Thursday, 15 December 2011

Inspiring language learners of the future

Last night I attended the launch of a report published by the Education and Employers Taskforce on the economic case for language learning and the role of employer engagement [1].  The report, endorsed by ASCL, Business for New Europe and CfBT Education Trust, contains compelling evidence on the importance of languages as a skill for the current and future UK workforce, as well as highlighting the issues that languages face in today’s policy climate.
The profile of the speakers highlighted the importance of the subject. Brian Lightman, Sir Jim Rose, Professor James Foreman Peck and business leaders including Richard Hardie of UBS all spoke out in favour of the benefits of languages and language learning for employability and personal development.
While Brian Lightman noted that languages had been ‘kicked about in so many directions’ in our school system, he pointed out that the research presented at the event emphasized just how important languages are to employers and therefore how important they are to school and college students.  However, he stressed the need for more messages from a wide range of employers communicating the value of language skills. The importance of getting employers, and employees, into schools to talk about their personal experience of the value of language skills was also discussed, and the Education and Employers Taskforce’s scheme Inspiring the Future should provide a much-needed mechanism for this type of engagement between business and education.
It is too early yet to assess the impact that developments such as the English Baccalaureate are having on languages in our school system, but the media recently has been full of examples of how awarding bodies, schools and teachers are pressurised into various activities to ensure the maximum results for pupils. While performance tables exist, who can blame schools for discouraging students from following a GCSE in which they feel they won’t get a high grade? And unfortunately, for many this GCSE will be a language, no matter how much enjoyment they get from the subject.
As language provision in schools suffers from timetabling pressures, staff cuts and the perception that is it is a difficult subject, first hand testimonies from individuals in the workplace can inspire learners to continue with language learning and enhance their global job prospects at the same time. I’m sure Inspiring the Future can make a real difference to the profile of language learning, and if you want to get involved and go into schools to talk about the benefits of languages to your career, why not register today, at ?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Gove’s primary colours

So Michael Gove has nailed his colours to the mast and suggested at this week’s Conservative Party conference that foreign languages should be taught to children from age 5 (The Guardian, Sept 30).
"There is a slam-dunk case for extending foreign language teaching to children aged five.”

This announcement has generated a great deal of press over the weekend and delighted many. But those who work in modern foreign languages education might argue that this announcement is 18 months overdue.
Prior to the election in May 2010, in response to the Rose Review in 2008, a bill had been submitted to make primary languages statutory from September 2011. In preparation for statutory primary languages, local authorities, the Training and Development Agency for schools, CILT, the National Centre for Languages and other organisations including the British Council had developed a range of programmes for teaching staff to develop their skills to be able to offer modern foreign languages in primary schools. From specialist PGCEs to intensive training courses in France, Germany and Spain, teachers became confident, capable teachers of languages and pupils reaped the benefits.  
Despite the ‘slam-dunk case’ for primary language learning, this bill was blocked when the coalition government came to power. As a result of this procrastination, languages were not statutory when the new term started in September this year. Years of planning, training and investment by schools, who had been preparing for the statutory requirement, were put on hold when the bill did not go through. School leadership teams that were pro-languages continued to invest in languages development but others, who adhere more closely to government policy, put the investment on hold and language teaching stuttered. As a result, language teaching was reduced or halted in many schools and uncertainty was rife.
Obviously there are other elements to the bill concerning the primary curriculum that the Coalition may not view so favourably, but why wait 18 months to revisit the foreign language element if Gove is so supportive?
Better late than never
Nevertheless, it is excellent news that our Education Secretary has voiced his support for early language learning. But what next?  Will he invest in training and development of teachers, like the previous government? Will he move to introduce legislation that could have already been in place and ensured that all five-year-olds were learning a language now? Or will he expect his endorsement to be sufficient incentive for primary schools to invest in language learning?

Friday, 30 September 2011


Welcome to the Arqueros blog.

I hope you will join us for the latest news on education and business, and the relationship between the two.

These are challenging times for education and business, with coalition government policies and the global recession presenting a range of issues for individuals and organisations.

From primary school to Higher education, from microenterprise to multinational, the Arqueros blog will provide an independent view on the latest issues and the policy behind them.