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Timeline of Modern Language Teaching in England

Created for the (2018–19) project 'Evolution and change in language education provision in the city of Coventry'


• 1961 – Hayter Committee – Committee on the place of non-European languages. Recommended the establishment of a ‘National Languages Institute’. The resulting Hayter Report highlighted the neglect of the teaching of non-European languages.

• 1962 - First school ‘language laboratory’ set up in Salford Grammar School, Lancashire. Within five years there were five hundred language labratories in schools.

• 1963 – Newsom Report – A report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (England). London: HMSO.

• 1963 – En avant! – Nuffield Foundation funded the production of teaching materials En avant! The project was led by Sam Spicer. In the same year the Nuffield Foundation also published a booklet titled Modern Languages in the Grammar School. It was prepared by a group of Merseyside schools arguing for the acceptance of communication as the aim for modern language study.

• 1964 – The first GCE ‘O’ Level in MFL with optional translation from English launched by the AEB.

• 1964 – DES issues circular 2/64, stipulating ‘the need to bring about a major development in the teaching of languages if this country is to maintain its competitive position in overseas markets’.

• 1964 – Committee for Research and Development established by the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Scotland (also involved were the trustees of the Nuffield Foundations, the University Grants Committee, the British Council, and the Federation of British Industries). Its intended aim was ‘to examine the need for research and development in modern languages and the teachers of these languages. It recommends the establishment of a Centre for Information on Language Teaching’.

• 1965 – Circular 10/65 – Issued by the government to instruct LEAs to submit plans for a ‘comprehensive re-organisation of secondary education’.

• 1966 – CILT’s Declaration of Trust proposed ‘the promotion of education by means of the collective of information on all aspects of modern languages and the teaching of modern languages and the making available of such information to such persons or bodies as may be concerned with the educational interests if the people of the UK’.

• 1967 – Schools Council collaborated with Nuffield Foundation to fund Materials Project at York. The project resulted in the publication of three new courses for secondary schools to supplement En Avant!

• 1967 – Plowden Report – Children and their primary schools, January 1967. The report emphasised the importance of a supportive home environment for primary school children and expressed doubts about the current approaches to teaching and learning.


• 1970 – School Council Working Paper no 28 – Titled New patters in sixth form modern language studies, it aimed to diversify the languages studied at sixth-form level and to encourage a wider range of students to study languages.

• 1972 – The place and aims of modern language teaching in secondary schools – Published by the Scottish Central Committee on Modern Languages, this report considered the important relationship between language learning and and industry, the increased numbers of people travelling for pleasure, and the move towards European community.

• 1974 – Burstall Report – Primary French in the Balance. London: NFER. The report highlighted the minimal difference at sixteen between early and late starters and outlined problems with language teaching. As a result, the DfE decided not to spend any more money on languages due to lack of results.

• 1974 – Bullock Committee Report – A Language of Life (London: HMSO) The report recommended whole-school policies of language across the curriculum, training for all teachers that included language training, and the recruitment of language assistants to support pupils’ spoken language.

• 1976 – Ruskin Speech – Speech by Prime Minister Callaghan first suggested the idea of a national curriculum. This was surprising as the government had not previously had a role in the curriculum. It marked the start of a shift in attitudes to education in the UK.

• 1977 – The early teaching of modern languages – Edited by P Hoy. The report considered the place of language teaching in primary schools and was supported by the Nuffield Foundation Committee.

• 1977 – HMI publish Curriculum 11-16 arguing that the core curriculum should make foreign language provision compulsory.


· 1980s – Language Awareness movement – The Language Awareness Movement adopted a behaviourist approach to language teaching, emphasising language learning as habit formation. It adopted approaches to both the native language and the target language.

· 1981 – Report of Rampton Committee – set up under Shirley Williams to enquire into the education of children from ethnic minorities.

· 1982 – The second foreign language in secondary schools: a question of survival – Schools Council. Modern Languages Committee. London: Schools Council.

