Making the leap from primary to secondary language learning

With September in full swing, the new academic year has brought with it a number of fresh changes and additions to the National Curriculum, including the requirement for all primary schools to teach a foreign language at Key Stage 2. This will surely be good news to all secondary school language departments, keen to help students develop a love for languages as early as possible.

Now all students are set to enter Year 7 with at least a basic grounding in a second language, allowing them to enjoy a smoother transition to secondary language learning. At least that’s the idea.

The reality however, is that the Government’s guidance on implementing the new language curriculum has been rather limited, leaving it up to primary schools to make important decisions about how and what language/s to teach, and whether to extend this to Key Stage 1 students too. The result of this will see secondary schools having to accommodate students with varying ability levels and exposure to language learning. On top of this, a report by the British Council and CfBT Trust found that just 27 per cent of state secondary schools were confident that they could offer their Year 7 pupils the same language they learned in primary school.

But as Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, once said: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”, and language learning is no exception! If all primary and secondary schools within the same locality work together to align their language teaching, the new curriculum will be in a much stronger position to fulfil its purpose; creating a generation of multilinguists fit for an international job market.

Taking the lead on this is the London Borough of Hackney, with its 52 primary schools having made the united decision to introduce Spanish as the first language taught to students. This consortium of primary schools have also agreed on how this will be taught – through one dedicated lesson a week, as well as weaving vocabulary into other subjects and classroom activities on a daily basis, which can really help bring languages to life for students. To add to this, the Borough has ensured that all of its 11 secondary schools will continue to offer Spanish as part of the language curriculum.

This is an excellent example of how collaboration between schools can ease the jump from primary to secondary language learning for both students and teachers, and here at Vocab Express we’re looking forward to seeing far more of this over the next year!

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