Investigating a sustainable approach to teaching languages in primary schools

This project did not start due to the logistical challenges of carrying out an evaluation across a number of schools. A report will not be published for this project.

Golbourne High School are investigating whether a modern foreign languages curriculum developed by teachers at the school can teach Year 5 pupils the grammatical knowledge and skills they need to be successful in Key Stages 3 and 4. They will also investigate the most effective and sustainable level of support required to deliver this in primary schools.


Pupils require a strong grammatical and linguistic foundation from Key Stage 3 modern foreign language (MFL) if they are to access MFL English Baccalaureate courses at Key Stage 4. The challenges of Key Stage 4 MFL, such as a weak awareness of grammatical accuracy, difficulties constructing sentences in French and Spanish and an inability to conjugate verbs in different tenses, need to be addressed before they arise.

The lead school believe that delivering a MFL curriculum which covers grammar at Key Stage 2 would support pupils to access the Key Stage 3 and 4 curricula. Baseline testing at Year 7 and discussions with primary head teachers reveal that Key Stage 2 MFL teaching is predominantly vocabulary acquisition and that primary staff often lack the confidence, skills or linguistic knowledge to tackle sentence structure and grammar. The current method for mitigating these barriers is sending specialist MFL teachers from the lead school to deliver the Key Stage 2 curriculum but in the context of funding cuts this will become unsustainable.


The lead school has created a “transition” MFL French and/or Spanish curriculum which brings the Year 7 assessment objectives into Year 5. They have also designed a CPD framework to support primary school teachers in delivering the curriculum. This evaluation aims to establish whether foundation in MFL can be embedded from Year 5 through implementing a transition curriculum, and whether visiting MFL specialists can be replaced by “in-house” delivery of this curriculum by providing an effective package of CPD for primary staff.

Lead school

  • Golbourne High School, Warrington

Schools involved   

  • Lowton Junior and Infants
  • Headteacher, St Mary’s Lowton
  • St Lukes Church of England School, Lowton