Language Learning

Posted: 16th December 2016

An academic analysis

Language learning has long been a staple part of our Junior School curriculum with French recently having been joined by Spanish and Mandarin. We are very fortunate that this has continuously been delivered by not only native speakers, but also language-teaching specialists. Therefore when the Government, in 2014, made it compulsory for all primary schools to offer either a modern or ancient language at Key Stage 2, we were already fully equipped here at St Augustine’s Priory.

Here, in a paper written as part of his MA in Education Management at King’s College London, Mr Alejandro argues why he believes that, owing to the way in which it has been implemented, this statutory requirement will ultimately be unsuccessful.

‘To what extent will the statutory introduction of Key Stage 2 language learning fall short of achieving the Government’s aims for it?


Under reforms to the National Curriculum in England, from September 2014 offering a modern or ancient foreign language at Key Stage 2 became a statutory requirement. Its projected earlier implementation was halted in 2010 due to a change in Government which sought an educational review. This consequently caused compulsory Key Stage 2 language learning to reach realisation twelve years after its initial recommendation in the National Languages Strategy (2002) by the Languages National Steering Group, a working party established by a Labour government-run Department for Education and Skills. However, this curriculum reform initiative put through in 2014 by the Conservative government was not formed from this strategy twelve years in the making. In fact, this reform act was born from the newly-appointed Government’s own research and findings carried out since their entry into power.

The aim of this paper is to delve deeply into this curriculum reform initiative and, critically considering the latest thinking in Education Management, argue that due to the way in which this policy has been implemented, compulsory Key Stage 2 language learning will fall far short from fulfilling the Government’s aims for it. It will lead to establish the key obstacles affecting the success of this policy and argue that the insufficient time given to primary schools to prepare has ultimately resulted in the absence of key features and structures required. This paper does not suggest that the Labour government had a faultless proposal in place that was ignored; in fact, Section 1 will argue that multiple ongoing systematic failures across both governments across twelve years will inevitably result in this policy being unsuccessful. Section 2 delves into the factors influencing its effectiveness from an Education Management standpoint and compares it against previous examples of implemented reform. Whilst Section 3 analyses various methods as to how the success of the policy may be measured.

Section 1: Breakdowns in the lead up to its implementation.

The aforementioned National Languages Strategy (2002) sought to raise the profile of language learning by the end of the decade. In its foreword its vision and agenda are clearly outlined, “It sets out how we will achieve a step change in language competence in this country, how we will create an appetite for learning and broaden and enrich the opportunities for language learning at school and beyond” (p. 4). Its use of the word ‘strategy’ in its title could not be more appropriate. However, by 2006, the Labour government had yet to introduce any statutory changes and the then Secretary of State for Education asked Lord Dearing to advise him on how best to cater for language learning in the curriculum. This resulted in the Languages Review (2007) which, once more, recommended its compulsory inclusion at Key Stage 2. It referred to the existing National Languages Strategy and stated its intention to build on it and proposed, “both short and longer term measures aiming to embed languages in the curriculum for primary schools” (p. 8). A year later, a new Secretary of State for Education asked for a review of the primary curriculum and sought advice on how to implement Key Stage 2 language learning. This request for information already provided the year before as well as six years before that exemplifies a significant breakdown during the Labour government, the inadequate circuitous management of a policy which, by now, should already have been considerably into its preparation phase.

Nothing had come to fruition by 2010 when the newly in power Conservative government sought its own review of the curriculum. This resulted in the Framework for the National Curriculum (2011) report which stated of Languages:

It is worth noting at this point that the optimum age at which to introduce modern foreign language teaching remains a contested matter that requires careful consideration of evidence […] However, we do believe because of its importance that it should be included in the National Curriculum at upper Key Stage 2.

