November 2013

The know zone

  • Pensions unpicked
    Thought about retirement yet? However far off it may be, start looking now at your options, says David Binnie. There may be unforeseen complications but also opportunities. More
  • Squeezed middle
    Schools may need to become lean and mean in order to adapt to new funding levels, says Sam Ellis, or they may find themselves facing a budget crisis. More
  • Raising the stakes
    Ofsted judgements look likely to be tougher in key areas under the revised guidance introduced in September, says Jan Webber. And the bar is being set higher for achieving ‘good’. More
  • Leading education
    ASCL exists to reflect and promote the views of its members, which is why ASCL Council is so important. ASCL Council is made up of 148 elected representatives and is the association’s policy-making body, meeting four times a year. Council members represent ASCL at meetings with government officials and other organisations. It is from Council that national officers, including the president, are elected. In each edition of Leader this year, we will spotlight the work of a particular committee of Council. This month, it is the turn of the Education Committee. More
  • Council focus
    What does it mean to be a Council rep? More
  • ASCL PD events
    New to the leadership team, Leadership for Outstanding Performance, and Homerun for Headship More
  • First term almost over
    ASCL Professional Development (PD) offers high-quality, relevant, up-to-date and competitively priced courses. Our training is delivered by a team of skilled trainers and consultants, almost all of whom have been headteachers or senior school leaders. More
  • How do you say?
    Focus on... 1,000-words challenge More
  • Adding value
    Time to protect your pension pot? More
  • Food for thought
    The government plans to spend £600 million on free school meals (FSM) for every child in a state-funded infant school and disadvantaged students in further education. Is this a good idea? Is this money well spent or should it be spent elsewhere? Here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Choice language?
    Would you like IT with your G&T? Or, like Eric Hester, are you bemused by the proliferation of acronyms? More
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Focus on... 1,000-words challenge

How do you say?

Background and objectives

Not everyone will become a fluent linguist, but the aspiration for everyone to learn 1,000 words in another language is realistic and achievable.

Speak to the Future, a coalition of organisations that aims to promote the importance of languages, language learning and professional language activities for the UK, has recently launched the 1,000-words challenge and is calling on schools and colleges among others to commit to the goal that everyone should have a basic knowledge of a foreign language. Its aim is to unify the nation around a strong public message that every language counts and that English alone is not enough.

Campaign Director Bernadette Holmes says, “The idea that everyone can learn the basics of another language is both realistic and attainable. No matter what your age, your social background or your ability, language learning can transform your future. We are not expecting fluency. Yet if everyone were capable of at least 1,000 words in a new language, social attitudes and economic prospects would be significantly enhanced; young people would be better prepared for the challenges of globalisation and our cultural and intellectual levels would be raised. I urge everyone in a position of influence to join the campaign and help us achieve this aim.”

Why is the challenge so important?

Britons have a poor reputation for learning foreign languages, and who can blame us when we speak the world’s most international language? But while the need for foreign language skills has never been higher, language learning is contracting. Businesses, politicians and educators all agree that we need to change. For unless we improve our record in language learning, we risk:

  • missing out on business that brings jobs and growth
  • reducing our influence internationally
  • narrowing opportunities for young people at work and on holiday
  • becoming intellectually stunted
  • skewing our thinking, so we underestimate the importance of other cultures
  • appearing arrogant and ignorant

How can schools and colleges make a difference?

We won’t make everyone multilingual overnight. However, the aspiration for everyone to have 1,000 words in another language is a realistic and achievable challenge. Schools and colleges can show their support for the 1,000-words campaign by:

  • committing to every pupil leaving school with some form of accreditation for their language learning – not necessarily GCSE
  • downloading and displaying the 1,000-words logo from
  • taking action to help more people achieve the goal
  • following the campaign on Twitter @speak2future and spreading the word through the hashtag #1000words

Your commitment is extremely valuable to the campaign. Please use the 1,000-words logo on your headed paper, website or other material.

Who‘s involved?

The 1,000-words campaign has already attracted a huge amount of support from many organisations including ASCL, the Curriculum Foundation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Routes into Languages, the British Academy and the British Council. Now the campaign is reaching out to schools, colleges, businesses and employers, as well as individual members of the public, asking them to play their part in making 1,000-words-for-all a reality.

Are there any resources?

Speak to the Future is actively circulating key facts and quotes to help schools make the case for languages to parents and pupils. When signing up to the campaign, you will get an information pack with some further ideas, including case studies of creative ways in which schools, organisations and businesses are promoting language learning, as well as being signposted to other useful resources.

As the challenge progresses, Speak to the Future will collect examples of ways in which different types of organisations are involved in the challenge, and publish them as inspiration for others. And they will keep in touch with you with updates on progress.

Find out more...

To learn more about Speak to the Future activities and to join the 1,000-words campaign, please visit or email