Presentations, documents and video containing details and findings from the Nuffield-funded research project into young learners of French in England  (previously housed at

Project Details 


The study presented here was a two year longitudinal study investigating the progress and preparedness for secondary school of young learners of French in England. The project was led by Suzanne Graham, University of Reading, working with Louise CourtneyTheo Marinis, and Alan Tonkyn. The study investigated which teaching approaches within the primary modern languages (PML) classroom lead to better outcomes for learners, both in terms of their knowledge of the underlying grammatical system and vocabulary of the language, and their ‘readiness’ for further study at secondary school level.  Little is known from research about the relationship between the nature of language teaching in primary classrooms and learning outcomes. The study explored this issue using a longitudinal design. 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).  Data provided by schools (questionnaire responses and classroom observations) enabled us to evaluate the French teaching experienced by learners.

The study tracked a group of 250 learners from Year 5 of primary school (aged 9/10) until the end of Year 7 (first year of secondary school).  The principle research question was: what is the impact at the end of Key Stage 2 of two different teaching approaches in Primary Languages on:

♦ Children’s knowledge of the underlying system of the foreign language (gender, adjectival  agreement, simple present tense verbs?

♦ Children’s preparedness for language learning at secondary school, in terms of their confidence in foreign language learning, their level of motivation and the longer-term development of their knowledge of the language system at secondary school?

Data were collected at five different time points by way of French assessment tasks and motivation questionnaires.

For details of the research methodology, data collection and main findings see the following documents from the end of project conference held on 5 June 2014.  For details of an assessment tool that grew out of the project findings see The Language Magician page.


Suzanne Graham 5th June 2014 – key findings of the project

Louise Courtney 5th June 2014 – individual differences

Theo Marinis presentation 5th June 2014 – task differences

Alan Tonkyn presentation 5th June 2014 – target forms

Documents from the conference breakout sessions

Worksheets for breakout sessions and references

Final Report and Executive Summary

UoR Executive summary Primary Modern Languages

UoR Final Report Primary Modern Languages

Additional Resources

Below you will find additional resources related to the Nuffield Foundation funded primary languages project.  Included are example assessment resources and a motivation questionnaire that were developed and used in the project.  Also included are examples of presentations based on the findings of the project and other primary language studies in the UK.  These resources are freely available and we encourage you to download them and take a look.

If you use  the resources  please would you post a comment on this blog about how you used them.  This will help us in developing further tools for Primary languages

You might also want to adapt the tasks for your own purposes.  If you do adapt or modify the tasks for a different language, please send your version to us so that we can share it on this site.

The Sentence Repetition and Photo Description tasks are the principal tasks used in the Nuffield Primary Languages project to assess linguistic progression in French.  Information on task rationale, design, administration and scoring is included in the zip files along with the task itself and the scoring item

Sentence Repetition Task materials

Photo Description Task materials

We used a motivation questionnaire across Year 6 and 7 to examine learners’ attitudes to and motivation for learning French and how this developed over time.  Included is the final Year 7 version of the questionnaire which is very similar to that used in Year 6.  Questionnaires in this format have been used successfully with many young learners.

final year 7 questionnaire

Another area of interest, although not included in the Nuffield study, is how learners’ knowledge about language develops through primary language learning.  The metalinguistic knowledge task is designed to assess learners’ knowledge of French in a number of areas which relate directly to the SR and PD tasks: identifying parts of speech, knowledge of word order and noun gender and agreement.

Metalinguistic Knowledge Task materials

The following presentation on Individual Differences in French across transition was presented at the Network for Languages Conference London 15th November 2014.

Primary to Secondary Transition in French – NFL conf 15th Nov 2014-final