· 1982 – Modern Language Teachers in Action – Report from a Nuffield study conducted in York.

· 1983 – Foreign Languages at Work – scheme launched by the British Overseas Trade Board and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

· 1985 – DES Better schools document – ‘the great majority of pupils should receive a course in a foreign language designed to be of lasting value and….a second foreign language should be offered from the second or third year to those pupils who can benefit from it’.

· 1985 – Swann Report – Education for all – Committee of Inquiry on education of children of ethnic minorities advised that using ‘home language for early school learning would be ethnically divisive’. Report advised awareness of language instead.

· 1988 – Kingman Report – Report of Committee of Inquiry into the Teaching of English. Approves the teaching about language in English as well as MFL.

· 1989 – Cox Report – By the National Curriculum Working Group – reiterates the idea of teaching students about language in English as well as MFL.


· 1990 – Harris Report – Initial report from the National Curriculum Modern Foreign Languages Working Group.

· 1990 – European Schools and language learning in UK schools – 13th report of the House of Lords Select Committee on European Communities. The report advised that a shortage of teachers was ‘the most serious concern with regard to the future of modern language teaching in the UK’ and called for government action.

· 1991 – The first version of the National Curriculum for MFL published. It outlined that students should combine two or more of the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) where appropriate and be given the opportunity to prepare their language skills for real-life contexts.

· 1994 – Dearing Report – This report was produced in response to discontent with the NC. It advised more freedom for schools to shape the delivery of the National Curriculum.

· 1995 – Secretary of State Gillian Shephard initiated the establishment of a network of specialist Language Colleges. In September and October the first six Language Colleges opened.


· 2000 – Nuffield Report – This report covered all aspects of language teaching in the UK and a number of initiatives began as a result:

- A National Director for Languages was appointed in 2003.

- The KS3 ‘Framework for Languages’ set out teaching objectives for MFL.

- The ‘Asset Languages’ scheme offered an alternative route to GCSE level languages. It also offered a wider range of languages.

- ‘Links into Languages’ offered support for teaching MFL at a national level through specialists, regional hubs, and teaching resources.

· 2000 – Powell Report – Made recommendations for MFL teacher training at primary level.

· 2002 – National Language Strategy – The national strategy aimed to make languages available to everyone and encourage students to adopt them as lifelong skills.

· 2003 – Improving modern foreign languages in Key Stage 3: support and guidance from the National Strategy – published by the Department for Education and Skills.

· 2003 – Framework for teaching modern foreign languages: Years 7, 8 and 9 – published by the Department for Education and Skills.

· 2005 – Thinking through Languages: A Multi-Lingual Approach to Primary School Languages – published in the ‘Language Learning Journal’ by Nick Jones, Ann Barnes, and Marilyn Hunt.

· 2005 – KS2 Framework for Languages – published by the Department for Education and Skills.

· 2007 – The Languages Ladder

· 2007 – Languages Review – Sir Ron Dearing and Lid King.

· 2009 – Progression and assessment in foreign languages at Key Stage 2 – published in ‘Language Learning Journal’ by Marilyn Hunt.

· 2009 – Rose Review – Independent review of the primary curriculum.


· 2010 – Children, their world, their education: final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review

· 2011 – The Coalition Government discontinued the Languages Strategy and in April 2011 most targeted national funding for languages in schools came to an end.

· 2011 – Modern languages: Achievement and challenge 2007–2010 – published by Ofsted.

· 2013 – Languages: the State of the Nation – British Academy report prepared by Teresa Tinsley.

· 2013 – Lost for words. The need for languages in UK diplomacy and security – British Academy report.

· 2013 – Languages for the future. Which languages the UK needs most and why – published by the British Council.

· 2014 – Manifesto for Languages – produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group.

· 2016 – Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review: A review of modern foreign languages teaching practice in key stage 3 and key stage 4 – report by Ian Baukham published by the Teaching Schools Council.