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Less teaching time for MFL - Sep 2011

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by jenijeni, Dec 17, 2010.

  1. Our school has responded to the White Paper by cutting teaching time - whilst making it a core subject.
    As from September, students will have 2 hours of MFL a week. That's it. (They currently have 3 a week in Y7 and 8).
    Key Stage 3 will continue to be just 2 years in length.
    Students who want to take up a second language will be able to do so by choosing it as an option subject - they will then study it for one academic year (5 periods a week), complete with Controlled Assessments.......
    Please, please, please tell me that there are other schools with similar patterns???
    So far I cannot see how this will improve results - it will also result in at least 1 person being no longer needed - and as for post 16.... I think it's probably the death knell for German as well - is it possible to get to GCSE standard in a year, given the way it's now assessed??
    At present, we offer 3 languages to A Level - now I'm looking at just French up to GCSE.
    So much for the White paper raising the profile of MFL!!!!!!
  2. westnab

    westnab New commenter

    We are in our 3rd year of a curriculum which looks exactly like that - 2 hrs of MFL in Y7 & 8 and 1 year of KS4 at 5 hrs/week (well, more like 2 terms and a bit when exams are done by end of May). We have managed to maintain reasonable A*-C pass rates in comparison to the old system, mainly due to, in my opinion, the overall more mature attitude of Y9s doing the GCSE as opposed to Y11s interestingly. However we are struggling to get the brightest students to their target As and A*s and we have been forced to teach to the exam a lot more, which I really hate. We have had to prioritise certain areas of the specification (ie those necessary for speaking and writing exams/cwk) as we cannot cover everything adequately.
    We are now beginning to feel the effects with A-level as this is the first year we have not recruited for German AS. Our numbers have fallen as students are reluctant to come back after a gap of 1-2 years, especially if they only got a B or a C anyway. We still have French and Spanish this year, but it's hanging in the balance and I'm not confident we will get any takers at all next year.
    Now teaching the new Spec, the whole year is focussed on CAs - again, not how I would prefer to do it, but a real lack of time dictates, and we are having to push students to do CAs before they are ready and very few are performing on target. They can do reasonably well in CAs but its the vocabulary acquisition that we're really finding hard in such a short space of time.
    We have very few dual linguists. Some students do opt for a course in KS4 that they haven't studied in KS3, a small number (literally one or two) opt for a 2nd language and some opt to change language (and are allowed to do so!) We did have one student get an A* after just 1 year (2 terms) of Spanish, but she had already done French in a previous year. In reality most who go down this route are advised against GCSE entry after our mocks and we enter them for FCSE and encouraged to pick the language for a 2nd year with the intention that they are entered for GCSE after 2 years of KS4 at 5hr a week. No one has yet followed this advice however and they've just taken the FCSE.
    It need not be as bleak as you think initially, but yes it is hard. We have also obviously suffered personally with the reduced hours of MFL overall.
    Good luck.
  3. We have a 2 week timetable. Our Y7, 8 and 9 classes have 1.5 hours a week. But the way it has been created means that my year 8 classes (for example) have 3 hours over 2 days, and then nothing for 12 days.
  4. Many thanks for those replies - which pretty much are in line with what I suspected!!
    Am now putting together a document to try to convince SLT of the error of their ways.....
  5. littlemissmo

    littlemissmo New commenter

    This is really interesting. Our school has just decided to go down the path of a 3 year KS4 with options at KS4 being taught for 6 lessons a week (one whole morning -(yikes!) and an afternoon. Currently in MFL we teach 3 lessons a week of French and pupils pick up a second language with slightly reduced time for each (2 lessons a week) in Y8. They have not yet decided how the KS3 curriculum will look, except to say that all lessons will now be doubles - again for MFL this is unhelpful. I don't see how pupils can now choose their second language at GCSE having only done it for this amount of time, so we will probably go back to one language. Our school is in an inner city area, about 60% FSM and MFL is never as popular as photography and drama when it comes to options. I am really worried about how pupils and teachers will cope with teaching 4 lessons in a row of MFL, and as the OP says, we will be forced to teach to the spec even more than we already have to. I can't see us getting any A or A* grades. How will pupils go on to study languages at AS if they have a 2 year break? Or if they leave MFL until they are in Y11, will they have forgotten all they ever knew? I would also be really interested to hear of any other models along these lines.
  6. We introduced a three year KS4 this year (so much for time to evaluate and assess...). MFL has 2 lessons a week in Y9, and then in Y10 we have three lessons a week - one of which is a double - it's really, really hard to keep students going for 120 minutes without a break (mind you, in Y11 we have one double lesson a week - that's it. Nightmare).
    We are a high achieving and academic school - last year we had 100% pass rate for German (currently our second langauge) and 70%+ for French and Spanish.
    But we will now just offer French to all, and as for Spanish and German surviving when they have to be delivered in a one year course????
    And as has been said, A Level numbers, already fragile, will decline yet further.....

