Language learning, cultural capital and teacher identity: teachers negotiating the introduction of French into the primary curriculum.

Clare Woolhouse, Paul Bartle, Denis Balmer, Elaine Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
148 Downloads (Pure)


This paper stems from the ‘Primary French Research Project’ that explored the perceptions and experiences of educational professionals involved in introducing modern languages (ML) into the primary curriculum. UK Government policy (DfES 2002; 2005) was to make modern language learning a compulsory curriculum requirement for English schools in Key Stage 2 (pupils aged 7-11) from September 2010. However, with the election of a coalition Government in 2010, the policy shifted and ML became reframed as a non-compulsory ‘entitlement’. Although many primary schools were already teaching some modern languages, this still requires many primary educators to develop the necessary ML knowledge and skills. Anecdotal evidence garnered from primary teachers suggested that they were daunted at this prospect, and the authors felt that questions were arising relating to teachers’ epistemological and ontological security as well as the interplay between policy and practice. In this paper, Bourdieu’s notions of habitus and cultural capital are employed to identify and consider the impact on self-identity of policy shifts for a particular group of teaching professionals. These individuals were all studying on a continuing professional development course relating to the introduction of primary ML. The research that is detailed explores how these individuals’ perceptions of themselves as language teachers developed over time and what tensions between self-identity, classroom practice and national policy were manifest. While the focus is on a particular group of professionals, their localised experience highlights issues that may resonate with others who are tasked with interpreting and implementing new educational policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-67
JournalLanguage Learning Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Modern Foreign Languages Teacher Professional Development


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