Languages and the new National Curriculum - what you need to know!

Thanks to Lisa Stevens for this blog post. Lisa is an independent consultant and Primary language and International coordinator at two Birmingham Primary schools.

Languages are compulsory at Key Stage 2 from September 2014 under the new Primary Curriculum. For some, that’s a cause for great rejoicing at a long-awaited hope made reality. For others, that statement will fill them with great trepidation and dread as they contemplate how they are going to meet this requirement.

A lot of time and effort has gone into primary languages over the last ten years through the publication of the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages, the updating of the QCA Schemes of Work in French, German and Spanish and the preparation of TDA version, and lots of training at local regional and national level to get schools ready for languages to move from an entitlement to statutory. This was supposed to happen in September 2012 but a change of Government delayed that.

The good news is that all that work happened, so many schools have ideas and skills that can be applied to the new curriculum. The bad news is that specific funding for primary language training has ceased and support must come from other sources including ALL Primary Hubs, online fora and peer support. If you are familiar with the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages, you will recall that it is based on three strands – Oracy, Literacy and Intercultural Understanding - with two cross cutting strands of Knowledge about Language and Language Learning Skills. You will also recall that the Framework was a meaty document with clear steps needed to progress from the first to fourth year of language learning, examples of how you might do that and guidance on important matters like transition, inclusion and assessment.

Key changes The ‘strands’ idea has gone but all that was covered by them is still included. For example, there’s no mention of Intercultural Understanding but the opening comment in the programme of study makes it clear that it plays a vital role:  


Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures. A high-quality languages education should foster pupils’ curiosity and deepen their understanding of the world.”

In place of the strands are a series of Aims and then statements that form the Subject Content.

Important points

  • Any language can be taught, modern (French, German, Spanish, Mandarin etc) or ancient (Latin, Greek etc)
  • Learners should make “substantial progress in one language.” That doesn’t mean that they can’t investigate other languages too, comparing and contrasting them with their one language(s) and the one they’re learning.
  • Key Stage 2 language learning lays a foundation for Key Stage 3. Pupils may learn another language(s) at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 2 can be seen as an apprenticeship, learning important transferable skills. the aim is practical communication, “to understand and communicate ideas, facts and feelings in speech and writing, focused on familiar and routine matters, using their knowledge of phonology, grammatical structures and vocabulary.”
  • There is a balance between spoken and written language
  • Learners need to be able to ask questions as well as answer them, and engage in conversations
  • Songs, rhymes, stories and poems are specifically mentioned; as something to be appreciated as well as an important means of seeing patterns in language
  • There needs to be a range of audiences and types of writing included; writing a letter or email to your penfriend for each topic won’t cover it!
  • The subject content statements can be split into five sections: listening, speaking, reading, writing and grammar 

Remember! Languages are compulsory from September 2014 so if you haven’t done languages before, all year groups will be on their first year of language learning, irrespective of year group. You need to build a foundation of skills in that first year on which learners can build over the four years, moving from single word responses to short phrases to sentences with support before beginning to speak and write with less support in sentences and short paragraphs by the end of Key Stage 2.

I’m excited that languages are finally statutory and I am looking forward to continuing to nurture a love of languages in learners at my schools, encouraging them to, in the words of all the twee posters “Keep calm and enjoy languages.”

Take a look at the latest MFL resource from Rising Stars, Euro Stars New Primary French!

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Assessment, Computing and ICT, Eurostars New Primary French, Languages

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