  7. Quelle catastrophe!
  8. ¡Qué desastre!
    And we all thought the White Paper and the EBacc will bring a kind of Golden Age of MFL... :-/
  9. I'd be interested to know what the minimum time allocation is from absolute starter in year 7 (i.e. with no, or very limited, MFL at KS2) to any sort of worthwhile qualification at end of KS3 in year 8 or KS4 in year 10. (We have looked at Asset / FCSE / currently do NVQ + GCSE)
    We have had our contact time cut - again - this year to 3 x 1/2 hour lessons a week (not all equally spaced) in year 7. That means that I am only at a point with my weakest groups that I would normally have expected them to have covered at Junior School - single words and short phrases only with very little writing. We haven't used the 3rd person yet or got beyond J'ai and Je suis with basic classroom vocabulary.
    That's followed in year 8 with 2 longer lessons a week but the pupils take options in February so haven't got far enough to feel they are achieving anything. In other words the pupils are making choices just at the point where the French becomes interesting but difficult - needing to manipulate basic grammar to express anything worthwhile.
    KS4 take-up has been minimal over the last few years as other, dare I say 'less academic', subjects have been pushed and now I'm supposed to get significant numbers to a GCSE equivalent qualification for the sake of school results.
    I have tried to make a point to SLT only to be condemned as a 'complainer' - hence the pseudonym 'Joiedevivre' which I am supposed to show at every new initiative proposed !
    I would love to be able to quote some guidelines on suggested learning hours !
    Any advice ?
  10. westnab

    westnab New commenter

    Joiedevivre - If you search the forum, Graham Davies has often posted links to the guidelines on learning hours - they are far more than you or I get.
    I strongly suggest FCSE, as in terms of GCSE points it is worth a grade D at GCSE if you get Distinction (Level 6). Students get a level after each mini test, which means they can see their progress throughout the course - I have a nice colour coded spreadsheet where they can see their scores increase and they actually come back after school to resit and increase their levels, some of them! We time the tests so they have just got their latest results in a module and have just started the next module (so are on the easy bits - with fun and games) as they make their options in Y8. Accompany this with a big confidence boosting speech about how many schools get Y7-9 to do this, often with 3 hours a week (do the maths for them!) and how they've got equivalent grade E or D already (on the topics done so far) - now GCSE doesn't seem quite as scary, does it? Make sure you then finish with a rocking activity that makes them leave the room on a high, ready to go fill in their option form!
    Passing the FCSE is a doddle for most students who actually attend and can write and read. Getting L6 on such little time is tough, but success is down to the speaking and writing. Getting full marks on both is very do-able for anyone who tries and is reasonably able (ie your prime targets for options). Look at the requirements and make that your focus. Scoring 30/30 for both S and W means you have 18 points above the L6 boundary (21/30 for each skill) to play with, as the L and R might be a bit of hit and miss if you don't have too much time to teach much vocabulary.
    The skills are very similar for those required by the new CAs at GCSE (ie memorising texts), so when doing those, it's good to be able to say "This looks hard, but actually it's just a longer version of what you did for your FCSE". The downside is that as you only need to do 3 modules, you don't cover much vocabulary, which makes GCSE hard, but at least we're getting them on the course now.
    The first year we did FCSE, we did it with only a year of 2hrs/week in Y8. Our Y7 curriculum was a carousel, where they effectively learnt nothing (thankfully that's now over) and all regular attenders passed with L4 or above. You have "plenty" of time with the minimal curriculum time you describe.
  11. Can you please explain what 'CAs' mean? Just been advised that we are also cutting down on our MFL teaching hours in KS3 next year in my school...we're going from 5 lessons a fortnight to 4 for all KS3; still, I realise that it is better than what some other colleagues are experiencing as we're only cutting down 1 hour in total! Also, from that, we are going from 4 members of staff this year to 3 next year!

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