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MFL in primary/secondary schools

As part of our 2018/19 project, we constructed a Timeline of Modern Language Teaching in England, and began to gather material on the recent local history of language teaching in Coventry schools (for example, the innovative language awareness focused multilingual approach to primary school language learning of the early 2000s - illustrated on the right).

One outcome of our 2019/20 project, 'Mapping the teaching and learning of languages in Coventry', has been a preliminary survey of school websites, providing information about the representation of Language Programs in Coventry (click on this link for the full report and read on for some highlights). Among other things, this survey shows that:

  • A number of primary schools do not list a language as part of their curriculum offerings on their webpages. This may indicate that they do not offer a language at all or it may mean that they do not feel as if ML is an important enough part of the curriculum to warrant attention on their websites. Most school websites appear to list all other curriculum areas so the absence seems more likely to indicate a lack of a language program in the school.
  • In those primary schools which state they offer languages, French and Spanish are widely taught, with little teaching of other languages (the numbers of schools offering different languages are indicated in the Figure below):

graph showing numbers of schools offering different languages

  • All primary schools stating that they offer more than one language are found in schools with lower eligibility for free school meals. There is therefore some evidence of a class bias in language learning is primary schools.

  • French and Spanish remain the most widely taught languages in secondary schools, but the range of languages is expanded (number of schools offering different languages indicated below):

graph showing number of secondary schools offering different languages

  • All secondary schools state that they offer a language, and the majority of schools offer more than one language although, most schools offer either one or two.

  • French and Spanish are taught across Coventry, German is more widely taught than in primary schools.

  • CV1 has the highest proportion of secondary schools teaching only a single language, and no schools in CV3 or CV4 teach only one language. The schools offering most languages are located mainly in CV4. This graph shows the number of languages taught by school by postcode:

graph showing number of languages taught by schools by postode

  • In almost half of schools, language study becomes optional from Year 9 and only a minority of schools require language study for GCSE. Language study is more likely to be required for GSCE in higher socioeconomic status (SES) schools (according to proportion of free school meals) than in lower SES schools.


Coventry City Council 'thinking through languages' Year 3 lesson plans, 2005

A set of lessons plans published by Coventry City Council Education Services for Schools, 2005