There has been much research into the teaching of modern foreign languages in primary schools since the Government’s Green Paper and MFL supplement (available via the web at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/14-19greenpaper/download.shtml), published in February 2002, outlined plans for each pupil to be entitled to learn a foreign language at Primary School throughout key stage 2 (KS2, age 7-11) by 2012, and the National Languages Strategy published in 2003 brought this forward to 2010. Much of this research has been carried out by a team from the University of Warwick Institute of Education. This research has included the following:
The report commissioned in 2000 by the Qualifications and Curriculum Agency (QCA) and carried out by the University of Warwick aimed to conduct a feasibility study into the teaching of Modern Foreign Languages at Key Stage 2 in England. At that stage approximately 21% of schools were providing access to a foreign language (usually French) for KS2 pupils but that there was considerable variability in the extent of primary MFL provision across the country.
Powell, B., Wray, D., Rixon, S., Medwell, J., Barnes, A. & Hunt, M. (2000) Analysis and evaluation of the current situation relating to the teaching of Modern Foreign Languages at Key Stage 2 in England: Research report commissioned by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Coventry: University of Warwick. (Report can be downloaded from here).
In 2005, we were commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills to carry out an evaluation of a set of digital materials being developed to support the teaching of Spanish in primary schools. This evaluation led to a general endorsement of the approach taken by these materials, which were widely disseminated by the DfES and are now in wide use in primary schools. This work was also notable in that it was, to our knowledge, the first research evaluation in the UK to focus on a modern foreign language other than French.
Wray, D., Hunt, M., Medwell, J., Morgan, J. & Powell, B. (2005) Evaluation of a programme of digital materials for teaching Spanish in the primary school, Research report commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills. Coventry: University of Warwick. (Report can be downloaded from here).
In a further project, we were commissioned in 2005-06 by the Department for Education and Skills to carry out a national evaluation of the Language Pathfinder programme and look at possible models of delivery and their effectiveness. One of the key recommendations of this research was that all primary schools should be encouraged to draw up a policy document for Primary Foreign Languages provision with a rationale, clear short and longer term aims, and an indication of outcomes expected, staffing, time allocation, scheme of work, resources, assessment procedures, and transition arrangements. The report was published in 2005:
Muijs, D., Barnes, A., Hunt, M., Powell, B., Martin, C., Arweck, E. & Lindsay, G. (2005) Evaluation of the Key Stage 2 language learning pathfinders. London: DfES, available at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RR692.pdf) .
Other publications resulting from this project include:
Hunt, M., Barnes, A., Powell, B., Geoff Lindsay, G., and Muijs, D. (2005) 'Primary modern foreign languages: an overview of recent research, key issues and challenges for educational policy and practice', Research Papers In Education, 20 (4), 371 - 390 (0267-1522) [article]
Hunt, M., Barnes, A., Powell, B., and Martin, C. (2008) 'Moving on: the challenges for foreign language learning on transition from primary to secondary school', Teaching And Teacher Education, 24 (4), 915 - 926 (0742-051X) [article]
Hunt, M.J. (2009) 'Progression and assessment in foreign languages at Key Stage 2', Language Learning Journal, 37 (2), 205 - 217 (0957-1736) [article]