Foreign Language Learning in Primary School

This project will test the effect of learning a foreign language at Key Stage 2, looking particularly at the impact on literacy development in English. Primary class teachers will be trained in evidence-based approaches to teaching languages. Teachers will also receive lesson plans and curriculum resources to enable them to deliver the programme. The approach, although first and foremost about learning a foreign language, also gives pupils the opportunity to revisit fundamental aspects of English literacy, comparing elements of grammar and phonology in English and the foreign language. Teachers are also shown how to broaden children’s English vocabulary through the acquisition of new words in the foreign language and discovering their root and therefore their relationship to English.

Why are we funding it?

The project will investigate the wider benefits of foreign language learning, building on some promising evidence from experimental studies with matched control groups. Currently the majority of primary schools teach languages, but the amount and quality of the instruction varies widely. This project could then provide a structured and evidence-based model for schools to adopt in the future.

How are we evaluating it?

The project will be evaluated by a team from the Institute of Education and will be set up as a two-armed class level randomised controlled trial. The evaluation is set up as an efficacy trial. Efficacy trials aim to test whether an intervention can work under ideal conditions (e.g. when being delivered by the intervention’s original developer) in greater than 10 schools.

40 schools will be recruited to the trial, and all class teachers within Years 3 and 4 will be randomised to either receive the foreign language learning programme described above or continue with business as usual, receiving the variety of foreign language experiences that are delivered within English primary schools. Standardised literacy measures will be conducted after two terms, looking at general literacy, vocabulary, grammar and phonics.

When will the evaluation report be due?

An evaluation report on the findings of the trial will be published in Autumn 2015.