Somewhat oddly, this proposal did not go into any further depth. It did not delve into why the optimum age is contested which, on the contrary, I would hold that going back nine years had been a unanimously uncontested and thoroughly supported matter amongst specialists. Interestingly, the report also does not offer clarity on its considered importance which is sufficiently influential to introduce a statutory policy at Key Stage 2. It is also noteworthy that despite referring to the importance of introducing a modern foreign language, its inclusion in the curriculum was done so as an either-or with an ancient language. These points highlight a considerable lack of thoroughness and dedication given to Languages in the report. To emphasise this viewpoint further, shortly afterwards the age of introduction was lowered from its upper Key Stage 2 recommendation to encompass all of Key Stage 2. The key differences between this report and those released before it can be attributed to it being carried out by a working party covering all aspects of the curriculum, whereas previously it had been language specialists who were commissioned to conduct the research. However, while on the one hand a neutral review may appear more preferable as subject-specific reviews can be expected to promote a vested interest (Williams, 2000), the need for it to produce the same level of detail cannot be underestimated due to the unparalleled influence that evidence carries. Such much so, that in discussing Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence, Priestley and Humes (2010) reiterate that their analyses is being framed against “well-establish curriculum theory” (pp. 345-346), twice within its first two pages.

A hugely significant pitfall of the statutory introduction of Languages at Key Stage 2 is that only two full academic years were given in order for the Primary sector to put the necessary structures in place and no guidelines or suggested pathways were offered to schools to ensure its successful implementation. The National Languages Strategy (2002) highlighted that in order to deliver effective language learning at Key Stage 2, it would be imperative to focus both on the professional development of current staff as well as the training and recruitment of new language specialists. This substantial undertaking was a predominant reason why it projected accomplishing its strategy by the end of the decade. Such a time scale certainly raises alarm bells for the Conservative government’s 31-month pre implementation preparation period. However, what evidence is there, if any, to suggest that this policy was not ready as its commencement?

Each year, the CfBT Education Trust and the British Council conduct a Language Trends survey. State and Independent secondary schools have taken part since 2004 and state primary schools were added in 2012. The 2013/14 survey (the academic year before the introduction of this policy) found that in primary schools, “33 per cent (the same proportion as in the 2012 survey) do not have systems in place to monitor or assess pupil progress in the foreign language” (p. 5). There are two things of note here which are each as disconcerting as each other, the very high percentage and no progress having been made leading to the final year before its implementation. The following academic year saw this statutory policy come into effect and the 2014/2015 survey unearthed some further significant findings. Whilst it found that 99 per cent of primary schools had a modern or ancient language in its curriculum (p. 5), just “40 per cent of schools are confident that they have already met the requirements of the new national curriculum in full” (p. 6) and, “as many as 31 per cent do not have any staff with more than a GCSE in a language” (p. 6). The above findings leave in no doubt that at this reform act’s introduction, an overwhelming number of schools were ill-equipped and unprepared.


Section 2: Factors influencing the success of this policy and learning from reform elsewhere.

This section argues that the policy in its current form is not conducive to successfully implementing language learning nationwide. In looks at past examples of successful and unsuccessful policy reforms in order to gauge similarities and dissimilarities which may help predict the future of language learning at Key Stage 2. The successful reform, the West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative, which looked to eradicate illiteracy in its schools, will be compared with the Leeds Primary Needs programme which aimed to boost achievement in primary schools in the area.

