This page includes the process and considerations for setting up a new language program.
All Victorian schools are required by legislation, and as a condition of their registration with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA), to provide instruction in the eight learning areas, including languages.
Schools are responsible for selecting the language(s) they teach in consultation with their local communities.
Overview of the process
Establishing a high quality, sustainable languages program which aims for students to develop proficiency in a language is not a short-term project.
Schools need to involve their communities in key decisions such as what language will be taught, and build an understanding of the cognitive, learning and practical benefits students will gain from learning a language.
Schools should establish timelines that allow for the following, before the introduction of a program:
- consultation with the community
- building demand and support for the languages program
- decision-making around language choice and program structure
- resourcing and staffing allocation
- policy development
These timelines will vary based on the local school context and factors such as:
- availability of trained teachers
- the type of program to be taught
- the delivery mode (face-to-face, blended learning, video conferencing)
- the program structure (whole school or year level, number of lessons per week and how lessons are sequenced across the week).
Schools should consider establishing a languages committee, possibly as a sub-committee of the school council, to guide the process. The languages committee should include representation from the school council, the school administration, teachers, parents and students where appropriate.
For more information, see:
Staffing – information about staffing a languages program, options for identifying teachers, the required qualifications and teacher retention.
Funding and resourcing – information about government school funding for languages programs within the SRP, and other resources and support available.
School planning and policy – advice for developing a school languages policy and including languages education in planning documents.
Investigating the options
A complete picture of the languages spoken and taught in your local community can inform decisions about which languages are most appropriate for your school. As a starting point, find out:
- the languages spoken at home by students’ families, and the numbers of families speaking each of those languages (schools can use the LBOTE data in CASES 21)
- the predominant languages spoken in the wider school community (available from ABS census data, by postcode)
- relevant historical factors in the local area (for example, the language background/s of early European settlers in the region)
- the languages taught at nearby kindergartens, community language schools, government and non-government schools, and for primary schools, the language/s taught in the secondary colleges to which most students will transition
- the number of students learning a language outside regular school hours through a community languages school or at the Victorian School of Languages, and the languages they are learning
- existing use of the school’s facilities by community languages schools for out-of-hours language classes
In the case of Aboriginal Languages, specific cultural protocols apply. See:
Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Victoria
A list of government schools and the languages taught in 2017 is available to assist. See:
Languages Provision in Victorian Government Schools, 2017
Languages Provision in Victorian Government Schools, 2017
A list of Community Languages Schools in Victoria which includes campus locations, languages taught and contact information is also available. See:
Accredited Community Language Schools 2018
Accredited Community Language Schools 2018
Pathways and partnerships
Local schools or clusters of schools should work together to ensure that students are provided with a languages learning pathway from Prep through to senior secondary schooling. An early start and continuity of language learning over time are key to developing proficiency in a language in addition to English. Schools are encouraged to include local kindergartens and playgroups as well as other primary and secondary schools in their investigations about languages and pathways for languages in their local area.
Partnerships with local schools can be established for joint planning and sharing resources, including staffing.
Partnerships with local community groups or businesses provide opportunities for authentic languages learning. Find out about:
- cultural organisations in the local area (such as social clubs or facilities for elderly citizens of a particular language background) where languages other than English are spoken
- local businesses with links to countries where languages other than English are spoken
Programs, resources and support
The decision about what language to teach may also be influenced by the available resources, including trained staff to support a particular language. The type of program that will be offered and the availability of suitably trained staff are interdependent and both need to be investigated prior to making a decision.
Consider investigating the following:
- the types of languages programs that are run successfully in the local area or in other Victorian schools. Consider arranging for members of the school council, interested parents and staff members to visit schools which are recognised as having effective languages programs. Your Regional Languages Project Officer may be able to recommend schools to approach, see:
- support available for the teaching of specific languages in schools including the availability of assistants, see:
Assistants for languages education programs
- the availability of teaching and learning materials in particular languages, including digital and online resources, suitable for Victorian students
- the languages spoken by staff members and any language teaching qualifications held by current staff
- whether the relevant language-specific teacher associations or the Regional Languages Project Officer or Language Adviser can connect the school with any qualified languages teachers in the local area, see:
- whether the Victorian School of Languages or Community Languages Australia can identify a qualified languages teacher or a teacher who is able to be given permission to teach by VIT whilst they are upgrading their qualifications, see:
Victorian School of Languages or
Ethnic Schools Association of Victoria
- whether there are any local community members with proficiency or qualifications in the selected language who are willing to undertake further training to become a qualified languages teacher
Consulting the community
In order to successfully implement a languages program in your school, you need strong support from your school community.
Community consultation is even more critical when a school is considering replacing an existing languages program with a program in a new language. All relevant stakeholders in the school community should be informed and have the opportunity to provide feedback, to avoid tension and a potential sense of loss. The rationale for a possible change of language should be clear and discussed openly so it can be understood by all members of the school community.
Tips for gaining school community consensus
In order to achieve the best possible outcome:
- avoid putting people in the situation of having to commit to a position too early in the process
- ensure that all relevant stakeholders in the school community ‒ school council, teachers, parents and students ‒ are informed of the proposed languages program and have the opportunity to provide feedback
- aim for an outcome which best accommodates all stakeholders, even if it is not their first preference, and try to avoid a win-lose situation – the aim is to lay the foundations for a strong and sustainable languages program in your school
Options for the consultation process
Summarise your investigations into languages, programs, pathways and options for your school and make this information available to the school council and school community for consideration prior to consulting about the choice of language. It may be appropriate to provide translated information or use interpreters to share the information effectively.
You should also provide general information for staff, parents and students about the reasons for introducing a languages program, the benefits of learning an additional language and the need to identify an appropriate language for the school. It may be important to provide information to counter existing community perceptions of the relative difficulty of learning a particular language or the usefulness of a particular language in terms of economic benefits.
Consultation can take place face-to-face or through written or online feedback. It is important that all members of the school community are well-informed about the options and have the opportunity to provide input.
Consider holding a school languages forum, where a summary of the information collected can be presented, and everyone has the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
If deciding a suitable language or languages is likely to be controversial, it may be useful to identify a 'neutral' person to chair the meeting, if possible from outside the immediate school community. Use translated material and interpreters, where necessary, to ensure that the information presented is accessible to everyone.
As part of the process:
- allocate participants to small groups for further discussion. A maximum of eight people per group is recommended, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to share their views
- ask each group to identify up to three proposed languages for introduction in the school, and the reasons why they have been selected. If time and numbers permit, have each group report back to the whole meeting. At the end of the meeting collect the groups' suggestions and outline the next steps in the process to participants, which will include providing the suggestions to the school council to support their decision-making
Consider using a written or online survey to gauge parents' opinions about the choice of a language, using translations into community languages, if appropriate. Ask parents for up to three suggestions, in order of preference, including the reasons parents consider the most compelling for teaching these particular languages.