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What's going on with primary modern languages? Many teachers in the field would like to know as things have been "on hold" for some time. Although things are still a bit up in the air, Clare Seccombe has posted a very good summary of what has emerged so far from the National Curriculum review. Look at the table she has posted summarising what should be taught at key Stages 1 and 2.

I remain on the sceptical side of primary languages. In Ripon there has been pretty good coverage of French at KS2, but the pupils I encounter in Year 7 seem to be at no great advantage when compared with those I taught twenty years ago. They have acquired some vocabulary, variable pronunciation habits and a degree of enthusiasm (thankfully), but the time allocated to French at primary means that significant progression is limited. Their knowledge is not strongly embedded and they have little or no writing skills. I am sure that my enthusiastic primary colleagues would acknowledge that this is the case. When I look at Clare's table I am struck by how crowded that KS2 curriculum looks and I do not see where sufficient time is going to be made available for MFL to make it very worthwhile.

While reading the Jack Richards and Theodore Rodgers book on Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (Cambridge), I noted one point from the research: it is not so much quantity of input which produces progress, but rather quality (which I take to mean good quality models, clever selection and grading, good methods). Now, I cannot see how this can be produced at KS2 without a large investment in skills and without making sacrifices in other areas of the primary curriculum. I fear we shall continue to pay lip service to real progress in MFL at KS2. If we really meant business, we would be allocating at least three slots a week with specialist teaching and a syllabus based not just on vocabulary, but on simple structures, as well as cultural elements. The realities of spending cuts mean that we shall soldier on with current provision at best.

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