Leading languages K–6

Access guidance as a school leader to best support your language students and teachers.

Many modern language teachers in NSW primary schools are supervised by a member of the school’s executive without a language-teaching background or knowledge of the Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus (2022). They are often the only language teacher at their school, which limits their opportunities to collaborate and engage in professional dialogue relating to language teaching.

As a school leader you can support your languages teachers through this challenge by:

  • raising awareness of the importance of languages education
  • familiarising yourself with the Languages K–10 syllabuses
  • supporting engagement and communicating available professional opportunities to your language teachers.

Languages in schools

Through learning languages, students engage in purposeful communication and reflect on their own and others’ heritage, culture and identity.

Whilst teaching languages in K–6 is an optional part of the curriculum, language students benefit from:

  • improved communication skills
  • supported communication in a target language
  • developing open and curious attitudes to other cultures
  • help with transferring literacy skills between languages as they learn about grammatical structures and broaden their vocabulary.

Decisions on languages offered are made at a school level based on available resources including access to qualified language teachers.

For guidance on choosing a language see Establish a new primary languages program.

Some primary schools have many students from a particular language background. If there is an available, qualified teacher, these schools can apply for funding to enable students to acquire, maintain and develop a community language. The language is taught for at least 2 hours per week during the normal school day.

Refer to the Community languages program K–6 for more information.

Supporting a languages program

Building teachers’ capacity to design and deliver engaging teaching and learning programs is key to growing a successful languages program.

Figure 1 unpacks the key steps in growing a languages program.

The role of leaders in supporting languages in their school. Support teachers, build capacity, facilitate student engagement, grow languages program. The role of leaders in supporting languages in their school. Support teachers, build capacity, facilitate student engagement, grow languages program.
Image: Figure 1 Your role in supporting languages

Support teachers and build capacity

Opportunities for building staff capacity include:

Facilitate student engagement

Language learning is collaborative, and has a strong focus on communication. Spoken interactions are prioritised in the Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus (2022) ‘Interacting’ focus area.

To support teaching and learning:

  • allow space in the classroom for students to move around
  • expect noise, as many interactions are likely to happen simultaneously
  • support students to engage with a range of language resources
    • teacher-developed
    • student-created
    • authentic language content
    • purchased language-teaching resources
  • provide students with access to technology.

Access to technology facilitates meaningful communication and collaboration with target-language-speaking students in NSW and worldwide.

Increase teachers' ability to engage students in creative and productive tasks by providing regular, reliable access to technology, including recording devices and audio-visual equipment.

Video or audio recording of student interactions is key to assessment in the Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus (2022).

Grow the languages program

Raise the profile of languages in your school and grow awareness of the benefits of language learning in your school community by:

  • including a languages section in the newsletter
  • displaying student work around the school
  • keeping the languages program information current on your school’s website
  • supporting incursions and excursions to motivate and engage students.

Show students that language learning is valued and can be used beyond the classroom. Consider learning and using basic language(s) phrases, such as ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ when visiting the language classroom.

Proficiency levels and differentiation

The Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus (2022) acknowledges that students learning languages have diverse linguistic and cultural profiles. Examples have been provided in the syllabus for each stage to support students learning the language at the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels.

These levels can be a useful framework for language teachers to support the needs of the students in their classes. For example, an intermediate student in one class may be at advanced proficiency in a different class, depending on the cohort. Similarly, students may be considered intermediate for one aspect of language learning, for example speaking, but beginner in another, such as writing.

Differentiation of language is complex. Teachers need to either create or access a broad range of target language resources to support the needs of their students.

Typically teachers program for students with a disability, EAL/D students, students experiencing difficulties with learning and gifted and high potential students.

Language teachers also plan for students with varying ability in the target language, such as students who:

  • are completely literate in the language
  • have strong oral skills but cannot read or write the language
  • have some language skills across all 4 macro skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

New K–10 syllabuses

In 2022 and 2023 NESA published 4 new language syllabuses:

Teachers of primary language programs must use the relevant syllabus for planning, programming, assessing and reporting.

See Assessing languages K–6 for assessment advice.

From 2024, teachers will adhere to the Modern Languages K–10 Syllabus (2022).

Review the:

Reporting to parents

Many decisions around reporting to parents are made at the school level.

NESA has provided advice to the following frequently asked questions related to primary languages programs.

The study of languages is not mandatory in primary schools in NSW. Does my school need to report on its in-class language programs?

NSW primary schools that offer languages use the NSW language syllabuses for teaching and learning, assessing and reporting purposes. Department schools that offer languages for 2 or more hours per week are required to report on languages. This includes all schools in the Community Languages Program K–6 and the Bilingual Schools Program.

Schools that offer languages for less than 2 hours per week can choose to report on languages. As with other key learning areas, language syllabus outcomes are used by schools to report student progress and achievement during and at the end of a stage.

Do I need to report on all outcomes of the language syllabus each semester?

You are not required to assess or report on all outcomes of your language syllabus each semester. However, all outcomes should be addressed across each stage of learning.


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