Whilst the aims of the Primary Needs Programme were “too generalised to provide a secure base-line for a substantial programme of financial investment and structural change” (Alexander, 1997, p. 152), alternatively, the aims of the West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative outlined by Mackay (2007) were very clear. To offer an example, it sought “to raise the literacy level of all children in the pre-school year, Primary 1 and Primary 2 in all schools throughout the authority using a multiple-component intervention” (p. 13). The importance of having clear and purposeful aims cannot be underestimated as effective pedagogy and quality cannot be otherwise assured (Winch, 1996; Alexander, 1997). The aims of Key Stage 2 Languages listed in the National Curriculum in England (2013) consists of four general bullet points focusing on what language learning should enable students to do communicatively, “speak with increasing confidence, […] finding ways of communicating, […] develop an appreciation of a range of writing” (p. 193). A trait of the National Curriculum is that across many subjects it often leaves itself open to implicit aims being formed, as this is perhaps the only way that it can satisfy all the different stakeholders with differing perspectives that it needs to cater for. A danger of such unspecific and open definitions however is that it creates an all-encompassing curriculum lacking in guidance and purpose. This is an impression that has been prevalent since the Education Reform Act in 1998. Lawton (1993) expressed, ‘the National Curriculum is left in a mess, to be sorted out by teachers […] the danger is that not only the National Curriculum will become even less coherent but that it will lose the support of classroom teachers” (pp. 117-118). Such aims also make it far more difficult to set equal parameters to distinguish the quality being produced which in turn signifies that measuring the success of the policy is problematic and comparable assessment difficult. This helps explain why the Language Trends 2013/14 survey found that 33 per cent of schools do not have procedures in place to monitor this. Whilst this freedom to manipulate the curriculum would not daunt a skilled language teacher, it would do quite the opposite for those with no higher language qualification than a GCSE. Alexander (1997) highlights a key failure of the Primary Needs Programme to be that there was a lack of assistance on provision. However, although a more prescriptive curriculum would help these teachers with their curriculum delivery, a negative upshot of this would be that such a move would take them back to what Tomlinson (2001) saw in the late twentieth century as teachers “reduced to technician status, ‘delivering’ a prepared curriculum” (p. 220). Whether or not the Government had foreseen the high number of insufficiently qualified Primary language teachers, the policy must be deemed inadequate because measures are not in place to cater for this reality.

The aims conclude with, “Language teaching should provide the foundation for learning further languages” (p. 193). It has already been discussed how the Framework for the National Curriculum (2011) did not delve into any detail when recommending making language learning compulsory at Key Stage 2. In its report there is a footnote which reads:

We are aware, for instance, of the arguments in favour of teaching language awareness in primary schools to avoid language choices which cannot be continued in secondary education, and the counter-proposals of those who believe that more specific capability in a language should be developed from as young an age as possible (p. 25)

Out of these polarised perspectives, the decision made was to allow the teaching of any modern or ancient language as a way of providing a foundation for future language learning. However, the subject content section of the Languages curriculum consists of twelve bullet points listing further aims on what pupils should be taught to do and, from the twelve, four are starred to indicate that they are not applicable to ancient languages. This raises the question as to whether those taking an ancient language are left at a disadvantage, and consequently, also queries the inclusion of ancient languages which did not feature at any point in the Framework for the National Curriculum (2011) report.

Unclear aims alongside a substantial choice of modern and ancient languages to choose from are significant inadequacies which could have been avoided with better research and more time allocated to devising a suitable strategy for the implementation of this policy. Increased time would have provided primary schools with the opportunity to liaise with their local secondary schools regarding language choices and subsequently cater training and recruitment around these needs. This would allow for purposeful language learning as opposed to a ‘teach whatever you can’ blanket policy. The current curriculum presents this wide choice range to be a stepping-stone opportunity for future language learning which would certainly be an adequate substitute for primary schools not able to accommodate their students with a language they will continue at secondary school. However, the manner in which it has been implemented appears to stop not much short of a subject speedily shoehorned into the curriculum, leaving the language choice open in order to maximise the number of primary schools able to offer anything at all.

