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Can a centre of excellence really help to make language GCSEs popular again?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by TES_Rosaline, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Will a dedicated centre working with hub schools really help to reverse years of decline in language learning?

    ‘The dwindling take up of French and German at GCSE has been addressed with the opening of the country’s first modern foreign languages centre for excellence.

    The £4.8 million centre is based within the University of York from where it is coordinating the work of nine MFL hub schools across the country to promote pioneering teaching practices - with hopes it will create “a renaissance in the teaching and learning of languages."’

    What are your views about the centre and will this lead to a renaissance in language learning and an increased take up in GCSEs and A-levels? Do we really need to improve the current way MFL is taught in schools? What do you think needs to be done to encourage more students to learn languages? Do we need to do more to introduce language learning at primary level to make it easier for children to learn MFL?

  2. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    Could this thread be moved to Modern Languages?
  3. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Nine boosted schools. After a couple of years the funding runs out, so they stop being able to support the other schools. After a couple more years the teachers who have thrived in the hub schools move on to better jobs.

    I'm feeling a bit cynical this morning.

    I believe that languages are really important as a component of being "educated" and that language teaching does best if started in primary schools. Every child should have the opportunity to learn at least one language.
    I used the word opportunity; having observed work in schools, I have noticed the difficulties (and resistance) of some children trying to learn languages. I wonder whether there should be an opt out clause after a while.
    I also wonder whether the different strategies needed to teach languages have led to the loss of too many language teachers following unfavourable observation by leaders who like identikit lessons.
    agathamorse likes this.
  4. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Occasional commenter

    The biggest issue with languages is their difficulty - the hardest GCSEs by some way and just behind the Sciences at A level. Making them comparable in challenge would make more students take them.
    agathamorse and phlogiston like this.
  5. mpillette

    mpillette New commenter

    Will something also be done to help ensure that MFL are allocated enough teaching time, and that the pool of MFL teachers doesn't dry up?

    From The Guardian, 12.01.201: 'England Schools face staffing crisis as EU teachers stay a home.'
  6. cathr

    cathr New commenter

    Maybe it's not the number of available teachers that's the problem but the number of students which are presumably proportional to the number of posts. It is strange to see that out of the 6712 jobs advertised on TES only 206 are for MFL. The situation is worse in the North with only 10 jobs advertised 50 miles radius of my postcode and I am not in the depth of the countryside!.
  7. cathr

    cathr New commenter

    But the knowledge acquired would possibly not be of any practical value.
  8. mpillette

    mpillette New commenter

  9. mpillette

    mpillette New commenter

    A few days ago, a headteacher told me that he has reduced the number of MFL teaching hours because of recruitment difficulties. There are, of course, regional variations.
  10. cathr

    cathr New commenter

    An encouraging thought for those of us currently applying for jobs..
  11. MrMedia

    MrMedia Lead commenter

    They’ve lost sight of it all. Over on Ed twitter they have abandoned children enjoying being taught and they are now down to drilling and instructing in zero tolerance schools. This will improve grades they pronounce.

    Sure, but philosophically you’d want them to enjoy learning the lanaguge, reading books, exploring history.
    Stiltskin likes this.
  12. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Hate that label ' foreign '. Consider ' World Languages ' .

    Centre of Excellence suspect nice work if you can get it / jobs for the boys ? Funding expertise salary resources - not sustainable .No - I doubt very much this will address the bigger picture

    Need to address motivation and relevance for many students - lacking. A kind of ' what's in it for me ' scenario which even as an ex linguist I totally get. I am not precious about my subject . There are plenty of opportunities in later adult life to pick up the basics / embrace the culture / get by if you really want to . That thing about life longing learning ?

    Much of language learning depends also on excellent memory recall and regurgitating stuff . I got students ' through an exam following a totally meaningless brief ' but they did not learn a language and forgot pretty much everything afterwards.

    Class sizes of 1 to 30 - how much practice does a student get in developing oracy when then teacher has to focus on writing / listening and reading skills too ? And don't start me on group / pair work !!!

    French / Spanish in Primaries kicked around forever. Too many variables, too many substandard ( ' hey you spent this summer on the costas / gîte you are more than able to troll out a few useful phrases to tick the MFL box ? ) teachers with very, very dodgy pronunciation. Children who ' do ' French in Primary only to have to ' study ' Spanish @ Secondary . Dyslexic students who would be better served learning Spanish made to do French ? No joined up thinking. Possibly a reliance on gimmickry to entertain / make it fun / games ( I am absolutely no stranger to using these tactics ) BUT at some point basic graft required and from my experience the students aren't convinced the effort delivers the goods ... and you know as scandalous as this may sound I kind of commend it to the house ...
    minka1 likes this.
  13. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Lead commenter

    Is this the new thing then? The Maths Hubs seems to be working okay so we'll copy this for Science, MFL and Computing (University of York are doing well out of it though, so well done them).
  14. Geekie

    Geekie Occasional commenter

    My problem with it is that it is focussing solely on secondary, despite compulsory language learning beginning at age 7 / Year 3 according to the national curriculum. Part of the new centre's remit is to ensure that primary learning is built on in KS3, but what about making sure that primary language learning is working properly across the board in the first place?

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