ECML Projest A.2 (8/2005)
Whole-School Language Profiles and Policies

Antoinette Camilleri Grima


This is a blueprint to help you develop, write and implement a language policy for your school.  It deals with the  general concept of  a whole-school language policy  and invites you to situate this activity firmly in the context of the real circumstances of your school. Language plays a fundamental role, not only in a child"s education, but also in the  areas  of  social  enrichment  and  cognitive  development.   A whole-school language policy will recognize the existing strengths of both school and community, and will give clear guidelines for further reflecting and improving abilities and values.   We believe  that  making  linguistic  diversity  a  whole-school  issue  will  raise  sensitivity  and increase  respect  for  all  languages. We  can  transform  diversity  into  a  resource,  and developing  a whole-school  language  policy  can be of  benefit to  pupils,  staff,  parents  and  others associated with your school.

1. Why develop a Whole-School Language Policy?

A whole-school language policy enables your school to have a shared philosophy on all aspects of  language  education. This  process  would  normally  involve  an  exercise  in problem  identification,  fact  gathering,  decision  making,  implementation  and  evaluation (Corson 1990).  A continual repetition of this cycle would be ideal.

A whole-school language policy

  • Is  a  focusing  device  that  gives  an  opportunity  to  the  school  to  embark  on  a process of reflection, and reflective practice
  • Is  a  form  of  organisational  analysis is  that  provides  a  school  with  means   to becoming more efficient and professional as an  institution offering a co-ordinated and coherent approach to language education
  • Guides  school  personnel  to  take  stock  of  their  successes,  current  needs  and opportunities, and thus find a clearer direction
  • Contains  public  and  accessible  information  to  everyone  on  relevant  aspects, reinforces  appropriate  messages  in  favour  of  plurilingual  education  and  thus becomes a form of commitment
  • Is  an  instrument  of  communication  that  helps  to  establish  effective  working partnerships between the stakeholders
  • Positions the school within a wider national and international context in terms of language education and provides a framework for coping with change

2. What is a Whole-School La nguage Policy?

A  whole -school language  policy  is  a dynamic action statement  consisting  of principles, aims and strategies. It is a shared document for all stakeholders and expresses a common vision of the role and status of all languages relevant to life within a school. It  is ideally developed  following  organised  discussions,  a  school  language  audit  and  a  profiling exercise.   A healthy policy would be authored and owned by all stakeholders. It should include a rationale for its aims, as well as a declaration about who is responsible to carry out which tasks by when.

The aims should be related to

  • Raising  all  participants"  awareness  about,  and  the  significance  of,  language  and language education in their life
  • The identification of needs of learners and of staff, and the suggestion of how to meet those needs
  • The  creation  of  a  climate  of  working  together,  building  on  existing  linguistic resources for the benefit of everyone involved.

Strategies for reaching the aims normally include

  • The specification of hom e-school partnerships
  • Ways of restructuring the formal curriculum, e.g. languages as subjects, language as medium of instruction, cross-curricular approaches
  • Models of fostering plurilingualism outside lesson time, e.g. extra-curricular activities,  participation  in  and  out  of  school  language  events  and  initiatives, bringing the community to the school
  • A statement about the provision of supporting  means for linguistic plurality, e.g. multiple  language  displays  in  school  corridors  and  common  areas;  bilingual documentation for parents, resources
  • The   specification   of   success   criteria,   including   strategies   for   implementing, monitoring and evaluating the policy

3. How to develop and implement a Whole-School Language Policy?

The following is a step by step approach for developing and implementing a whole-school language policy.   It provides a series of helpful questions and actions that need to be considered and put in  place.  Time and patience are necessary when following a developmental approach.

(a) Establish t hat there is sufficient support for the idea


  • Why do we need to have a whole-school language policy?
  • Who will lead the process for developing a policy?
  • What support is available for this process to be a successful one?
  • Who would benefit from it?
  • Can the school sustain this policy over a long period of time?
  • Who is willing to participate in the process?
  • What sources are there for collecting the necessary information?
  • What structures already exist, or need to be  developed,  in  order to  involve  the stakeholders in the discussion?


  • Is  the  Head  of  School,  senior  management  team,  board  of  governors ,  parents" associations,  and  other  stakeholders   enthusiastic  about  developing  a whole-school language policy?
  • Do  any  of  the  stakeholders  have  a  vision  for  a  whole-school  language policy?
  • Is there a climate of trust and support among those involved?
  • Are  any  serious  conflicts  likely  to  emerge  in  the  process?  Are  there  means  for dealing with them?
  • Can a task force of responsible personnel be delegated to oversee the process?


