Primary Modern Languages: the impact of teaching approaches

This two-year longitudinal study investigated the progress and preparedness of young learners of French in England, as they moved from primary to secondary school. It explored which teaching approaches lead to better outcomes for learners, in terms of learners' knowledge of the underlying grammatical system and vocabulary of the language, as well as their 'readiness' for further study at secondary school level. Little is known from previous research about the relationship between the nature of language teaching in primary classrooms and learning outcomes.

Two different approaches to language teaching were investigated: an oracy-based approach (with a main focus on speaking and listening skills), and a literacy-based approach (which combines reading and writing development with oracy development). The study tracked a group of 250 learners from Year 5 of primary school (aged 9-10) until the end of Year 7 (the first year of secondary school). The researchers used questionnaire responses and classroom observations to evaluate the French teaching experienced by learners.

Details of the research methodology and data collection are included in Suzanne Graham's presentation on the researchers' website.

It is anticipated that the findings of the study will have important implications for curriculum design and policy in the primary languages field.

Project details



Professor Suzanne Graham, Dr Theodoros Marinis and Dr Alan Tonkyn, University of Reading

Funding programme:


Grant amount and duration:


1 April 2012 – 31 July 2014