In 2006, the NFER was commissioned by the DCSF to conduct a three-year longitudinal study of language learning at Key Stage 2 (KS2) to assess the nature and extent of language learning provision at KS2 in schools in England.

This allowed progress towards implementation of the non-statutory target set in the National Languages Strategy Languages for All: Languages for Life. A Strategy for England (DfES, 2002) that all children should have an entitlement to language learning in class time in KS2 by 2010.

 

The report has recently been published, and some of the findings can be seen below:

Schools were asked about the range of languages they offered in class time in KS2. The languages on offer were very similar in all three years of the project; French was the most commonly offered language, available in around nine out of ten schools offering a language in class time at KS2. Spanish was also popular, offered by a quarter of schools teaching languages, while German was offered by 10 per cent of schools teaching languages A much smaller proportion of schools offered Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Urdu. In 2008, slightly fewer schools said that they offered languages other than those on the list provided, than in previous years. Other languages mentioned by a small number of schools in 2008 included Bengali, Latin, British Sign Language and Polish.


Languages offered at KS2 in primary schools in England

Language

2006%

2007%

2008%

French

91

89

89

Spanish

28

23

25

German

12

9

10

Italian

4

3

3

Chinese

1

1

1

Japanese

1

1

1

Urdu

1

<1

<1

Other Languages

4

3

1

No Response

1

<1

1

       

Number of Schools

3336

2586

2303

 

In 2008, three quarters of primary schools offered a single language within class time.Schools providing one language most commonly offered French (1,525, or 66 per cent),followed by Spanish (179 or eight per cent), German (18, or one per cent), and Italian(seven, or less than one per cent. A further 18 per cent offered two languages - the mostcommon combination was French and Spanish. A minority of schools (six per cent) offered three or more languages.

As shown in the table below, in 2006, almost all responding local authorities were aware of French (99 per cent) and Spanish (98 per cent) being taught at KS2 in schools in their area. German (82 per cent) and Italian (51 per cent) were also taught in many LAs, with Chinese taught in 24 per cent. Moving on two years, almost every local authority responding to the 2008 questionnaire said that they were aware of schools teaching French (99 per cent) or Spanish (96 per cent) at KS2, similar to 2006. However, the proportion of LAs aware of German, Italian, Japanese and Urdu being taught had decreased since 2006. In 2008, German was said to be taught in three quarters of local authorities, Italian in around two fifths (41 per cent) and Chinese in just under a quarter (24 per cent), indicating that while these languages were less commonly offered by schools (as shown above), they were not confined to a few local authorities.

 


Languages offered at KS2 in primary schools in England according to local authorities (LAs)

 

Language

2006%

2008%

French

99

99

Spanish

98

96

German

82

75

Italian

51

41

Chinese

24

24

Japanese

16

9

Urdu

14

7

Other Languages

4

1

     

Number of LAs

108

11

 

The reasons why schools had chosen to offer a particular language were largely similar in 2006 and 2008, the two years of the study in which schools were asked about this. In 2008, teacher availability to deliver the chosen language was the most common reason why a particular language was offered by schools (83 per cent). Availability of resources for teaching that language (75 per cent) and consideration of the languages offered by local secondary and primary schools (72 per cent and 43 per cent respectively) also tended to influence primary schools’ choice of language. Support from the local authority for a particular language only influenced the choice of around a third of primary schools (32 per cent).

Source: Wade, P and Marshall, H with O'Donnell, S 2009. Primary modern foreign languages: longitudinal survey of implementation of national entitlement to language learning at Key Stage 2. Available on the nfer website.