  • Discuss  the  idea  for  developing  a  whole-school  language  policy  with  relevant stakeholders,  e.g.  senior  management  team,  parents"  associations,  educational authorities
  • Prepare a working document that includes a convincing vision
  • Identify the perceived benefits for everyone involved
  • Identify the resources (time, financial etc) that are needed
  • Create a task force to set the process going

(b) Develop a whole-school language profile


  • Who  will  conduct  the  audit  that  leads  to  the  establishment  of  a  whole-school
  • Is everyone convinced of the need for this audit?
  • Who is willing to be directly involved in the audit and in the writing of the profile


  • Embark on an audit
  • Summarise the results and include references to the successful aspects as well as
    to  the  weaker  areas,  but  focus  more  concretely  on  existing  opportunities  and resources that the school can build on
  • Decide on the needs and priorities for your school
  • Explain  the  width  of  activities  that  the  school  is  prepared  to  be  responsible  for under its own policy
  • Formulate aims and strategies for a whole-school language policy based on these results
  • Specify  the  implications  for  financial,  managerial  and  political  facets  of  the exercise
  • Establish success criteria for your whole-school policy


  • Have you set a realistic time-frame?
  • What other events will need to give way to this process, and how can this be done smoothly?
  • Is this process generating more enthusiasm or is it stifling the whole idea?
  • Would it be beneficial to convince further any of the stakeholders who seem to be
    resisting some of the ideas put forward?
  • In what way do the needs identified following the audit correspond to the  initial

(c) Draft a whole-school language policy document


  • In consultation with the task force draft a whole-school language policy document
    that reflects the needs, aims and values of the stakeholders
  • Set realistic goals that are specific and practicable
  • Specify who will be responsible to do what and by when
  • Formulate a budget
  • Disseminate the draft and set a deadline for a specified process of consultation on
    the document, e.g. send a questionnaire together with the draft
  • Make sure that copies are available in all the relevant languages


  • Is the draft policy document written clearly and in a reader-friendly manner?
  • Is it accessible to all possible interested parties, and others who might be able to contribute to a more refined document? Can/should it be better advertised?
  • To what extent is the policy realistic and expressed in a way that it can achieve its goals?

(d) Refine and finalise the policy document


  • Compile all the information collected during the consultation period
  • Analyse the data collected while giving consideration to every commens
  •  Acknowledge all feedback received


  • To what extent is the feedback reliable?
  • Which feedback is most useful and appropriate?
  • Is there some aspect that needs further clarification?


  • Modify and re-write the draft policy document on the basis of the results obtained
  • Ascertain  the  approval  of  all  stakeholders  for  the  final  whole -school  language policy document
  • Produce  a  polished  version  of  the  final  document ,  possibly  in  different  formats, e.g. executive and main versions, key points on a flyer, poster or displa y, letters to public entities and private individuals
  • Make a plan for the dissemination exercise
  • Prepare the ground for implementation

 (e) Disseminate and implement the final policy document


  • Offer copies to persons involved on an individual basis
  • Involve staff, students, parents etc. in the dissemination process
  • After identifying the date of implementation, launch the process with a ceremony
    or some form of tangible operation
  • Make sure that everyone is clear about their responsibilities
  • Work with all stakeholders to ensure that the objectives are met


  • Has the launching of the policy been successful and why?
  • Which parts of the policy have been most welcome and why?
  • Is there already an indication that there"s an element of difficulty in implementing
    the policy?
  • Should   the   same   task   force   or   another   one   be   set   up   to   monitor   the implementation?

4. How to monitor and evaluate a Whole-School Language Policy?


  • To what extent is everyone performing their relevant duties?
  • Do you need to make changes to the programme of implementation?
  • Are the objectives of implementation being met?
  • What discrepancies are there between policy and practice?
  • Are all stakeholders happily involved?
  • Does everyone feel they are making a contribution?
  • Do people feel they are achieving some results?


  • Set regular meetings with stakeholders to review the implementation phase
  • Establish a structure for a formal evaluation of the various aspects of the policy to
    be carried out after a reasonable period of time
  • Record   in   various  ways   what   is   going   on,   e.g.   using   video,   photography,
    interviews, oral and written feedback


  • What level of curiosity and excitement is being generated with regard to language education in particular, and with reference to the school in general?
  • Has there been a substantial improvement in language attitudes?
  • Can you measure the improvement in language skills?
  • Have you observed any other side effects, whether positive or negative?

5. Conclusion

The lengthy and painstaking process of planning, implementing and evaluating a whole- school language policy should be concluded with a major conference where each of the stakeholders could present their appraisal.  A final evaluation document can be generated. Further development can be agreed upon taking into account the experience gained, the pitfalls that need to be avoided, and the success that has been celebrated..

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