Something important to reiterate at this point is that this is a national educational reform. In order for it to be successful therefore, it needs to be successfully implemented in an exceptionally wide range schools in vastly diverse areas across the country and, as a result, the policy will need to satisfy many stakeholders. However, this does not mean that the task is in itself unachievable, as otherwise all statutory components of the National Curriculum would already have been labelled as unmanageable on a national scale. Also of importance to state, is that whilst the policy is in place in 99 per cent of primary schools, in those schools in which the provision has recently been introduced, the policy is still in its infancy. In order to maximise its chances of success, it is essential that its implementation be introduced in such a way that it adheres to the requirements and ethos of the school which in turn is linked to that of the local community. This may be an intricate and sensitive process and one that needs to be carefully managed by the head or curriculum leader. Sergiovanni (1984) refers to ‘school culture’ and how it is a, “constructed reality, and leaders play a key role in building this reality” (p. 11). It is especially important because it controls, “how members should think, feel and behave.” (p. 11). The difficulty attributed to fostering change has been referred to as the ‘maintenance/development dilemma’ (Hargreaves and Hopkins, 1991). Hargreaves and Hopkins assert that reform must not be radical and that in change there must remain a discernible familiarity. For this change to be most effective, it is essential that school management support the policy, a large component of which is recognising the positive contributions it will bring to the wider school community. Additionally, it is a policy that should be a relatively easy for them to introduce into their school’s curriculum without causing much disruption as long as sufficient time is allocated to identifying the most appropriate language and to select, supply additional training to, or hire someone with the appropriate language background.

The above is especially important as it is of notable benefit to the successful outcome of a reform act if it is accepted by those who are required to implement it. Lum (2011) takes the view that in pursuing change, attention has turned “to the role not just of headteachers but of all teachers who are in a position to take responsibility and help bring about that change” (p. 88). The figure of 31 per cent of schools not having staff with more than a GCSE in a language is a significant setback to the proposed success of this policy as it represents a mammoth obstacle that the policy needs to overcome. In fact, increasing the figure of 40 per cent of schools that have met the requirements of the curriculum is heavily dependent on the 31 per cent being lowered. To put the percentage into a more evaluative figure, the Statistical First Release (2015) recorded 16,766 state-funded primary schools in England, 31 per cent of which equates to over 5,000 primary schools reporting that they have language teachers in place who are not in a position to adequately carry out this reform. As well as indicating that a sizeable number of primary language teachers are insufficiently skilled, as a by-product of this, it raises the question as to how motivated they would be to carry out the policy effectively. Alexander (1997) commented that a failure of the Primary Needs Programme was that it, “seriously underestimated the extent to which professional attitudes and understanding are vital factors in the improvement of practice” (p. 155).

From the outset, the West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative deemed it essential to maintain ongoing contact with both headteachers and teachers. In fact, it sought to involve all members of the community so that everyone could identify with it and own it as their own project (Mackay, 2007, p. 7). The benefits this initiative received by including headteachers and teachers go further than professional knowledge and guidance being readily available; it meant that cooperation from them was also more likely. Levin (2001) holds this to be crucial as altering practices depends on the decisions of many individuals (p. 28). However, a key disparity to highlight between the West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative and the Key Stage 2 Languages reform is quite obviously the difference in scale. Achieving cooperation at a national level is far dissimilar from doing so in a relatively small area. Nevertheless, certain underlying foundations still need to be shared. In fact, the National Languages Strategy (2002) highlighted that:

Changing the country’s attitude to teaching and learning languages will demand a huge cultural change. It will rely on action from Government, schools, LEAs, colleges, universities, employers, parents and learners. Partnership is the key to making this strategy a reality. It is only if we work together on the implementation of this strategy that we will achieve real and lasting change for the future (p. 4).

It is to the detriment of the Languages reform therefore that in 31 per cent of primary schools the current policy encounters likely unrest at the first hurdle with those required to implement it. As a statutory policy within the curriculum, language lessons are included in government inspections which is noteworthy as it indicates that Key Stage 2 language teachers are held accountable for what they deliver. Taking Winch and Gingell’s (2004) definition of accountability to be, “the idea that those who receive resources for a particular purpose can be called upon to justify their use of those resources” (p. 66), we can see how this, in turn, may add a considerable amount of pressure. Everson et al (2013) hold that this should not be the case and state, “a teacher should be held accountable only for the job she was hired to do” (p.367). Even so, the knowledge of an impending inspection in a subject they are insufficiently qualified to teach will likely further any pessimism already possessed towards the policy. Whilst Thrupp (2001) proposes that it is predominantly the compliance of students that makes schools effective. Schools are run via the process of a vast multitude of simultaneously run policies and I would suggest that without having in place from the outset a satisfactory level of pedagogical competency as well as cooperation, a policy does not reach the stage where students have an overriding influence over its effectiveness.

