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Making provision for community languages : issues for teacher education in the UK

McPake, Joanna and Tinsley, Teresa and James, Ceri (2007) Making provision for community languages : issues for teacher education in the UK. Language Learning Journal, 35 (1). pp. 99-112.

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In UK schools, as elsewhere, linguistic diversity is on the rise. Changing patterns of migration and settlement mean that schools in areas where once English was the only language spoken are encountering bilingual pupils for the first time, while schools with a long history of multilingualism are finding that the range of languages spoken by pupils is growing and changing. These developments can be viewed positively, in particular given that plurilingualism (competence in more than one language) has been recognized by the Council of Europe, among other international bodies, as a desirable educational goal for all, benefiting both the individual who can speak several languages and wider society. However, to reap these benefits, there is a need for investment in formal educational provision which enables plurilingual learners to maintain and develop all their languages. Research conducted by three of the UK's Centres for Information on Language Teaching and Research-Scottish CILT, CILT, the (English) National Centre for Languages and CILT Cymru, in Wales-has established that there are substantial (and growing) numbers of plurilingual children in UK schools, speaking a very wide range of languages. There is provision for some of these languages to be studied formally, in mainstream education and in complementary classes. However, the research also revealed that professional development is a high priority for community language teachers, many of whom are untrained volunteers. In addition, research conducted by the Training and Development Agency (TDA) in England has shown that newly qualified teachers feel that their training has not prepared them well for working with pupils from a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. There is therefore also a need for initial teacher education and professional development which raises awareness of the benefits of plurilingualism, and for teacher educators to participate in experimental initiatives to develop bilingual educational approaches.