Headlines: June 10th, 2003

Nineteen Local Education Authorities have been chosen to pilot projects and develop strategies designed to introduce foreign language learning for seven to eleven year old pupils. Education Minister Catherine Ashton said schools in the selected areas would set the trail for a revolution in language learning which would see all children given the opportunity to learn a foreign language.The nineteen LEAs will develop ways to share good practice both within and outside their areas, share resources such as experienced staff and specialist equipment, foster professional development, and build local, regional, national and international partnerships.

The nineteen selected areas are Barking and Dagenham, Birmingham, Brighton and Hove, Bury, Coventry, East Riding, Enfield, Hammersmith and Fulham,Hampshire. Kent, Knowsley, Liverpool, Norfolk, North Tyneside, Nottinghamshire, Oldham, Richmond upon Thames, Sheffield and Lancashire. Some of the authorities will be working together in joint projects.

Catherine Ashton said the pilots would pave the way for every primary pupil to have the opportunity to study at least one foreign language by 2010. Children have traditionally not started to learn languages until secondary school, when for many children, she said, it was too late. This meant that only 39% of fifteen year olds studying a foreign language last year achieved grades A* -C and only 11% of 16 to 18 year old students chose to take a language at A level. This in turn meant that only 2 in every 100 undergraduates were studying a language in 2001-02.

“We have a challenging agenda to turn around attitudes to language learning but we are determined to give young people the opportunity to learn a language and benefit from all the social and career advantages this will give them,” she said.

The minister also announced the appointment of Dr Lid King as the new National Director for Languages. Dr King will play a key role in the implementation of the Government’s National Languages Strategy.