12 March 2007

Breaking The Language Barrier

As the father of a six-year-old who, when living overseas three years ago, could speak one foreign language and understand another in addition to his native English, I welcome Lord Dearing's recommendation that all children should learn a language from the age of seven. I would also agree with the British Chambers of Commerce that the government's decision three years ago to make languages optional for 14-16-year-olds was a mistake arising from their failure to understand the importance of language skills to the British economy.

However, as a school governor, I also recognise that the demands placed upon teachers and pupils as a result of the national curriculum, school league tables, targets, and backwash from annual SATs means that the state will need to give schools not just more financial support but also significantly more freedom if the benefits of these recommendations are in fact to be realised. The trouble is, whatever positive noises the Education Secretary makes in response to the Languages Review, I just don't believe this government would ever be willing to give the schools that kind of freedom.