SMARTcurriculum Ltd

One of the significant factors that impacts curriculum modelling decisions is your intention for  the delivery of modern foreign languages. In this blog I want to set out what we have found as common practice within the many schools we support and the issues that many discuss with us as they wrestle with what to do next. For some, this is an easy decision of little consequence, for others it is a matter that they spend much time and effort wrestling with solutions and impact.  

Firstly, it is important to determine your overall strategies. Here is the “Start with Why?” begin with the end in mind.

  1. What is your ambition for English Baccalaureate curriculum? 
  2. Do you have a school or trust policy statement that reflects your intent? 
  3. How quickly is it to be implemented?
  4. What is your educational philosophy concerning the importance of the metrics against what is right for your learners bearing in mind the requirement to deliver the ambitions of the National Curriculum for all learners?

Factors to consider

  1. What is the characteristic of your feeder school population in relation to their MFL experience. For some it might have been rich and valuable for others more patchy. Some might have experienced a specific language in some depth others might have experienced a few languages in less depth. Some may have experienced little even with the compulsory KS2 requirement. 
    • How strong is the language delivery in your feeder primary schools?
    • What languages are covered by your
      feeder schools? Is there a common thread?
    • What influence is there to
      be drawn from English as a Second or Other Language in you intake population? Nearly 16% of pupils in secondary school already have some exposure to a language other than
      English from home Language teachers should be aware of where this is the case and should, where
      practical and appropriate, draw on pupils’ knowledge of their home language to make comparisons both
      with English and with the new language being taught. This can help develop pupils’ conscious language
      awareness which has many cognitive benefits. 
      MFL Pedagogy Review Report 8 Nov 2016
  2. Have you the scope or desire for multiple language delivery?
  3. What capacity do you have within your teaching staff both in staff specialism/generalism and in the quantity of staffing?
  4.  Is your choice of language determined by the capacity of the language team to deliver? Is this a situational decision that is based on your current staff profile and could this change as the staff profile changes?
  5. For your staff to be able to teach across different languages offered during KS3 is this viable rather than as concentrating on one language for all from Year 7, broadening the offer as learners progress through Key Stage 3.
  6. Are you creating populations in Key Stage 3 to draw from for viable KS4 language exam classes.

Determine your goals 

  1. What is the percentage of learners aimed to engage with an English Baccalaureate performance measure structure?
    • If this is a low number at the start of this conversation what is the goal. E.g., From 35% to 75%
  2. How many academic years do you determine that you will need to be successful in achieving this population based on the different journeys experienced in KS3?
  3. What is your desired journey, consider the factors outlined below.

The Journey

Consider the experience of the learners’ journey through the school. Often schools show me the model for the year and tell me how learners will experience languages forgetting that this year’s plans are a point in time and with so much change learners themselves have often different experiences of the journey through Key Stage 3. I represent below a number of examples of these journeys. 

In these examples I am not being specific about the language offered as you can overlay the offer within your school. Obviously, much of the successes in any of these models is generated by the culture and learning climate created within the school. A language specialist school might create a climate of expectation to undertake multiple languages by all learners, where another school will simply be seeking to comply with National Curriculum intent with a narrow offer not as driven to achieve expectations related to the English Baccalaureate performance measure. I make no judgement here about that decision other than to support the delivery of the broad intentions of the National Curriculum.

The model examples are not exhaustive but are the most frequently found in the schools we have reviewed. It should be noted that the models do not reflect the disapplication of any learners and they assume that a modern foreign languages provision for all is the baseline for most learners in line with the ambitions of the National Curriculum intent.

The diagram below does not consider the provision at Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 5 simply to say that it assumes there is a provision in both areas. Key Stage 2 has broad intentions but sadly has little coordination with the journey through Key Stages 3 and 4 and Key Stage 5 demands engagement at Key Stage 4 to go on to a more specialist level of study.

Under the diagram the table develops the four main models of delivery with some variations, impacts and experiences. 

 

Year 7

Year 8

Year 9

Year 10

Year 11

The uniform models

Model 1a

Single Language for all.

Single Language for all.

Single Language for all.

Single language offer

Single language offer

 

The simplest journey for learners. Whatever the prior experience the school commits to one language through KS3 and drives to consistent provision for all.

Staff recruitment is focused on one provision, the problem arises where departments decide to change the offer.

The simplest outcome. The model produces the most consistent delivery and will generate stable classes where there is choice. It does mean that your language staff must be competent across the team.

Model 1b

Single Language for all.

Single Language for all.

Single Language for all.

Multiple language offer

Multiple language offer

 

The simplest journey for learners. Whatever the prior experience the school commits to one language through KS3 and drives to consistent provision for all.

Often argued that learners who have good language skills can do dual languages well. Populations of the second language will often be small as you are not drawing from any specific prior learning, often driven by teachers with specialisms wanting to offer their specialism.

Model 2

Dual language offered for all.

Dual language offered for all.

Dual language offered for all.

Multiple language offer.

Multiple language offer.

 

All learners undertake two languages from the start. Typically, where KS3 curriculum models are formed this either demands additional time or the learners experience across the cycle being reduced. Languages are typically allocated 7-8% of curriculum time over a cycle. Would this be divided to 4%/4% per subject? Would one language be treated as a main and the other as subsidiary, 6%/2%? Would there be the opportunity for choice in the main and subsidiary? Is a one-size-fits-all approach appropriate?

Definite benefit is that the continuum of each discipline is developed over three years.

“We recommend two to (ideally) three hours per week of teaching time, spread over frequent
lessons of between 40 – 60 minutes duration. A GCSE course should have at least 10% of
curriculum time. ” MFL Pedagogy Review 2016

Securing sufficient populations for KS4 will depend on the size of the year groups in KS3 and the expectation toward EBacc. Generally better in creating multiple language groups.

