What’s happening in language education in the UK?

The reason for launching this register now is that things seem to be moving in our direction in schools, as well as in HE, so the first thing is to review these developments. The following are all points where linguistics has had influence on schools – sometimes quite small, but in other cases much more significant. There are other developments in the pipeline that we hope to be able to announce soon.  Please tell us if you have suggestions for adding or removing items; and feel free to leave comments in the box at the foot of the page.

Key for newcomers:

  • KS = ‘Key stage’; KS1 = Y1-2, KS2 = Y3-6, KS3 = Y7-9, KS4 = Y10-11 and GCSE, KS5 = Y12-13 and A-level.
  • FL = Foreign Languages, Eng = first-language English and literacy

In the curriculum

  • KS5, A-level

    • English Language A-level
      • Inspired by linguistics, first offered in 1985 andstill growing (in contrast with English Literature, where numbers are falling) – see figures.
      • New A-level to be introduced in 2015, probably continuing to show plenty of influence from linguistics – see Ofqual for regulations and DfE for content.
      • More emphasis on texts and variation than on structure.
    • FL A-level
      • New A-levels to be introduced in 2016.
      • No news about direction of reforms.
  • KS4, GCSE

    • English Language GCSE
      • New GCSE to be introduced in 2015.
      • Requires ‘linguistic terminology’ to be used.
    • Draft National Curriculum for English at KS4
      • Draft for consultation available.
      • Aims at an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions, and building on the grammatical knowledge and vocabulary acquired at Key Stage 3.
    • FL GCSE 
      • New GCSE to introduced in 2016. See draft.
      • Aims at understanding of how language works and at language-learning skills, but these aren’t tested.
  • KS3

  • KS2

    • English
      • New National Curriculum introduced in 2014.
      • Includes an explicit year-by-year listing of grammatical knowledge (Appendix 2) and a glossary of grammatical terminology, both produced by experts in linguistics.
    • FL
      • National Curriculum in 2014 for FL at KS3.
      • Aims at understanding of basic grammar of the target language and of how it differs from English, probably influenced by linguistics.
  • KS1

    • New National Curriculum in 2014.
      • Confirms synthetic phonics as the only approach to initial literacy.
        • Includes ‘grapheme-phoneme correspondences’ and ability to generalise beyond known vocabulary.
        • Influenced by linguistics, but the pedagogy is controversial.
      • Aims at ‘awareness of grammatical structures’

Behind the curriculum

  • UKLO – the UK Linguistics Olympiad

    • This competition for school children is entirely based on linguistics.
    • It’s been enormously successful, with considerable support among HE linguists as well as among school teachers.
    • Most of the contact teachers teach FL.
  • Teaching Agency Literacy Skills Test

    • This literacy test for trainee teachers, which has been running since the early 2000’s, is constructed and renewed by a test-review group which has always included an expert in linguistics.
  • Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test

    • This test for KS2 pupils includes grammatical terminology.
      • This is the first direct test of metalanguage since the optional grammar question disappeared from Ordinary Level in the early 1960’s.
    • Since the first national application of the test in 2013, it has been influenced by an expert in linguistics.

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