Feeding the roots, not watering the leaves

RiPL White Paper calls for the DfE to create a National Taskforce for Primary Languages:

Recommendation 10: Create a National Taskforce for Primary Languages

The Research in Primary Languages Network (RiPL) calls for the DfE to set up a National Taskforce for Primary Languages (NTPL) to address the challenges inherent in fully implementing the statutory order to introduce the learning of modern or ancient language from the age of seven.

But why do we need a National Taskforce?  
We’re all aware that the experience of primary language learning will set the foundation for future language learning. If children are motivated at primary school, they’re likely to carry that motivation across to secondary school. If they enjoyed learning a language at KS2, felt they made progress, felt it was worth the effort, found it exciting and useful, they are more likely to look forward to further language learning, developing resilience and building on the ‘I can do this’ feeling. But we’re also all aware that primary schools face particular challenges of their own in implementing a high quality and sustainable curriculum for primary languages. These challenges are distinct from those facing secondary schools. Primary languages need – and deserve – a national focus of their own. Do you agree?

So what would an NTPL do?
A National Taskforce for Languages would address the challenges faced by primary schools, making professional development and school-led improvement a priority. The NTPL would recognise and draw on current expertise from across the country, providing access to central guidance and helping to coordinate high quality support for all schools.

How would it work?
The NTPL would provide a link between stakeholders and government. It would work with lead practitioners, head teachers and other partners, individuals and organisations with expertise in languages. This would include researchers, school networks, subject associations, cultural institutes and universities. Practitioners would be key.

Why now?
The creation of a National Taskforce for primary languages is critical right now to inform and support the work of the new
National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy. This centre is funded by the DfE to take forward the recommendations of the MFL Pedagogy Review (2016) led by Ian Bauckham, to support their implementation in schools, and to strengthen language curriculum design and MFL pedagogy. There is one stumbling block – the Centre focuses largely on secondary schools and on the third and fourth key stages – what happened to support for the implementation of language learning from the age of seven? If primary languages are going to build the foundation of secondary language learning, surely we should feed the roots, not water the leaves? The DfE should consider as a matter of urgency the allocation of central funding to support primary schools in developing and implementing primary language learning? A National Taskforce for Primary Languages would provide the mechanism and expertise to make this happen.

If you agree, please give us your support!

The RiPL network is resolute in its efforts to put primary language learning centre stage. Feedback from all those involved with language learning helps to generate greater impetus – we need to know if and how we are making a difference.

Please tell us how RiPL is helping you? Have you read the White Paper? Do you agree with the recommendations? Have you shown the White Paper to your head teacher? Has the RiPL website, given you ideas, changed your thinking, helped in your practice, motivated you to make changes?

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Bernardette Holmes & Angela Tellier


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