Thursday 26 September 2019

New report links the teaching of international languages in Welsh primary schools to heightening pupil’s confidence and learning abilities across all subjects.

The report, commissioned by the British Council Wales, paints a positive picture for the potential of international languages to create a generation of capable, confident and culturally aware ‘global citizens’ in Wales through the introduction of international language teaching in Welsh primary schools.

The report sampled 10 primary schools across Wales, surveying both headteachers, staff and pupils, and interviewed stakeholders from the four regional consortia. By surveying schools who had already used both traditional and innovative methods of including languages in the school’s curriculum the report looks ahead and is able to analyse the benefits of embedding international languages, discussing the differing approaches and make recommendations for other schools based on best practice.

Key take-outs

  • Primary schools that have introduced international languages have reported a range of positive impacts on pupils’ literacy and oracy skills, with progress in communication skills and engagement with learning reported in all schools.
  • Schools have used the flexibility that will be a key feature of the new curriculum to develop creative approaches for teaching and learning international languages, linking language learning to aspects such as science, music and art and working with new partners and technology.
  • Anecdotal feedback from staff highlighted the positive impact international language learning has had on both high achievers and lower ability learners. The non-traditional way of learning contributed to quieter children’s confidence to engage and enthusiasm to learn more. Teachers also reported an increase in their own confidence once they began language lessons.
  • Whilst teachers do not need to be proficient in the language to see success, “it’s an advantage that I’m learning and that they are aware of this”, the survey acknowledged that delivering languages could be a challenge without having an expert on the teaching staff or good resources, and headteachers stated the difficulty of encouraging staff who have perhaps not had a good experience of language learning to teach it.
  • Both Welsh-medium and English-medium schools surveyed reported benefits of linking the teaching of international languages to the teaching of Welsh.
  • The teaching of Welsh, English and other international languages can aid the introduction of pupil’s ‘home’ languages into the classroom, celebrating diversity and multiculturalism.

The findings of the report should inform the work undertaken under the Languages, Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience, which brings together the teaching and learning of all languages in a holistic manner. They will also support one of the four purposes of the new curriculum which aims to develop young people as ‘ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world’ through embedding language learning into the wider curriculum for ages 3-16 and giving headteachers more flexibility than ever to shape what and how pupils learn

This Area of Learning and Experience is strengthened by Welsh Government’s Global Futures strategy which encourages the introduction of international languages from primary level. 

The headteachers surveyed in the report saw international languages provision as representing the international ethos and aspirations of their school and supporting children to become ‘global citizens’. Pupils themselves recognised this; “We like languages because you can go to other countries and meet people, travel the world, do good jobs”. 

Jenny Scott, Director British Council Wales said “We are really pleased to see a positive future for multilingualism in Wales when schools take the opportunity to embed international languages into their classrooms. The benefits of learning languages are clear, both immediately to the pupils in terms of their attainment and confidence and also for equipping them with the skills they will need to navigate, succeed in and enjoy a global world as adults.”

The report outlines some of the innovative methods teachers are using to integrate international languages into the classroom.

One school surveyed had participated in Cerdd Iaith, a project led by the British Council Wales in partnership with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, University of Wales Trinity St David and ERW and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Cerdd Iaith focuses on learning language through music and provides a range of resources and materials which give school access to Spanish, English and Welsh songs, music, language cards and worksheets and brought in professional musicians (in this case from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales) to support.

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About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.

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