. This has meant that only 39% of fifteen year old pupils taking a foreign language in 2002 achieved grades A* -C , whilst only 11% of 16-18 year olds chose to take a language A level in 2002 and only 2% of undergraduates were studying a language in 2001/02. We want to make sure that children are excited by languages by the time they get to secondary school so they have a real choice to take their studies further.

“I am pleased to announce that Dr King has accepted our challenge to incite this language revolution by becoming the national director for foreign languages.
Our new pilot projects in nineteen LEAs will be at the forefront of supporting and developing primary language learning. The lessons we learn from them will provide the essential information we need to effectively introduce primary language learning throughout the country by the end of this decade.
We have a challenging agenda to turn around attitudes to language learning but we are determined to give young people the opportunity to learn a language and benefit from all the social and career advantages this will give them.”

Dr King said:

“To say that I am delighted to have been offered the post of National Director for Languages would be to understate both the opportunity and the challenge. The publication of the National Languages Strategy provides us with the opportunity - perhaps unprecedented in recent history - of promoting real language capability in this country. The challenge will be to make it work.

Significantly, it is a strategy for all people, beginning from the cornerstone of a new primary entitlement but including learners and users of languages of all ages and in all walks of life. If I have learned anything in the past 11 years at CILT it is that the key to real change is effective partnership. We are therefore fortunate that there are so many potential partners - organisations and individuals, teachers and employers, users and learners - who support the drive for greater language capability. “

Related links:

Department for Education and Skills
Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research