The position of languages in our curriculum today

The government consultation document on the implementation of the English Baccalaureate launched on 3rd November gives us some facts about the learning of languages in Britain. We already know from the Language Trends reports and others that I have commented on in previous post that many, many people are concerned.  The government ministers are rightly concerned that currently only 43% of pupils take a language at GCSE, down from 76% in 2000. Whatever the outcome of this consultation, do you agree that it has to be a good thing that languages are deemed part of “a rich, academic curriculum”, and that it is stated “that this academic core shouldn’t be the preserve of an academic elite, it should be the basic right of every single child”?

Nicky Morgan states that every child should receive an education that develops a body of knowledge and skills that allow them to succeed in the modern world….with a grasp of languages other than their own.  She uses the phrase  “the power of an academic curriculum to open minds” and mentions the value of literature, geography, history and poetry. It is so good that so many excellent teaching resources are being developed by publishers and teachers across the UK ensuring that pupils have access to tasks that challenge and inspire them. I’ve seen some really good use of poetry in language lessons recently. For example, Routes into Languages have lots of support for teachers, such as the Spelling Bee and Strictly Speaking competitions, encouraging pupils to use literary texts of all types.

What are the current challenges facing us?

One of them must be inclusion. How will it be determined who will be in the group (p.11 and p.20) “a small minority of pupils for whom taking the whole EBacc is not appropriate”. Only time will tell if the new GCSE be too difficult for some pupils.

When we discussed a joint response at a recent ALL Council meeting, I voiced that I hoped that this might be an opportunity for all marks the be valued as we change to a system of numbers rather than grades. I think that if a pupil has worked really hard and achieved their personal potential or even above, then their results should be valued by everyone. Many schools find ways of doing this. I’m sure you agree that this is important.

One thing is for sure…we will all be trying to inspire and motivate more GCSE students to want to carry on to A level, “every child, no matter what their background…” If you would like to respond to ‘Consultation on implementing the English Baccalaureate’ document, your opinions need submitting by 29th January.

If you would like to contribute to a much wider question on the ‘purpose and quality of education‘, written evidence is invited addressing the following points:

  • What the purpose of education for children of all ages in England should be
  • What measures should be used to evaluate the quality of education against this purpose
  • How well the current education system performs against these measures

How do you view the changes to the A level language specifications?   And the GCSE structure?  Is there potential in the changes?  It is suggested in the document that ‘’a redesign of the curriculum to accommodate increased numbers taking humanities and languages’’ may be involved so it is worth asking head teachers for additional curriculum time for languages very early on!  Where do the greatest opportunities lie?  Is it an opportunity to try to remove the struggle that some departments have had in trying to prepare KS3 pupils for GCSE on one lesson a week?

Is there any practical advice you or members of your department need when thinking about these changes?  Please do put a comment or a question for me to consider over this period of change.

liz blog 1In recent weeks I have had the privilege of working with some super teachers and students in London at the Goethe Institut as a tutor on the new world wide DLL teacher training programme. (Teacher recruitment is mentioned in the Ebacc consultation as an issue, so these partly face to face and partly online courses may be worth considering for some people considering entering the profession.)We met one Saturday to share the results of the classroom based action research projects based on module 6 .liz blog 2

The idea of the PEP (Praxiserkundungsprojekt) as part of the modules is taking off all over the world. It was great that day to spend time with teachers so reflective. Amongst other teaching strategies explored were group work trials. I was impressed by some of the very mature comments made by pupils as part of the research.

There are many teachers and researchers working so hard and developing so many ideas.  The more we can support each other through the changes ahead the better it will be for young learners, I’d love to hear from you.