MFL Curriculum 2016 – Changes ahead – Ready, Steady, Go!

It has certainly been an extremely busy few weeks and most of us are waiting for the final versions of new specifications.  I know that I am really fortunate to work with some great people and as well as working with the team at York I sometimes deliver joint sessions at Newcastle University. When I was on the phone planning some sessions with René Koglbauer the other day, we got talking about how we can be ready for September. The result of the conversation is this guest post by René.

MFL Curriculum 2016 – Changes ahead – Ready, Steady, Go!

traffic-lightsWhile the country discusses its position within Europe and the European Union, Ofqual published its latest accreditation update. Looking through the list, it is obvious to us all that we have to be patient for a bit longer before we actually know what the new and final GSCE, AS and A-Level syllabi and exams of the various examination boards will look like. The optimist in me says, well at least we know that these new exams are scrutinised with rigour.

Over the last three or four years, educationalists and particularly language teachers have been told that examinations will have to become more rigorous. Some of us welcome this, others are concerned that languages in schools are becoming increasingly a subject for high attaining pupils. Luckily, when considering the recent EBacc consultation paper, the government is keen that attainment is not the only performance measure but league tables should also report the number of pupils entered for languages in a particular school. Yes, the government’s mid to long-term aim is that 90% of a Year 11 cohort would sit a GCSE in at least one language. This brings its own challenges, not at least the fact that we would have to recruit additional language teachers in order cater for an increased cohort. And yes, it would be a GCSE as alternative forms of examinations are currently not being considered by policy-makers.

question-markHowever, are these policy plans really in the fore-front of language teachers’ minds? Most of us are currently ensuring that all pupils are completing their last few controlled assessments and then it is over to the final drill for the reading and listening papers during the remaining weeks. At the same time, we should be focusing on preparing for the new curriculum in September 2016, both at GCSE and AS-Level! 

Through my various school visits, my work with language departments and individual language teachers, it is really encouraging to see how many have already brought literature (for further ideas see, translation and a greater emphasis on grammar and spontaneous speaking into their Keystage 2 and 3 classrooms. Recently, a number of teachers have sent me extremely positive messages of how they see their Year 7 pupils progressing by adopting a new GCSE style assessment for them. This is extremely encouraging!

What we as language teachers need is to share this good practice through online fora, through social media and through the various face to face events across the country. One of the forth-coming events that will be focusing on Curriculum Innovation is this year’s Language World Conference. If you haven’t yet signed up there is still time to do so!

Language teachers and departments (and in fact all teachers of all subject areas) will need the support of senior leadership teams, if these curriculum changes from September 2016 should be of lasting impact. Yes, resources for GCSE and A-level courses will be necessary. There is, however, an equally if not more important aspect that needs to be addressed and planned for NOW: language teachers in a school and in some cases across a federation will have to be given time to collaboratively plan for these new curricula and the new schemes of work. Only a jointly planned and embedded approach will ensure that teachers are able to deliver an inspiring GCSE and A-Level curriculum to our future generation of learners. It is therefore necessary to embrace this curriculum change in the summer term as a whole school focus rather than just on an individual level! Only then we will be able to say with confidence to our parents and pupils that we are Ready, Steady, Go for language learning in this country!

Thank you, René and thank you too very much for all the hard work that you have put into your role of President of ALL, our subject association.

Join our discussion – What are you doing in your school to make sure that you are ‘Ready, Steady, Go’?

René Koglbauer is Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University and currently Acting Head of the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences. René is a trustee of the Association for Language Learning and has been its president since 2014. Twitter: @Rene_Koglbauer or email [email protected]