Aim: To promote languages across the academy in order to stress their links with the real world and the career and employment benefits of studying them.
Background: There was a desire to increase students’ interest in the subject and improve the uptake of Languages at KS4. Many students come from backgrounds where few people go on to higher education, and did not understand either the beauty of learning about other cultures or the financial benefits that learning a language could have for them.
Year 1: Links were formed with the PSHCE department to introduce lessons on languages and work opportunities, and in a Year 8 assembly the BBC journalist and linguist Emma Jane Kirby gave an inspiring talk about why languages had been so important for her.
Year 2 : European Day of Languages was celebrated across the school with tutorial materials and competitions, and trips to Paris were organised for Year 9 and 10 French students. The advantages of studying languages were promoted in assemblies and lessons, and small-group conversation sessions were introduced in French and Spanish. An annual French and Spanish day conference, which included the cooking of authentic food, was started and a fortnightly booster class was held for all Year 11 French students.
Year 3: An aspirational visit to Cambridge University was arranged and a presentation given at school by a current Cambridge undergraduate. This popular session engaged pupils and it went on far behind the allotted time. It increased pupils’ interest in continuing the study of a language after GCSE, as they could see how many opportunities it would open up for them. Years 9 and 10 visited French and Spanish restaurants and Year 8 students were linked with pen friends. All students in Year 7-8 now studied a language, whereas previously at least 20 had been withdrawn for SEN. This went very well, and will be continued in future years.
Evidence: Uptake at KS4, quality of writing, pupil voice, trips and conferences.
Impact: Pupils now perceive MFL with more optimism and the department has noticed an increase in interest in foreign languages and cultures. Pupils got a lot out of the Paris trips, increasing their confidence and feeling that their language skills had improved. They used the target language with pleasure and enthusiasm every time an opportunity was presented to them.
French and Spanish results are improving, especially the A*-A grades. Writing, especially, has improved, though there is still more work to do in terms of speaking and listening. The number of pupils opting for EBacc subjects has increased steadily from 52 in 2014/15 to 110 in 2017/18, and Year 11 leavers have chosen to attend Sixth Forms that give them opportunities to study languages further through the IBacc and to complete work experience in another country. Former Stewards pupils have gained sufficient confidence to go on to apply for Summer Schools in Europe and degrees with language or linguistics components.
Reflections: The power of getting other members of staff involved in the promotion of languages cannot be overestimated. History, Science, Geography and Art teachers were hooked and wanted to plan the next visit, not to mention they all spoke French at every opportunity.
As a middle leader, I have personally learned that it is essential not to give up, and to always look for opportunities to raise pupils’ interest and aspirations.
Contact: Pauline Gilmé, Subject Leader for MFL, firstname.lastname@example.org