Skip to main content

European Cultural Identity

Volume 448: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps his Department is taking to promote (a) European cultural identity and (b) positive attitudes to (i) mathematics, (ii) foreign languages and (iii) the English language. (79930)

Promoting cultural identity is an integral and important part of the way languages are taught and studied in England. Intercultural understanding is promoted at each key stage. For example, at Key Stage 2 intercultural understanding is one of the five key strands of the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages. At Key Stage 3 the programme of study, produced by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), states that pupils should make progress in developing cultural awareness, and in QCA's Key Stage 4 document, “Modern foreign languages in the Key Stage 4 curriculum”, it states that studying languages develops students’ understanding and appreciation of different countries, cultures and communities, making students aware that they are citizens of the world as well as of the United Kingdom.

Citizenship teaching is compulsory at Key Stages 3 and 4. Pupils are taught about the world as a global community, and the political, economic, environmental and social implications of this, and the role of the European Union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations and about the United Kingdom's relations in Europe, including the European Union, and relations with the Commonwealth and the United Nations. Through the citizenship curriculum, pupils are also taught to think about political and cultural issues which could include a discussion about cultural identity. It is also possible for European cultural identity to be taught through the non-statutory framework for PSHE, which covers teaching about and developing a sense of their own identity.

Following on from the recommendations of the Adrian Smith report on mathematics, published in 2004, and our 14-19 White Paper, we have appointed a chief adviser for mathematics to be the champion of mathematics and lead in developing the mathematics strategy. We are establishing a National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics that will support the professional development of teachers of mathematics at every stage of their career. We are adopting a range of measures at GCSE and A-level to promote a positive attitude amongst pupils, teachers and employers to mathematics. For example, we will be targeting our support to ensure that the teaching of ‘functional mathematics’ is available to all; from this September, attainment of at least a ‘C' grade in both Maths and English will be a key component of our understanding of the 5 good GCSEs benchmark; in the longer term, the curriculum and qualifications in mathematics for 14 to 19-year-olds will be revised as part of the wider reform programme; and finally, improvements planned for A-level as part of our 14-19 reforms will benefit all those embarking on A-level programmes.

Our national languages strategy ‘Languages for All; Languages for Life—a strategy for England' outlines our positive approach to language learning and stresses the importance for society and the global economy for learners of all ages to acquire “the ability to understand and communicate in other languages”. Our commitment to language learning is backed by considerable investment, and by the end of the financial year 2007-08 we will have invested £137 million in the promotion of, and support given to, language learning programmes at all stages of education.

English is a core subject and statutory from Key Stages 1-4. The national curriculum programmes of study for English set out the importance of English. English is a vital way of communicating in schools, in public life and internationally. In studying English, pupils develop skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing. Literature in English is rich and influential, reflecting the experience of people from many countries and times. It enables pupils to express themselves creatively and imaginatively and to communicate with others effectively. Pupils learn to become enthusiastic and critical readers of stories, poetry and drama as well as non-fiction and media texts. The study of English helps pupils understand how language works by looking at its patterns, structures and origins. Using this knowledge, pupils can choose and adapt what they say and write in different situations.

In addition, both primary and secondary national strategies, through their work with schools and local authorities, provide strong and varied support to teachers. This support enables teachers to provide effective and tailored teaching that engages all pupils across the range of subjects and enables them to fulfil their potential. The national strategies provide a range of materials to support teachers, school librarians and others to ensure that their schools both provide high quality teaching and learning, and promote an environment which encourages children's enthusiasm for reading and writing and helps them achieve their potential. Reading for pleasure is essential as it increases children's chances of success and the Department is taking action on several fronts to encourage children and young people to read more. Both strategies have a specific remit for raising attainment in mathematics and English. The secondary strategy extends this remit to modern foreign languages.