She said it was desirable to extend language teaching to younger age groups but the teachers and resources were not there yet. Between 2,000 and 3,000 more French teachers were needed in secondary schools.
Speaking at the launch of a distance learning course developed to help returning teachers with their French and teaching skills, Lady Blatch said: 'It must remain a long-term aim that we lower the age at which children learn their languages.'
The pounds 500,000 scheme includes a learning pack, and is making available intensive courses in France.
Lady Blatch said that because of the national curriculum there would eventually be more teachers with language skills to draw on. If a primary school did have the resources and expertise to teach French, it could do so.
Although some primary schools in England do teach foreign languages, widespread introduction foundered on lack of co-ordination with secondary schools and lack of trained teachers.
In Scotland language teachers in secondary schools are taking classes in feeder primaries. In Strathclyde 10,000 primary school children are learning French, German, Spanish and Italian.
Information from Distance Training Project, Language Teaching Centre, University of York, York YO1 2EP.