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Do your students struggle at AS?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by mojopicon, Nov 5, 2011.

  1. I work in a Sixth Form College and they are downgrading our department because we cannot meet the college benchmark in terms of success rate for AS. Our results in Spanish and French are excellent for A2, but we always get a few students for AS who struggle terribly with the course. As teachers we cannot do more than we are doing at the moment in terms of extra support, etc. We try everything every year, but there are always "casualties" as we get students with very low ability . The school is using statistics that are not reliable, since classes are small, and you only need one to fail and another to leave college to make the statistics look bad. I was wondering if you are also experiencing difficulties with getting students to pass with a good grade in AS. I use WJEC and I find the exam very challenging. I had a look at AQA and it seems much easier, but I am terrified of changing because I keep hearing horror stories about the marking, etc. I find the system so inflexible and unfair, they don't care about the reasons why a student fails, which in most cases is because they don't bother coming to class or studying. Does your school take into account AS results or only A2?

     
  2. I work in a Sixth Form College and they are downgrading our department because we cannot meet the college benchmark in terms of success rate for AS. Our results in Spanish and French are excellent for A2, but we always get a few students for AS who struggle terribly with the course. As teachers we cannot do more than we are doing at the moment in terms of extra support, etc. We try everything every year, but there are always "casualties" as we get students with very low ability . The school is using statistics that are not reliable, since classes are small, and you only need one to fail and another to leave college to make the statistics look bad. I was wondering if you are also experiencing difficulties with getting students to pass with a good grade in AS. I use WJEC and I find the exam very challenging. I had a look at AQA and it seems much easier, but I am terrified of changing because I keep hearing horror stories about the marking, etc. I find the system so inflexible and unfair, they don't care about the reasons why a student fails, which in most cases is because they don't bother coming to class or studying. Does your school take into account AS results or only A2?

     
  3. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    All the scenarios mentioned here resonate, the problem being that AS coming so soon so it is not long before those who realize they've made a big mistake fail to make that quantum leap in effort to bridge the gap. I tutored two friends in Malcolm's position both scoring low marks in the first few weeks of the course and wanting to give up-it was back to the basic verbs in the present tense. One flew because she could see that the effort would pay off and she got her A with practically full marks, the other gave up the extra lessons and got a low grade.
    I guess some systemic things need to happen. Transition is a huge issue-maybe potential AS students should be invited by sixth forms/colleges to enrichment/Aimhigher (RIP) style two day events to bash the basics they will need, maybe more than one.
    Maybe there should be a continuation pack given out to potential students at open days to give kids determined to study MFL a programme of learning activities to keep up their language between Easter and September... but would the dodgy ones do it.
    There used to be an aptitude test for entrants to the sixth form (Eric Hawkins) which was intended to diagnose the gaps in knowledge. I guess something like this would give you the ammunition to distinguish between those coming in with A/A* grades but with vastly different levels of mastery of the language.
    Another student I tutored who actually got me started me writing the www.alevelfrench.com site and the A*ttitudes AS course didn't seem to know anything at all. Weather-no we didn't do that, parts of the body, no! On the other hand the year 11 brother of one sixth former I was tutoring showed me his essay work and it was amazing-much better than his sister's (as she would admit-without prompting) but he didn't want to do languages-so another side to this is getting the good ones to see the advantage of learning an MFL...



     
  4. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    It is refreshing to read Malcolm's insightful comments, and they should be compulsory reading for the fantasists on the leadership scale. He hits the nail on the head when he says that pupils at GCSE can barely produce a sentence in the foreign language without the teacher's help. I can tell him why there is a gap between his and his friends' A's and B's and the lower grade, but we all know the reason: A's and B's go to those who do the work, while much lower grades go to those who are led to believe that A level is for everyone and that it is up to the teacher to do it all for them via interesting lessons and engaing activities and all the rest of endless diarrhoea produced by senior managers who live in cloud cuckoo land.
     
  5. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    This is really interesting Malcolm, as essentially that is the way I have gone this year with schemes of work. Y7 and Y8 are the usual topics but quite heavily grammar-based - verb endings in the present tense, irregular present etc (we use Tricolore, so it's naturally grammatical), then in Y9 I have completely moved away from textbooks to do content-based learning - starting off with the French revolution, then artistic movements of the 19th and 20th centuries in France, sustainable development, foods from around the world, water resources in developing countries and then a film study. We still do grammar in Y9 but in the context of the topic. I'm afraid Y10-11 are still GCSE orientated by the nature of things, but I try to find authentic resources as much as possible to make it more interesting, and with the top set I have started to use A-level resources.
    I think this works well for pupils who, like you, have the ability and willingness to be pushed. I think we need to recognise that a lot of pupils do not have the academic ability to cope with this sort of learning though - certainly my bottom set Y11 still hasn't grasped the very simple grammar which the majority of my Y8 understand.
     
  6. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    Thinking back many moons ago, when I worked in the private sector, 1987-94, my best ever class after the compulsory Tricolore in years 7-9 worked on films, mainly Truffaut. We showed sometimes the full film eg La nuit américaine, sometimes extracts like this one (but starting before this part) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKYSODuFs4k&feature=related and the kids did those standard qu'est-ce qui va se passer/je pense qu'il va.... I think some of my colleagues were a bit sceptical but most of the class I'm thinking of carried on to do languages and got buckets of grade A's. The grammar was interwoven with the work with summaries in different tenses etc etc.
    Back in the state sector the mid nineties were the hey day of school TV programmes for languages with Clémentine and a number of other series which people obviously still hanker after. I think now if I were actually teaching now I would be tempted to use selected bits of "Vous les femmes" from the BBC 2 programme that's been on a few weeks. It has some really good discussion points in although probably more AS level.
    It comes down to the syllabus and assessment methods if everyone is trying to hothouse the kids for these CAs they're not going to have time to do the motivating stuff in two hours a week.

     
  7. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    One point to note is that the latest incarnation of AS level is closer to GCSE. When AS first emerged the boards were not clear where to pitch it. Now they see it as an extension of Higher Tier GCSE. The text books reflect this. Just compare the difficulty level of an average AS text book with those of twenty years ago.
    Although a good number of students find the transition difficult, the national picture is one of pretty high grades in MFL, mainly because the ability profile of MFL A-Level students is quite high. Essentially it is still a "hard" subject for a minority of 16-18 year olds, many of whom are in independent schools, grammar schools and high performing comps.

     
  8. Since I first wrote this post a few days ago I became increasingly suspicious that what my school really wants is to get rid or the MFL department. But what breaks my heart is to read your comments. You do not deserve to end your career like this. I am Spanish and I love Britain for many reasons, but will you allow me to say that we have here one of the most hypocritical education systems in the world? We offer so much to the students and their parents in open evenings, but behind doors, all those managers that forgot what education is really about, are just looking at numbers and how to get a few more pennies. Even state schools are like private businesses competing for clients, and sure, this is what pays for our salaries, but what a ruthless process it has become. We had some foreign teachers visiting a few weeks ago and they were surprised about how miserable and stressed out we all looked. I am convinced good management makes a difference, but we do not have that in my school.
     
  9. One SMT said to me that making children do French was akin to child abuse....She has gone on to be a head teacher in the North somewhere, I do hope it's the Pole!
     

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