Welcome back 2014/5

I hope that you had a really good break over the summer. The holidays are a welcome break from routine and pressure, aren’t they? For a number of reasons we decided not to go abroad this year, one being that I had just returned from two weeks in Germany with the UK German Connection. I was a leader for one of the ‘German Pupil Courses’ with Year 12 students from all over Britain (more information can be found on their website).

Dom in MainzHeidelberg

The coordinator at the school we were based at was very well organised, and the programme provided rich learning opportunities for the students. These courses are good value as they are subsidised. We had a wonderful time and I’m so pleased to hear that all of the students taking part are continuing with German into Year 13 because retention between AS and A2 has become a bit of a concern, hasn’t it? Many of the students said that they want to study German, and some even expressed an interest in wanting to study two or more languages at university. We talked a lot (in German!) about the many combined degree courses that are available and what a valuable experience it would be to spend a year abroad as part of their degree course. They had such mature attitudes and I enjoyed spending the time there with them. The first photo above (left handside) was taken at the Dom in Mainz, the second one (right handside) was taken as we waited for the boat to Heidelberg.

Last month I spent some time reflecting on the past year at York University. What a great group of mature, keen, inspirational trainee teachers I had the privilege of helping to guide on the way to becoming teachers. All (except one who is going to work with children with special needs) have now secured their first teaching posts and I wish them all the very best as they start their NQT years. I was so impressed with this group of young people and was so proud of their development over the year on the PGCE course. What great debates about language learning we had! I have great hopes for them all.

For the summer break, my family decided to go to Scotland, but as always I met new people from many different countries there! I enjoy being in the mountains as it is so peaceful and I have time to think. I particularly enjoy seeing the different perspectives you get as you walk higher. It is like learning a language – the effort is worth it. The more you strive, the more you see and understand. It also made me think again about how fast the world is changing as climbers bring out their phones with maps of routes and we show each other photos etc. We didn’t do this when I was 18 on my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition!

Whilst out walking one day,  I met a young French couple and because we both wanted to practise our foreign languages, we had a long talk, half in French and half in English, about the learning of different languages, including computer languages, as the woman was a lecturer in computer science at a university in Paris.  She said that sometimes students ask her during the lectures which ‘computer language /coding’ etc., she thinks is the most useful or the most important. She went on to say that she has come to the conclusion that to teach a student to think about language is the most important thing and she tells them that if she senses she has achieved this, then she has done her job properly. Of course I had to agree with her thoughts and told her about primary languages being introduced here and the concerns people have about transition and continuity of language. A growing awareness of language is vital in Key Stage 2, that is why I’m encouraging primary teachers to hold onto the previous Framework with the 5 strands. The objectives in’ Knowledge about Language’ and ‘Language Learning Strategies’ encourage progression over the four years. Solid foundation stones are laid for further study during Key Stage 3 even if a child has to change language. I’d like to look at this further in a future post.

Lucy Fuggles’ student blog on the Guardian website interests me as computing is so important in the curriculum now and we should be thinking about digital literacy.

In September 2014 coding will be introduced to the school timetable for every child aged 5-16 years old, making the UK the first major G20 economy in the world to implement this on a national level. This is a landmark policy change that will arm a generation of school-leavers with the skills for the 21st century, & we want them to make the most of this first class opportunity.

Source http://yearofcode.org/

Lucy is in her fourth year at Exeter University studying English and Spanish and is learning to code to improve her chances of getting a job on graduation.

Have a look at this clip ‘Learn how to code!’ by Neelie Kroes of the European Commission. This could be an idea for an assembly or form time discussion, possibly timed around the European Day of Languages (26th September)? Would this be a different ‘slant’ to use? It could prepare pupils to think about the second Europe Code Week from 11-17th October. There are lots of young ambassadors online.

On the blog next week, it would be wise for us to start preparations for the new school year by looking at A Level reform. If you have time before then, it would be useful to look at the ALCAB report published in July (even just the summary). If you wish to comment on the report but haven’t time, I could add your thoughts to my response to ALL if you’d like. I know how busy the start of the new school year is, so if you would like to put a comment on the blog that I could send in then please do (including your role as well). The closing date for responses is 22nd September 2014.

Lastly, we finished the summer term as the idea of a ‘recovery programme’ for languages was reported on by the BBC.  What do you think about the idea?

Please email my colleague Claire if you have any suggestions for other blog posts this term. Please don’t hesitate to send your ideas to us, we’d love to hear from you!