The introduction of compulsory foreign language lessons in primary schools would be unworkable despite widespread support from pupils, parents and teachers, a two-year official investigation has concluded.
Forcing all eight to 11-year-olds to learn a language would be impossible because of teacher shortages, a packed primary curriculum and opposition from primary heads, a long-awaited report by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said.
Language teaching in primary schools has declined over the past five years, despite Labour's election manifesto pledging to expand it, the study found.
The pressure to improve national test results was the main reason for schools to drop languages, it said. The introduction of the Government's national literacy and numeracy strategies had reduced the time available for languages, while the shortage of specialists was another common reason for lessons to be dropped.
Just over one in five primary schools offered language lessons, a slight decrease on the figure for 1994. Many primary headteachers agreed in principle that pupils should start learning languages early, but believed this would be impossible in practice.
A University of Warwick report, part of the study, said: "The strong opposition of a significant number of primary heads, even those who understand the value of early foreign languages, to the introduction of another subject into the curriculum, cannot be overlooked.
"Their views must be taken into account, for ultimately they will ensure the success or contribute to the failure of such a major undertaking as redesigning primary modern foreign languages as statutory."
Britain is the only European country not making foreign language lessons compulsory.Reuse content