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The new KS2/3 MFL curriculum

The KS2/3 MFL curriculum was published this morning after a consultation period.

The key document is here. See page 213 onwards.

Clare Seccombe has done a summary of some key issues

The only significant change to the document I summarised and commented on here is that there will be a free choice of modern or ancient language at KS2 and a free choice of modern language at KS3. This seems to be in response to criticism that the original draft may have been unfair to non-native English speakers, minority languages and other modern languages which had not featured in the original list of seven. It remains a curiosity that ancient languages are acceptable at KS2, but not KS3. I would have been happier to see them out of the equation completely as they usually occupy a place in the timetable where children could be learning a modern language.

So, in essence, we still have a slim document, short on content (in striking contrast to the "pub quiz" style lists of other subjects) and effectively laying out the type of activities children would be expected to carry out. At KS2 children will be expected to write more and have a more sophisticated grasp of grammar. KS3 should build on the foundations of KS2; considerable local cooperation will be needed for this to happen. Will it? At KS3 references to grammar and topics are broad brush, but the references to literary texts, letters, poems, songs and culture are welcome. Current topics can be too dry and functional. Ultimately, the new GCSE examination will dictate what teachers do. Expect a big backwash effect, but little fundamental change in the content of courses, apart from the end of controlled assessments.

There remains the peculiar Govian reference to "great literature" (but not, for example, film). This will be sensibly ignored by teachers. There also remain the references to translation into and from the target language, which I consider to be an unnecessary, ideological inclusion which is too prescriptive for teachers. I thought that teachers were not going to be told how to teach, but I was apparently wrong. It has also been pointed out that there is almost no reference to intercultural understanding at KS2 - this seems like a serious omission which should have been addressed.

But these are details. The most fundamental point is surely that the national curriculum now enshrines the place of modern languages at KS2. Even though over half of publicly funded secondary schools, almost all primaries and all independents can choose to ignore the national curriculum (a totally bizarre state of affairs), it is likely that primary schools will, by hook or by crook - and certainly not with any financial help to train teachers or supply resources -  implement or enhance provision of languages. It will occupy a small amount of curriculum time and be a success where teachers are skilled and motivated, a reluctant duty elsewhere.


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