Alexander (1997) suggested that a reason this much-needed cooperation was not present in the Primary Needs Programme was a result of headteachers and teachers expected to, “adopt ideas and practices on the basis of belief and exhortation rather than argument and evidence” (p.152). This enforced adoption of an experimental pedagogical concept differs to the compulsory introduction of a well-established subject into the primary curriculum. Whilst it has been discussed how the Framework for the National Curriculum (2011) did not offer any detail when identifying its importance, its reference to the subject as possessing such prominence had arisen from past reviews, research, and the general perception of its standing reputation within education. For example, the Russell Group representing the UK’s leading 24 universities has it included as one of its Facilitating Subjects. What we have here, therefore, is a peculiar scenario where although on the whole the perceived benefits of the policy’s compulsory introduction are shared, it does not mean the policy will be successful due to the large number of insufficiently qualified teachers tasked with carrying out the policy. Potential resistance in this case will arise not from a lack of belief in the policy, but of skills.

Conversely, some academics argue that this absence of intrinsic motivation may not necessarily lead to a lack of cooperation (Greenfield, 1989; Bottery, 2002; Nicolaidou and Ainscow, 2005). In discussing the relationship between organisations and its people, Greenfield (1989) states, “the individual must concern himself not only with his own goals, but with those of others as well” (p. 85). This is a view also established by Nicolaidou and Ainscow (2005), although whereas Nicolaidou and Ainscow highlight the importance of working in collaboration and achieving unity, Greenfield argues that people do not need to share the same goals in order for something to succeed as long as they “hold a set of beliefs about what is right to do in an organization” (p. 92). People therefore do not necessarily do what they personally hold to be right, but what society deems to be right. In this instance, the organisation in question is the English educational system and English society deems that within this system, it is fundamental that the National Curriculum is adhered to. A key issue here however is that for the language teachers in these 31 per cent of schools, complicity alone would not equate to quality. Bottery (2002) discusses the notions of quality and he juxtaposes internal and external meanings. Bottery sees external quality as people creating “quality things because they are told to do so” (p. 60). However, a specific argument I wish to highlight here is that whilst these language teachers are creating, it is highly likely that the quality of what is being produced is low. Therefore, although intrinsic motivation may not be a prerequisite to accomplishing shared goals, progress cannot be made if adequately trained teaching personnel are not in place.  However, if and once the matter of training and recruitment in those 31 per cent of primary schools is managed, even then, can this policy be successful?

This question returns us to Thrupp (2001) and his assertion that schools are made effective by the compliance of its students. Socio-economic status had traditionally been seen as a predominant factor in explaining school effectiveness; several writers have suggested that the focus should lie elsewhere (Rutter et al, 1979; Thrupp, 1995, Duffield et al, 1996; Sammons, 1999, Webber and Butler, 2007). In fact, Webber and Butler (2007) conclude that postcode classification is such a reliable forecaster that, “the influence of the immediate residential neighbourhood may be as important as social class in determining the attitudes both of the child and of the neighbourhood” (p. 1251). Nevertheless, it is worth noting that opinion on socio-economic status affecting individual attainment is not an elapsed archaic notion. Lauder et al (2010) highlight that it still has a large role to play at an individual level in early educational development. It is therefore once a child commences school that it will gradually become less significant. The shift in focus from socio-economic status now tends to concentrate on the ‘school mix’ effect, which Thrupp (1995) views as the effect that a school’s social composition has on the educational outcomes of its individual students. Webber and Butler (2007) go a little further and place much emphasis on the importance of the proportions of these factors. Either way, a school with a good school mix will have a low level of internal friction, that is, resistance from students and indeed parents. An issue, however, is that although it is agreed that possessing the right school mix balance is important, the permutations of a school’s school mix are so great, that it will perhaps be unmanageable for research to be able to propose what a favourable mix is. What this all means for the Key Stage 2 Languages reform is that once the policy has been implemented into a school’s curriculum, the successfulness of the policy is entirely at the mercy of each school’s school mix. In fact, Reynolds and Packer (1992) attribute schools with having only an 8-15% effect on a student’s attainment. Wrigley (2004), on the other hand, regards measuring the effectiveness of a school to be entirely inadequate as it “distorts the picture by systematically pushing other factors into the distance. In effect, it regards the background factors as ‘assigned conditions’” (p. 23). However, being at the mercy of a school’s school mix is no different to any of the other statutory components within the curriculum. Maximising its chances of succeeding in as many schools as possible nationwide therefore would depend greatly on the policy increasing in strength, possessing clearer aims and, as we will look at now, introducing a strategy to provide professional and financial support.

