Foreign assistants to teach languages in primary schools

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of language assistants from France, Germany and Spain will be hired to give language lessons to children aged from seven upwards under government plans.

Hundreds of language assistants from France, Germany and Spain will be hired to give language lessons to children aged from seven upwards under government plans.

A strategy document to be revealed before Christmas will outline moves to use cash already earmarked for 50,000 extra classroom assistants to pay for them. Schools will also be urged to search their local communities for fluent linguists to help with lessons.

The measures are being brought forward because of an outcry over proposals to end compulsory language lessons for pupils aged 14 to 16. In exchange, the Government promised to give children the right to learn a foreign language from the age of seven within the next decade.

Opponents of the plan – including the German, French, Spanish and Italian ambassadors to the UK – argued that any delay in boosting language teaching in primary schools would mean a generation was denied the chance to become bilingual.

Now ministers hope their determination to press ahead quickly with primary school language lessons will answer their critics. In an interview with The Independent, Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said: "Everyone knows people learn languages best when they're young."

Meanwhile, the dispute over top-up fees in higher education grew, with David Blunkett, a former secretary of state for education, making clear that he felt his legacy was being "undermined" by proposals to consider allowing universities to charge them.

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