Peers from all parts of the house pressed the government to accept the recommendation of the Nuffield language inquiry that languages should have the same status as literacy, numeracy and IT as a key skill.
Education minister Baroness Blackstone said government would respond to the report 'in due course', but already it was piloting approaches to language teaching in primary schools.
But that, said Liberal Democrat Lord Watson of Richmond, fell short of the Nuffield recommendation. If the government did not make a commitment to implementing that, 'they will seriously disadavantage Britain's competitiveness in the future in a multi-lingual world and they will disadvantage pupils in state schools as opposed to those in private schools...It is much easier to learn languages when one is young, so why not allow everyone that opportunity.'
Cross-bencher Lord Quirk, former vice chancellor of London University, said it would be timely to adopt the Nuffield recommendation and match secondary schools with specialist primary schools so there could be a smooth and progressive transition in language teaching to the secondary level in a way that had not happened under earlier initiatives.