In December, concerned about issues arising from the Schools White Paper The Importance of Teaching (and learning?), for the first time in my life I wrote to a number of Members of Parliament, to seek their views on language teaching and learning in schools.
I had three responses acknowledging my email, all of which indicated that because these people were very busy, it might be some time before I received a response. (I hope they are ‘busy’ finding out about and representing my views, actually.)
Today I received an email from an address which showed up as ‘Unmonitored.ACCOUNT’. I almost deleted it, as it didn’t look particularly healthy sitting in my Inbox, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Because as it turned out, the email was from the Public Communications Unit at the Department for Education, replying to my messages to both Michael Gove, and Sarah Teather. Toofer the price of one – or rather, one response, where I asked two separate people for their views.
Dear Ms O’Sullivan
Thank you for your emails dated 13 December addressed to the Secretary of State and the Minister of State for Children and Families, about modern foreign languages in the curriculum. I hope you will appreciate that due to the large volume of letters that Ministers receive, I have been asked to reply.
The Coalition Government is fully committed to the teaching of languages in schools, not only for its social and economic benefits, but also because learning a language helps pupils to understand the different cultures of people around the world. In his speech at the Westminster Academy on 6 September 2010, the Secretary of State announced that learning a modern or ancient language would be one of the core subjects of the new English Baccalaureate, along with English, mathematics, science and a humanities subject: further detail was included in the White Paper The Importance of Teaching.
I know that primary school teachers and others have worked very hard over the last few years to stimulate an early interest in language learning, and a recent NfER study showed that 92 per cent of primary schools are now teaching foreign languages within class time at Key Stage 2. The Coalition Government believes that learning a language at primary school can inspire children with a love of languages that will stay with them throughout their secondary education and beyond.
Given the importance of language learning, and the benefits of an early start, we expect that the majority of primary schools that are already teaching languages will continue to do so.
On 20 January, the Secretary of State for Education announced that we would be carrying out a review of the National Curriculum to return it to its original purpose – a core national entitlement organised around subject disciplines. The review will consider the place of languages within the National Curriculum in both primary and secondary schools and will ensure that our core curriculum can compare with those of the highest performing countries around the world. In designing the new curriculum, we plan to consult a wide range of academics, teachers and others with an interest in what is taught in schools. You can read the full remit for the review at: http://www.education.gov.uk/nationalcurriculum
We want to hear from as many people as possible as we take this review forward, and to generate a lively debate about what is taught in our schools. In the first instance we have launched a Call for Evidence:
to which anyone can contribute their views and experiences.
I hope that you will feel able to respond.
Public Communications Unit
Now, the whole prompt for writing in the first place was the White Paper, so that’s not helpful. And having already given my response to the Call for Evidence, I’m not sure where that leaves me.