Mackay (2007) asserts that, “visionary aims of raising educational achievement and eradicating illiteracy cannot be pursued without reference to the economic costs involved in implementing effective programmes” (p. 45). The importance attributed to financial resources is encountered in the Primary Needs Programme also. Interestingly, whilst the National Languages Strategy (2002) and the Languages Review (2007) referred to what would be required financially, it goes unmentioned in the Framework for the National Curriculum (2011). The Language Trends (2014) survey established that “much support that was previously available through local authorities or secondary school partnerships no longer exists” (p. 5), resulting in, “only 17% per cent of responding schools have invested in extra training for teachers and only six per cent have recruited new staff” (p. 6). The importance of the need for local or national support both pre and post implementation cannot be underestimated. Nicolaidou and Ainscow (2005) observed that in failing schools emotions were “directed towards the LEA. In particular, staff expressed disappointment about their educational authority and its lack of support” (p. 238). These Language Trends survey findings listed above highlight the necessity of more money having been allocated to those primary schools predicting difficulty in being able to fully cater for language provision. Given that the number of insufficiently qualified language teachers in the primary sector is so great, it is very difficult to comprehend why this had not been tackled in the lead up to the policy’s implementation.


Section 3: How the successfulness of this policy may be measured.

Stating that an educational reform act is going to be unsuccessful as 31 per cent of primary school language lessons are being taught by insufficiently skilled teachers is a relatively simple assertion to make. However, were this not the case or even, once it is not, how can the effectiveness of this policy be measured? One thing that can be assumed, although not necessarily always accurate, is that if a school is effective then the policies within that school are being executed successfully. However, assumption alone is clearly insufficient. Alongside its three aims, the West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative proposed three hypotheses which provided reference points for its results to be analysed against. The failure of the Key Stage 2 Languages reform to include something similar is yet a further limitation to it. What the subject does have supporting it is the Language Trends survey which has been a very useful method of data collection so far. It will continue collating information regarding the linguistic background of teachers in primary schools which will allow us to gauge the likely effectiveness of the teaching. The survey could also include asking secondary school language teachers for their opinions as to whether their students are arriving from primary school with an established foundation for language learning. Also currently in place is feedback through government inspection. However, feedback in this manner is delivered on an individual school-by-school basis, and in order to accurately determine the successfulness of this policy on a national scale, such qualitative data will need to be collated.

A further option could be to see if there is an increase in GCSE results once those who commenced compulsory language learning in Year 3 reach these examinations. However, academics such as Tooley (1997) advise against measuring success by outcome as it does not take into account the immeasurable differences that exist between schools in terms of their school mix and internal friction. He suggests that a better indicator would be to measure ‘the delivery of educational opportunities’ (p. 113). As a result of being a statutory part of the curriculum, schools are required to offer the educational opportunity to their students to familiarise themselves with language learning. Looking at the policy in this manner would suggest that not having hypotheses is a positive aspect as it is the opportunity that takes precedence. In opposition to this, Winch and Gingell (2004) argue that a publicly funded education system is set up to educate as opposed to simply offering the opportunity to be so. In fact, Grace (1989) argues that it is absolutely fundamental that the process of being educated occurs, as the foundation for democracy within a country is dependent upon it. It would seem, therefore, that analysing GCSE results is a viable option although there is a considerable amount of time to wait until this is possible. An alternative option which removes the value given to summative assessment, is to wait a further two years to check as to whether there has been a noticeable increase in university applications to study the subject.

