Language Trends 2020

Jun 7, 2020

Oh gosh, is it that time of year again already? It is! The latest Language Trends report from the British Council, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses in language teaching and learning across primary and secondary schools in the UK is out, and as always, it makes for fascinating reading.

Excellent, tell me more. What are the headlines this year?  This year’s Language Trends survey (on which the report is based) received 608 responses from primary schools. The key findings were:

  • Firstly, teachers are lacking a strategy for languages implementation. The guidance needs to be clearer, and suitable resourcing needs to be offered. Without these it is difficult to “embed languages into practice in the primary school”. The implementation of languages across primary schools is inconsistent as a result. Unfortunately, part of the inconsistency is the amount of time dedicated weekly to languages: 50% of primary teachers report less than 45 minutes per week, while 30% report between 45 minutes and 1 hour
  • Secondly, CPD opportunities for teachers are somewhat lacking – 70% of primary teachers have not accessed languages-specific CPD in the last year. Primary teachers need their strong pedagogical skills to be bolstered with “second language acquisition theory in relation to younger learners”. There is also a need for some teachers to develop their own linguistic skills
  • Thirdly, the opportunity to “connect language with culture and the world beyond England” is often lacking in primary schools
  • Finally, transition from KS2 to KS3 continues to be ineffective, with “different attitudes as to what progress at the point of transition looks like”. Just 13% of primary respondents suggest there is any formal assessment of pupils’ progress in languages. On the other side of transition secondary schools are often not building on language skills developed in the primary phase. 46% of secondary respondents report no contact with primary schools in relation to languages

That all feels a little disheartening. What should I be doing? In terms of the findings, you need to be thinking about:

  1. Teaching consistently: best practice was recognised where “pupils receive language teaching little and often throughout each week and make progress in a language across KS2”. This is a strong argument for ensuring that languages stay firmly on the weekly curriculum this autumn
  2. CPD: consider how you can incorporate effective language acquisition skills into training and how you can support those teachers who may need their own language skills developed. See our CPD section for ideas
  3. International links: connecting with schools from the country of your focused language not only adds to the language experience, but helps children “connect language with culture and the world beyond England”
  4. Transition: try to develop more links and an active transition process with local secondary schools. This transition toolkit was recently developed by ASCL and ALL’s primary steering group. Part of your connection with local secondary schools should focus on cross phase planning

In a nutshell… The Languages Trend report has spoken – make sure you’re listening carefully.

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