Seminar 2016

The learning of foreign languages in primary schools in England: issues and challenges

The 2016 two-day seminar held at the University of Essex, brought together experts in education, linguistics and psychology to discuss issues and challenges raised by the statutory implementation of foreign languages at KS2 (September 2014), in particular to:

  • take stock of the current state of research
  • identify gaps in understanding, and
  • initiate new research to address such gaps.

State of the art reviews and research papers were presented by UK and international experts on seven key themes:

  1. The role that age plays in the learning of foreign languages in the classroom.
  2. Multilingual children and additional language learning in the foreign language classroom.
  3. Pedagogy and teacher expertise for this age group.
  4. Linguistic development and expectations in primary school age children.
  5. Curriculum models appropriate for young children.
  6. Cultural competence and intercultural understanding in young children.
  7. The relationship between literacy, foreign language learning and wider academic achievement.

The Research in Primary Languages (RiPL) Network was formed as a result, and reflects the enthusiasm and interest generated over the two days by the presenters and the participants.

Round table discussions at the end of day one (discussants: Nalini Boodhoo (University of East Anglia), Gee Macrory (Manchester Metropolitan University) focussed on;

  • Input
    the one weekly hour in the primary is insufficient to learn an L2
    strategies are needed for encouraging learner autonomy and independence
    how feasible is this with young learners?
  • Pedagogy
    the influence of (low) teacher proficiency on teaching and the use of resources
    the quality of textbooks
    specialist teachers and/or teachers with good subject knowledge are needed.

Round table discussions at the end of day two (discussants:  Bernadette Holmes (Born Global) and Rosamond Mitchell (University of Southampton) identified a number of themes for future research:

  • the interaction of factors such as pedagogical approach, teaching time, teacher competence
  • the development of learner identities
  • access to MFL for all, and factors promoting inclusivity
  • the integration of EAL and MFL
  • the impact of Academies
  • the impact of the E-Bac
  • the lack of agreed interpretation and the lack of assessment of inter-cultural understanding
  • the influence of L1 literacy on L2 development and vice-versa
  • parents’ and Carers’ role in literacy development
  • the influence of literacy on wider academic achievement.