The slimmed down NC has been generally welcomed for its scope and lack of prescription. It also represents a revolution for the initial stages of language teaching, as it requires a balance of reading, writing, speaking and listening in an area where spoken language has previously been predominant. The main reason for this lies in the evidence from brain research of the overlap and interconnectedness of brain areas active in spoken and written language, as set out by Matt Davis in his ALL article earlier this year. It also reflects HMI's finding in Modern Languages Achievement and Challenge, that good practice in reading and writing are seldom found in primary and early secondary work.
The requirement that children should write from memory rather than copy in the initial stages is also new, and is based on trials, first in Essex (published by Strasbourg U. In 1995) and later in Hackney, that have shown that it is possible for beginners to enjoy writing and to take a pride in writing what they want to say accurately in their new language. Writing is not necessarily more difficult than speaking - we can take our time, review it, add things and cross things out - and, provided children understand what they are doing, each can and should contribute to the other. If we can see things and read words as well as hear them, we are using two channels of communication rather than one. Written language will also stand still for us to look closely at it, in a way that spoken language won't. Not everyone can "catch the wind" of spoken language, and insistence on their doing so is a major cause of failure.
So, it is no exaggeration to say that the new NC represents a new beginning for language teaching in our schools, and one that leaves all of us free to develop effective approaches using whatever we find works, including the good parts of all previous national guidance. There are lots of blogs and sites available at little or no cost - as well as the expensive ones - and there is no harm in listing them. We also need more sites that will help teachers improve their skills, not from some predetermined starting point, but from where they happen to be. The internet makes these virtually free to operate and to run, and so, given goodwill, is research. We don't need hundreds of thousands of pounds to try out ideas with a class or in a cluster and to report what we find, and the emphasis on expensive studies must not be allowed to dominate us. Joseph Lister started with one boy with a broken leg, Vygotsky and Fernald with their observations in their own schools and nurseries. Research and reporting should be built into our normal work, and we should share the results on websites, free of charge.