Modern Languages – Supporting Progression Pathways for Learners

The Symposium

CCEA facilitated a half day Symposium for Modern Languages on 12 March 2019. The event brought together almost 60 practitioners, academics, policy makers, CCEA Committee, Council and staff members, and stakeholders to:

  • consider the current status of modern foreign languages (MFL) in our schools;
  • explore challenges and trends;
  • identify a range of potential strategies to promote the benefits of learning languages and increase uptake and interest; and 
  • introduce the concept of a progression pathway for use to support uptake of languages learning in schools. 

Participants had the opportunity to hear from Dr Ana Kerr (CCEA Council), Professor Janice Carruthers (QUB), Jayne FitzGerald, Esther Martin and Ruth Kennedy (CCEA), who provided insights into current research and policy development in this field as well as trends across the UK and CCEA developments. Dearbhaile Mulholland (Powerscreen/Terex) spoke about the benefits of having languages skills from an employers’/industry perspective, and participants also heard from Sharon Lamont (Principal, Millburn Primary School) and Carol McCann (Principal, St Dominic’s Grammar School), who have developed strategies and practice in different areas to address the issue of engaging children and young people in the learning of modern languages. 

These inputs were followed by engagement in two rounds of discussions about the issues above and feedback resulted in the recommendations outlined below. You can view a Summary of Participants’ Feedback.


  • Promote the advantages/need for learning modern languages in collaboration with DE and other policy providers;
  • Modernise/Update the CCEA languages specifications and resources, and review CCEA’s languages portfolio (e.g. consider offering additional languages; develop qualifications to complement vocational routes);
  • Review the difficulty/grading of current languages examinations offered by CCEA and address perceptions;
  • Develop the Modern Languages Progression Pathway as a framework that shows available provisions and how these support teaching and learning across all key stages, and is linked to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), an international standard for describing language ability;
  • Provide languages teaching and learning support for Primary schools, for example in form of a (non-statutory) curriculum or example schemes of work;
  • Consider forms of certification at Primary and Key Stage 3, and languages learning opportunities for all learners;
  • Continue stakeholder and customer support, engagement and associated internal and external communication and facilitate links between schools, industry and universities (for example via an online languages portal).

Next steps

CCEA will:

  • further explore the points raised re supporting the promotion of modern foreign languages in Primary schools and at Key Stages 3 and 4; 
  • work with other agencies on the suggestion to bring schools, industry and other providers together to share practice and support careers advice; 
  • consider how recommendations from this event may be integrated into CCEA’s qualifications and other MFL support provisions development opportunities.

CCEA will consider the implications of these recommendations and subsequently implement an agreed action plan.

Downloads & useful links

Summary Of Participants’ Feedback  139 KB - uploaded 20-06-2019

CCEA Annual Qualifications Insight 2018  CCEA Insight Reports

Policy Briefing on Modern Languages Educational Policy in the UK

Jayne FitzGerald, Esther Martin and Ruth Kennedy, CCEA  429 KB - uploaded 20-06-2019

Dr Ana M Kerr, CCEA Council  271 KB - uploaded 20-06-2019

Professor Janice Carruthers, QUB  265 KB - uploaded 20-06-2019

Carol McCann, St Dominic’s Grammar School  99 KB - uploaded 20-06-2019

Sharon Lamont, Millburn Primary School  38 KB - uploaded 20-06-2019