According to the Language Trends Survey 2014, 75% of primary schools teach French and 20% teach Spanish. That leaves just 5% teaching other languages.
Not surprisingly, this trend is reflected in the MFL books we publish. The majority are for French, followed by Spanish. However we do have eight resources for German and three for Italian. We also have flashcards and two books that can be used with any language: 100+ Fun Ideas for Practising Modern Foreign Languages in the Primary Classroom and More Fun Ideas for Advancing Foreign Languages in the Primary Classroom. Given that the Survey indicates that only 5% of primary schools teach a language other than French or Spanish, why do we bother with other languages?
First of all, the size of the study was quite small. Only 591 primary schools responded to the Survey (20% of total sent out); or, to put it another way, only 3.5% of all primary schools in England responded.
Secondly, from what we’ve seen, there are significant regional variations in the languages taught. For example, the London Borough of Hackney has chosen Spanish as their preferred language for primary schools, while Italian is a very popular in and around Bedford (where 20,000 people of Italian origin live).
Thirdly as the Survey pointed out, 30% of primary schools have a member of staff with a degree in the language they are teaching. (I personally think this is very impressive – what percentage of primary schools have a member of staff with a degree in science, or history, or geography…? ) If a school has a member of staff with a degree in Italian, Greek or Mandarin, it makes sense to use it.
So why do does Brilliant Publications publish resources for teaching German and Italian? We have been championing the importance of primary Modern Foreign Languages since 2001, so we are delighted that foreign languages will finally be statutory at KS2. Not all our MFL books have been terribly profitable, but I don’t regret publishing any of them, if they have helped in some small way to strengthen primary foreign language teaching in this country. We can’t afford to create German and Italian editions of all our titles, but where we can, we will continue to do so.
There will, of course, be challenges with the new National Curriculum. According to the survey 29% of schools don’t feel confident at teaching foreign languages in Years 5 and 6. We have lots of exciting new resources in the pipeline. As always, we will continue to try to make our resources as accessible as possible for non-specialist teachers. For a full list of our MFL resources and our top 10 reasons for teaching primary foreign languages, click here.