The selection model

Model 3

Dual language offer with learners selecting which one language to follow.

Dual language offer, following learners selection.

Dual language offer, with learners continue with selection.

Multiple language offer

Multiple language offer

 

The common issue created in this model is on what basis do learners choose. The school will have to manage its capacity to deliver the logistical implications of the choice to ensure that it matches the class size capacity, specifically that class sizes work and staff expertise is appropriate to deliver. Additionally, this will have implications for the rest of the curriculum offer in terms of population design and the potential for student mobility within the structure. Once a choice is made it will limit your capacity to alter the curriculum positioning of a learner.

The capacity to provide a base population from which to draw KS4 groups is dependent on the choices made early in KS3. Typically, this does stablise over time and the generalised delivery of staff will allow for some accommodation of variations, but staff will need to offer multiple languages to make this feasible.

Model 3a

Dual language offer with learners selecting which one language to follow.

Dual language offer, following learners selection.

Dual language offer, with learners offered the second language.

Multiple language offer

Multiple language offer

Model 3b

Dual language offer with learners selecting which one language to follow.

Dual language offer, with learners offered the second language.

Dual language offer, with learners offered the second language.

Multiple language offer

Multiple language offer

 

Models 3a and 3b offer the ability for learners to study second language to their initial choice in following years, the two options are to offer the second language earlier or later in the key stage. The question arises as to the allocation to provide a viable experience and whether the structure is offered to all learners and if not what is adapted in the curriculum to make this personalisation possible.

 

The oscillating model

Model 4a

Single Language 1 for all

Single Language 1 for all

Single Language 2 for all

Multiple language offer

Multiple language offer

Model 4b

Single Language 1 for all

Single Language 2 for all

Dual Language offer, all do both.

Multiple language offer

Multiple language offer

Model 4c

Single Language 1 for all

Single Language 2 for all

Dual language offer, learners choose from 1 or 2

Multiple language offer

Multiple language offer

 

The oscillating model is the least consistent in developing the continuum of learning, is the most challenging where mid-term admissions are high and does create difficulties with staff expertise and demands staff have a more generalist language skill. The choice to include the opportunity for some or all the undertake two languages after the start point in Year 7 adds additional complexity.

4a offers the least consistent continuum in developing solid foundations for KS4. We have seen examples where Year 8 and 9 are swapped but this is a very interrupted continuum and is hard to argue is a viable learning journey.

4b and 4c are more common examples of the oscillating model but it remains a week continuum of learning for string outcomes in KS4.

 

Revised GCSE qualifications in modern foreign languages

Revised GCSE qualifications in modern foreign languages.

Consultation Document March 2021

There has been some significant study into the perception of the relative difficulty of the languages offered at GCSE level with the response, albeit rather interrupted by the two years of no examination seasons when this would have been embedded in practice and understanding by now. The document below outlines the approach to the consultation and likely outcomes. Levelling up would be a fair summary between the programmes on offer. 

Subject association perspective

Additionally it seemed appropriate to add the following paper developed to discuss and advise on practice. I include the full document below but the gives the headlines in relation to structural elements. The rest is focussed on pedagogical matters.

The National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy

Home

Teaching Schools Council 

MFL Review

  1. Secondary schools should know about the modern languages taught at their feeder primary schools. Wherever possible, they should support language learning in primary schools and plan to build on pupils’ primary school language knowledge.
  2. We recommend two to (ideally) three hours per week of teaching time, spread over frequent lessons of between 40 – 60 minutes duration. A GCSE course should have at least 10% of curriculum time.
  3. With the relatively recent inclusion of languages in the primary school national curriculum, it may
    be too soon to expect all pupils to start secondary school with a good knowledge of their new language – particularly when they may be joining from a number of feeder schools, have experienced different
    languages and had varying quality of provision. However, failing to take account of the language
    knowledge that new Year 7 pupils bring with them is to waste an opportunity, and may be demotivating
    for them.

    We found considerable variation in the reported levels of knowledge and expertise brought by secondary pupils from their primary language curriculum. Languages teachers were often unclear what had been covered by primary schools, and some planned to start all courses ab initio in Year 7 regardless of earlier modern language experience.

https://www.all-languages.org.uk/secondary-old/features-secondary-2/

Conclusions

  • The strength of the journey through the secondary school experience of a modern foreign language is going to raise the engagement and performance at Key Stage 4.
  • Focus on ensuring a continuum of learning, systems that interrupt the rhythm of learning, particularly in a subject that needs regular touch points to develop confidence and application, are damaging for the deeper learning opportunities. The oscillating model is not one that is going to raise outcome levels or engagement. 
  • Any attempt to increase the numbers engaging in English Baccalaureate subjects must begin with a strong foundational experience throughout the Key Stage 3 journey, not just as a choice system used at the end of Key Stage 3. Crude measures to raise participation in Key Stage 4 without an appreciation of the learning journey through Key Stage 3 is, at best, missing an opportunity and, at worst, can be counterproductive. Course selection models should set expectations and be based on good understanding of learners abilities. Pathway models that preclude learners from types of courses are common but ensure they are ambitious rather than restrictive.
  • The English Baccalaureate performance measures have been changed to focus on the quality of outcomes rather than the quantity of engagement. Failure to have quality foundational experiences will create yet another gap in learning. 
  • Ensuring the Key Stage 3 language populations that you draw from in the personalisation process entering Key Stage 4 are as large as possible to ensure the viability of delivery in Key Stage 4. Splitting language delivery is only viable if the expectation is for the majority of learners to continue into GCSE.