Advice and guidance for primary practitioners introducing and developing primary languages

ALL offers advice, information, guidance and peer-to-peer support, alongside access to CPD events through its professional networks around the country

Primary Languages Autumn Supplement 2019

This special supplement is intended for Language Coordinators and Headteachers in Primary Schools. The arrival of the new OFSTED Framework may well be an impetus for you to be looking to make plans for Languages and here we gather together free support and advice available to Primary schools from ALL and from our partners to help you build up your Languages offer.

As well as the information and advice offered here by the ALL Primary Steering Group, ALL offers information, guidance, peer-to-peer support and CPD events to primary and secondary language teachers through its networks around the country.  Your school may wish to set up or be part of an ALL Primary Hub, a support group run by teachers for teachers, operating in local areas. Alternatively you can find out if there is a Primary Hub near to your school.  Attendance is open to all ALL members.

Statutory Guidance

For statutory guidance, please explore the Programmes of Study for KS2.


OFSTED comments May 2021

In May 2021 OFSTED published a blog entitled 'here: Languages in outstanding primary schools' . Here Sue Cave shares her digest of the main points she identifies (positive findings followed by areas for improvement)  grouped under the headings  : Curriculum planning, Inclusion, Leadership, Phonics, Language skills, Assessment and recording learning, Delivery and CPD, Cultural links and Profile of Languages.

OFSTED comments on primary languages - outstanding schools 2020

Research in Primary Languages

The RIPL website is a central UK resource on Research in Primary Languages.

The OASIS database features one-page descriptions of research articles on language learning, language teaching, and multilingualism.

Primary Progression Research 2022

Progression in Primary Languages project

In January 2022, Dr Rowena Kasprowicz (Institute of Education, University of Reading) will be launching the Progression in Primary Languages project, which will explore in detail how foreign language knowledge develops in young learners in an instructed setting. The project is funded through a UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship.

The longitudinal study, carried out over four years, will look at language learning throughout Key Stage 2 in primary schools in England. The aim is to identify the individual, instructional, and contextual factors that influence language learning in classroom settings in English-speaking countries where exposure to the language being learned is limited. The data generated through the longitudinal study will help to identify realistic learning outcomes and benchmarks for primary languages, following on from key recommendations in the 2019 White Paper published by the Research in Primary Languages Network (RIPL).

Dr Rachel Hawkes will collaborate on the project and the project team will also be supported by ALL, RIPL and the National Centre for Excellence in Languages Pedagogy.

A project advisory board will be established and expressions of interest will be invited in due course.

Carrying out a languages audit

Use the languages audit tool (available to download here in Word format: Primary Languages Audit Form and in pdf format: Primary Languages Audit Form) to find out which languages are spoken amongst your staff and how confident they are.

Use the results to inform your action plan. Once you have decided on the language to teach in your school, look at the resources on this website to help you begin. There may be providers in your local area (for example ALL Primary Hubs, teaching school  alliances, your local authority) who can help you with training and development to plan your first lessons in languages.

The EAL Academy

The EAL Academy hosts a website based around the principle of developing literacy for a multilingual world. They offer Consultancy, Training (including an online course) and Resources.

'a number of resources for teaching staff and schools, available for purchase or to download for free.'


ALL has produced a useful free publication called the KS2 Co-ordinator's Handbook. This is an accessible read for head teachers and can be found here.

For ideas, strategies and resources for the smooth transition between KS2 and KS3, read the free Transition Toolkit.  For more fantastic resources including themed modules for self-directed learning for KS2 teachers of languages, please visit the ALL Connect blog.

ASCL Transition Toolkit

ASCL together with members of ALL’s Primary Steering Group have developed a KS2/KS3 transition toolkit which aims to create a successful bridge between language learning in primary and secondary settings.

The aim of the ASCL toolkit is to provide an informed base for secondary MFL teachers to build upon, so that teachers can allow pupils to demonstrate what they already know and how well they have explored and retained this knowledge.

