Primary to secondary: the impact on language learning in years 7 and 8

Russell, Sonia Veronica (2015). Primary to secondary: the impact on language learning in years 7 and 8. EdD thesis The Open University.



This thesis marks the completion of a longitudinal study conducted between 2010 and 2012. It addresses the motivation and progress of pupils leaving primary school and studying French from the start of Year 7 to the end of Year 8 in England.

The research focuses on secondary school Modem Languages classrooms catering for pupils who left primary school having studied French in various ways or not at all. In order to obtain an understanding of primary school Modem Languages, this research also looked briefly at teaching and learning French in Years 5 and 6.

The thesis is underpinned by a theoretical framework related to early language learning, as well as foreign language learning and motivation. Questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and observations were used to obtain qualitative and quantitative data from pupils and teachers.

An analysis o f the data produced a number of key findings. Although the majority of pupils preferred learning Modem Languages at secondary school, they believed that it should still be taught in primary schools. By the end of Year 8, secondary school pupils were no longer as positive about learning French as they were at the start of Year 7. Modem Languages teachers were still facing challenges in the classroom as pupils continued to arrive in Year 7 with or without having studied French at primary school.

The main conclusion was that by the end of Year 8, there was little difference between those pupils who had studied French at primary school and those who had not. Both groups of pupils had achieved similar grades and showed positive and negative attitudes towards studying French. The Year 5 and 6 pupils were more positive which suggests, nonetheless, that studying languages at primary school might have a role to play in raising motivation in the Modem Languages classroom.

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