The different methods of measuring the success of the policy are all credible options and are not mutually exclusive. For example, considerable weight could be given to both comparing the latest with preceding GCSE results and analysing the numbers of those applying to university to read a language. What must essentially be put in place however is a definitive strategy, not only so that the success of this policy can be judged, but also so that it can be continuously improved.


The introduction to this paper identified its intention to argue that the statutory inclusion of a modern and ancient language into the Key Stage 2 curriculum would be unsuccessful due to the way in which this policy has been implemented. Section 1 reviewed the twelve-year period in the lead up to its realisation which found numerous procedural failures across two governments. Whilst the Labour government’s circuitous requests for research halted the commencement of a much needed extensive planning period, the Conservative government pushed through the proposal on the back of its own commissioned research which lacked detail and offered no strategy. Of critical importance was that only 31-months were given to primary schools nationwide to prepare. The upshot of this meant that at its implementation, while 99 per cent of primary schools had introduced it into their curriculums, 60 per cent of them were unable to fully carry out the policy. This figure, although incredibly high, cannot be a standalone statistic as it could have meant that they were simply not ready at that point but would be soon. The significant statistic to come from this therefore and one continually referred to throughout the paper, was that 31 per cent of primary schools do not have staff with more than a GCSE in a language.

Section 2 commenced by looking at the aims of the policy due to the importance attributed to them in achieving pedagogical quality (Alexander, 1997; Winch, 1996). It found that the aims are too general which renders it challenging for the high number of unqualified teachers to create a curriculum and also difficult to measure the success of the policy. This paper scrutinised the subject content aims as a third were marked as inapplicable for the learning of ancient languages. As a result, concerns were raised over whether those taking an ancient language would be at a disadvantage, therefore querying the general inclusion of ancient languages and whether it is there due to enlarging the pool of teachers able to implement the policy.

This section then questioned whether, in order for a reform act to be successful, it must be accepted by those who are tasked to implement it. It argued that it is helpful if a policy is embraced which occurs as a result of the amount of research and evidence it has supporting it. The difficulty for the Key Stage 2 Languages reform however is that whilst the perceived benefits of language learning are widely accepted, in up to 31 per cent of primary schools it would be likely that this would not make a difference as, due to an absence of skills, a lack of cooperation may develop. Although many academics consider that people do not need to be intrinsically motivated in a cause in order to be complicit (Greenfield, 1989; Bottery, 2002, Nicolaidou and Ainscow, 2005), it was argued that quality cannot be created if it is being produced by people insufficiently qualified. From this, it reasoned that once sufficiently qualified language teachers were in place, the successfulness of this policy would be reliant on a school’s school mix effect. In order to maximise its chances of being effective under these conditions however, the policy would need to be strengthened.

This section concluded by analysing the importance of financial and professional support as highlighted by the Primary Needs Programme and the West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative. The Language Trends (2014) survey was invaluable here as it had established that primary schools had lost support from both local authorities and secondary schools.

The final section looked at varying credible qualitative and quantitative approaches to determine the success of the policy. As well as continuing with the Language Trends survey, analysing GCSE results and university application figures, and feedback through inspection were discussed. It concluded that what is crucial for the ongoing success of this policy is that a definitive strategy is chosen.

Ultimately, the rushed introduction of this reform act into the Key Stage 2 curriculum meant that it was inevitable that a considerable number of schools were not going to have the necessary procedures in place at its implementation. Immediate changes will need to be made if this policy is going to succeed, commencing with the most pressing concern of drastically reducing the number of insufficiently qualified language teachers. As Cohen (1995) asserts, “teachers’ knowledge of academic subjects, teaching, and learning; their professional values and commitments […] are crucial to the progress of systematic reform” (p. 15).

Categories: Junior Whole School