The toolkit provides a minimum body of conceptual knowledge (grammar, vocabulary and phonology) and cultural knowledge that has been explored, retained and actively used by Year 6 pupils (‘what’s left in the sieve’)  at the end of four years of language learning at KS2. The ‘drag and drop’ feature of the toolkit allows primary language colleagues to select the grammar, vocabulary, phonology and cultural knowledge that their pupils have explored at the end of KS2. They then drag this across to populate the blank boxes according to their pupils’ learning (and add to this if they wish).

ASCL’s flexible Transition Toolkit aims to provide genuine continuity of learning between primary and secondary. It acknowledges the variability of pupil progress, and time allocation for language learning and suits transition scenarios involving small or large groups of primary schools feeding into one or more secondary schools. The idea is to produce a nationally recognised tool which can act as a baseline, whatever the setting, from which Secondary teachers can plan, and avoid a downturn in motivation.

The content of the toolkit (available in French, German, Spanish and now Chinese) is informed by and complements most commercial resources and packages aimed at supporting the teaching of KS2 languages and the appendix includes an overview of commercial and free resources for KS2 languages.

ALL congratulates volunteers from ALL and elsewhere in the Chinese teaching community who have created a Transition Toolkit to sit alongside other languages.

Please click here for full details.

Working for Successful Transition

Click here to read more about working for Successful Transition

At ACAPULCO 2020 the question was put about success stories in the area of Transition of pupils from Primary to Secondary schools. The response can be summarised as ‘Well, we are trying …’ and there were stories of Primary colleagues sending documents with pupils or direct to schools celebrating their successes in Primary.

There is current support for addressing this ever-thorny issue once again coming from ASCL - the Secondary Heads Association – who have produced Transitions Toolkits for Primary teachers to use to encapsulate the main things they  have covered, in order to  provide an actionable checklist for Secondary colleagues.

These are editable and can be downloaded here.

ALL of course has been advocating the importance of conversations between Primary and Secondary teachers for a long time nd created training resources and a very substantial Transition Toolkit (as part of ALL Connect ) back in the 2010s. These are still available here.

There are also training materials on Transition and on Progression in the same blog, and an article here.

One of the main objectives of creating a positive transition experience for pupils is, of course, their Progression – maintaining, or enhancing their motivation - and building on what they already know, rather than going back to square one.  There are many challenges in this across the curriculum , and for languages not the least is that there may be a change of language between the sectors ; for this reason it is important that  pupils themselves know what they  are particularly good at  - what teachers call ‘the transferable skills’ that should help them make a great start in key stage 3 even if they  do have a change of language .

ALL members will remember the Erasmus+ funded project THE LANGUAGE MAGICIAN

Which is now available online across the continent. This game gives positive feedback to pupils who play it on their efforts to defeat the wicked Magician through their Language magic, and separate feedback to the teacher on how they performed in the language skills included in the game (Listening, Reading, Writing, mixed skills, coping with unpredictability, phonics and sentence-building.

This sort of evidence is valuable in giving the pupils’ themselves some sort of confidence in saying what they are good at, as the challenges are based on comparable levels across Europe and linked to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference). So, even the TLM certificate could be a demonstration to a Secondary teacher of the pupil’s language skills (and Secondary teachers are also using TLM for baseline assessment of these skills.)

After the ACAPULCO event ALL asked Jane Halsall of Liverpool School Improvement Service how transition is handled in a large city, in which SIL has long-standing service level  agreements with a  large number of schools.

Jane says : Transition is still a thorny one; the difficulty in Liverpool is that each secondary school can have up to 30 primary feeders, who have studied different languages with varying quality of provision. (Our service provides to about 75 out of 120 Primary schools, others generally do it themselves - a few have other, private providers). We have done various things over the years such as cross-phase projects, Language Leaders programme (1) , transition lessons delivered by out team to year 7s etc. Some, particularly the Language Leaders scheme had benefit, but funding cuts have made this, and other activities impossible now, sadly.

