Two new expert groups will review MFL and primary schools

The government has commissioned two more expert review groups, despite its delay in publishing a number of other reports.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, has asked the Teaching Schools Council (TSC) to review modern foreign languages pedagogy in secondary schools and effective teaching practices in primary schools.

The reviews were announced in April and come as the department is under pressure to publish a number of other reviews.

Eleven expert review groups have been launched since Nicky Morgan took over as education secretary in July 2014.

But findings for just four – three of which were all related to the workload challenge – have been published. The other, on assessment without levels, was published two months late.

The new reviews mark a different approach with the TSC, a group that represents teaching schools and system leaders, commissioned to lead the projects.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it would only offer “additional support”, which would include administrative help such as offering space for meetings and helping to commission research.

However, Schools Week understands Gibb has influence over who will join the review. The DfE has denied this.

The TSC said Dame Reena Keeble, an education consultant and retired primary head, will head the primary review. Ian Bauckham, an executive headteacher and former president of the Association of School and College Leaders, will lead the modern foreign languages review.

A TSC spokesperson said: “Both Ian and Dame Reena have a wealth of relevant experience and we are delighted to be working with them on such important and timely pieces of work.”

Both reviewers will work with schools, teachers and other experts before delivering their findings in autumn, the spokesperson added.

The modern foreign languages (MFL) review comes during a delicate time for the subject. The government wants 90 per cent of pupils to sit the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which includes a language.

However, the pressure is on to deliver 3,500 extra teachers to meet the increased demand. This follows the department’s failure to meet its recruitment target for language teachers for the past four years.

Bauckham told Schools Week he wanted the review to help to spread good quality language teaching.

In response to concerns over additional involvement from Gibb, he said: “I am completely in control of the people we are speaking to.

“The minister is very committed to modern foreign languages – it’s part of the EBacc. We know this is something he is passionately in favour of.”

The review falls under Gibb’s ministerial portfolio. But a DfE spokesperson said: “The TSC is an independent body that we have asked to carry out a review of foreign language pedagogy. This work is independent of government, any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect.”

Schools Week revealed last week how two of the three expert groups set up before the election have yet to be published, despite promises they would be released by “early 2016”.

Three other reports commissioned last summer – two into behaviour training, and one on the assessment of special needs pupils – are still without a timeframe for publication.

The government also refused to publish an expert group’s report into standards for teaching assistants.

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