Primary Modern Foreign Languages – the gap created by School Direct

The School Direct programmes, relying heavily on an apprenticeship model of training with some University quality assurance built in, will struggle to meet the needs of schools as they introduce Primary Modern Foreign Languages.

University-based teacher training included a number of courses that attracted language graduates  and developed their pedagogy.  As a result, there are some brilliant langauge teachers in schools. There is no evidence coming out of the Department of Education or the National College that the School Direct programmes are bringing into the profession the language skills that will be necessary to meet all schools’ needs.  With a quarter of schools lacking teachers with langauge qualifications above GCSE (CfBT Education Trust survey), School Direct students may be experiencing an “apprenticeship” with teachers who do not teach a language. This problem was highlighted by Thomae and Griffiths in their study of GTP students. Unless we can make greater use of the expertise around MfL pedagogy that exists in Schools of Education, the government’s desire to see children learn languages effectively may not be met. As it stands School Direct is too generalist to bring in sufficicient teachers who have a passion for languages and an understanding of pedagogy.  The answer maybe in employing experts from other professions/backgrounds, however the unqualified language assistant has been the bedrock of many secondary schools’ (maintained and independent) provision for decades and the current state of langauges in England highlights the lack of long term impact from a transient, low paid workforce.  


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