However, there are some advancements and improvements we have made:

We have developed schemes of work (SOW) that are much more detailed and have week by week planning to ensure that schools who buy our service are all getting as near as possible the same diet, whether it's French or Spanish. If followed properly the SOW give pupils the opportunity to achieve their Age-Related Expectations (ARE) in all skill areas. We share these schemes with our secondary schools and this more uniform approach enables secondary schools to have a good idea of what pupils have covered. We have developed assessment documents and reading / writing booklets to match the schemes and which enable primaries to send good information about pupils’ achievement to their secondary school.
Schools who don't have a Service Level Agreement with us, ie. they don't have one of our team delivering the lessons, can access some of the above for free, (overview of the scheme, assessment documents and other supporting materials) and can purchase the schemes of work and writing booklets very cheaply. Basically we have done what we can to make sure the curriculum is as uniform as possible across the city.
The secondary schools have now become part of our remit so we have termly meetings with secondary colleagues meaning we can share common approaches and consult with them on our schemes etc.

We do intend to try to get a joint Primary / Secondary meeting going at some point;  it might actually be easier now everyone uses Zoom as it's less time consuming than coming to our centre.

We worked with secondary colleagues to produce a bridging unit, a 6-8 week piece of work for year 6, on the theme of food and drink - and pupils fill out a booklet which has age-related activities. Initially we developed this with one secondary school, whose teachers school visited their main feeders to outline the project, give out the booklets etc., then our FLAs delivered the teaching,  and later the secondary teachers came back to re-establish the contact, collect the booklets etc.

In reality though, secondary colleagues have not had time to do that since; the bridging unit exists though as part of our schemes and Primaries and Secondaries can forge those links themselves if they want to. It's free for all schools and we encourage them to use it. Our secondary partners have approved the booklet and say the information it provides is useful.

When we used to get funding we could do lovely projects for the Secondary schools for free, and they absolutely loved the Language Leaders - one of the best things we ever did for them. We used to go in and train a group of year 9 students to become mini-teachers, then set up teaching sessions for them with their feeder primaries. It was confidence-building for the year 9s and I'd like to think we may have inspired a few future MFL teachers. Sadly that funding ended, and schools now have to pay for it, so they don't do it.

(1) The Language Leader project was based on the Routes East Language Ambassadors programme, still available as advertised here.


The Expert Subject Advisory Group (ESAG) for Modern Foreign Languages has created an advice document on Assessment in Modern Foreign Languages in primary schools.

ALL’s Primary Steering Group has now put together a discussion guide ‘Assessment for ALL‘ to allow individuals or groups of teachers to explore the issues raised.

Language Progression and Assessment at Key Stage 2.  Created by the Ensemble project, shared by Therese Comfort and edited by the ALL Primary Steering Group.

Teacher Briefings - Have you read?

The Teacher Briefings collection explores current language learning and teaching topics. Available to members, each briefing provides evidence, good practice and resources to support teachers and schools improve their knowledge, policy and practice in the specific area.  Recent briefings in

  • What Primary Language Coordinators need to know (13, 14, 15 and 16)
  • Re-evaluating the Primary Scheme of Work (22)
  • Cultural Capital - the contribution of Language learning (23)

For a taster, explore the Teacher Briefing on Transition.


'Roadshows'  are part of our support for local ALL groups - they are presentations to update local groups on news from ALL, events and projects of interest, along with sector news and resources of interest. ALL Members can access these presentations, and ALL Local Group leaders  can share them with their local groups . Since Summer 2019, we also offer a termly Q&A  Roadshow webinar. Details are available from

Languages Today Primary Blogs

Primary language teacher and consultant Clare Seccombe writes the Primary Blog in the Languages Today magazine which is a member benefit of ALL.  Explore some of Clare's blogs (updated in 2020) in her book in the Shop.

ALL as your Primary Career Progresses

Please click here to access ALL As your Primary Career Progresses.