The Government's decision to make modern foreign language lessons compulsory for the first time in primary schools has received a mixed reaction in Wiltshire.

A review by Lord Dearing, one of the Government's key advisers on education, has recommended all children should learn a language from the age of seven and that this should happen by 2010, as part of the next curriculum overhaul.

His report revealed 70 per cent of all primary schools in the country are already teaching a foreign language in some shape or form anyway.

Pupils at Oaksey Primary School near Malmesbury are taught French from reception age. Head teacher Ursula Scott said: "We buy in a French teacher from our own budget to teach the pupils every week and they really enjoy it.

"The younger ones have 20 minutes with practical activities mostly concentrating on oral skills, years three and four have half an hour, years five and six have 40 minutes. The older ones do more writing. I think it's a fantastic idea."

Richard Colley, head teacher at Ramsbury Primary School, near Marlborough, said pupils from five to 11 have been taught French in proper, structured lessons at the school since September and it has proved a resounding success.

"The notion of children being taught a foreign language in primary schools has been around for some time but the compulsory element wasn't there," he said.

"I don't think it's a problem and our pupils are really enjoying it."

He added: "The school is littered with signs everywhere in French, we take the register in French and they even ask to go to the toilet in French.

"Children do have a natural capacity for languages so the sooner started the better."

However, Sheila Jones, head at St Josephs in Devizes, is concerned about getting extra support. She said: "The Government keeps asking us to do more and more and more in school so where's the funding coming from?

"Are they going to fund it so we can supply specialist teachers? There is a big school of thought that if you do teach them when they're little they can cope with it but what you do want to keep is a high level of enjoyment and excellence with children.

"How much can you ask people to do?"

However, Mrs Jones added: "We link up with Devizes School to teach Spanish here for the top two years and they're doing really well."

Education Secretary Alan Johnson has made no secret of how much importance he himself places on children learning foreign tongues.

He is quoted as saying: "We need to demonstrate languages are both a useful skill and something to enjoy if we are to have better motivated learners."

Lord Dearing's report calls for a three-year "blueprint" of measures aimed at revitalising secondary language learning.

These include a web-based "Open School for Languages", more "engaging" courses and further training for teachers. An annual budget of £50m should underpin the teaching, the report said.

However, no immediate move have been announced to reverse the decision to make languages optional beyond age 14, despite a sharp fall in the number of pupils taking GCSEs.

In 2004, students were allowed to drop languages in Key Stage 4, the two GCSE years, as ministers said they were bowing to the subject's unpopularity.

Since then the numbers taking a GCSE qualification have fallen from about three quarters of the age group to half, with the biggest decline being in state comprehensives.

Concerns have been raised that making foreign language learning compulsory for primaries is just a way to lock in' students early and encourage them not to drop the subjects later in their school career.

But for Nancy Bryant, Wiltshire County Council's Cabinet member for Education and Youth Development, this isn't the only issue that should raise eyebrows.

"My question about all this really is, are they going to tell schools what language to teach or will they have a choice?" she said.

"Schools don't necessarily have to teach French as I know of one in Devon that's even teaching Japanese.

"However, French is the obvious one but Spanish is the most spoken language in the world, so which would you commit to?

"You can communicate with more people in Spanish than you can in French. And why do French and not German?

"I heard one person say that English is universal now so perhaps we should be teaching pupils to speak English properly before we embark on another language?"

Mrs Bryant also expressed worries that the new plans will just place extra pressure on already over-stretched young minds.

She explained: "I don't think we should neglect the three Rs for the sake of a new language; we should not try to cram too much in.

"There'll be children that absorb it and others that will struggle with it. Will the curriculum take into account children with learning difficulties for example?

"I would like the Government to be much clearer about its full intentions before I commit to this being a good idea, mainly which language is the Government honing in on and why?"