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MFL level of pupils coming from primary?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by amunt, Nov 13, 2018.

  1. amunt

    amunt New commenter

    I'm thinking of returning to teaching after a 4 year break and was wondering if Yr 7 students now come in with a much higher level of an MFL. It used to be the case that some came in with virtually nothing, while others had all the basic vocab. Just wondering if, with the curriculum changes pupils are starting secondary with a much stronger base? Or is it still so mixed that you pretty much have to start from scratch anyway?
    Cheers
     
  2. madcatlady

    madcatlady New commenter

    Short answer: the last thing you suggest. It's so mixed you will have to start from scratch. IF they did the same language you are teaching then they might know numbers to 20, colours and some basics. Assume nothing.

    My daughter is taught French at her primary school by a lovely lady who is in fact an art specialist. I asked if she could speak any French. Answer: no. She is doing her best but is not equipped to do more than basics and it looks as though my daughter will do Spanish at secondary anyway.....
     
    agathamorse and amunt like this.
  3. madcatlady

    madcatlady New commenter

    Note to clarify: I am sure some schools are doing an amazing job, I know they are. BUT unless you only have one feeder school you will end up with mixed experience - some who know a bit and were taught by a willing trier, some who have been taught by a specialist and some who did German when you do Italian.
     
  4. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    As a Primary MFL specialist I am disappointed, but yes, because of the varied experiences of the children, most Secondaries do just ignore any learning and start again from scratch. :(

    Sad, but until there is room to have separate groups to cater for those who have retained their learning, which is very different to having been exposed to the learning, I don't see how schools will change.:(
     
  5. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    One bonus though: because of spag they are often grammatically more aware. They can do things like recognising the difference between preps and conjunctions with words like before.
     
  6. amunt

    amunt New commenter

    Thanks all. That's very enlightening. Sounds like not much has changed, except greater grammatical awareness.
     
  7. Geekie

    Geekie Occasional commenter

    Yes, provision is still quite mixed, so it makes sense for Y7 to start from scratch. However, the Year 6s that I send to secondary have had Spanish with me for 6 years, and are bored rigid and disaffected (I know because they tell me) by having to start from Hola and Me llamo again. One former student who has just taken GCSE told me that he used to get into trouble in Y7 for not doing his Spanish homework. He used refuse to do it on the basis that he did the same work in Y3. So if you are going to start from scratch, teach the familiar language in an unfamiliar context, so that at least those who do have some experience from KS2 will also be learning something new.
     
    amunt likes this.
  8. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Such good advice there @Geekie.
    If only we could get that over to more Secondary colleagues.
     
    amunt likes this.
  9. agathamorse

    agathamorse Occasional commenter

    The problem is we can have 180 pupils coming in from up to 20 different feeder schools and they’re put into 6 different tutor groups to encourage new friendship groups. So in any year 7 class we’ll have a few who’ve done some French: colours, numbers etc. Some who’ve actually been taught the KS2 curriculum and a majority who’ve been taught different languages altogether. We don’t set out to bore pupils or put them off, but we have to start from the beginning to ensure that the whole class makes progress and can access the curriculum.
     
  10. Geekie

    Geekie Occasional commenter

    I completely appreciate that, @agathamorse , but like I said above: "So if you are going to start from scratch, teach the familiar language in an unfamiliar context, so that at least those who do have some experience from KS2 will also be learning something new."
     
    palmtree100 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  11. MosaiK

    MosaiK Occasional commenter

    I agree with the increasingly improved grammatical awareness, although this mostly applies to middle to higher ability learners. However, there is one problem which I have always encountered and which in my opinion can only be eradicated by properly skilled and trained MFL teachers at KS2. Even if my Y7 students had learnt the same MFL at KS2, they would have mainly practised the skills of reading and speaking (mostly repetition and songs) as well as some listening (from the songs and also from 'Rigolo'), but no written work beyond gap filling and labelling, i.e. no sentences, no creative writing etc... Unless a teacher has a good knowledge of the language they are made to teach, they will struggle to correct the learners' written work, therefore most will choose to retain the fun in spoken French and salvage at least something. While some of the students had retained a lot and were very good at coming out with the correct words and some phrases, they were on the whole incapable of forming independent sentences (orally or in writing). Half a term of written extension work later and usually by October Half-Term, the whole class had reached the same level of input... clearly the output was always going to be different amongst 32 students in one class. ;)
     
    agathamorse likes this.
  12. palmtree100

    palmtree100 Lead commenter

    I think you have to remember that primary MFL is normally half an hour per week. Even as a specialist I do tend to prioritise input, listening and speaking over extended writing. Surely the first stages of learning a language should be exposure to the sounds and working on pronunciation, phonics etc, as well as a bit of reading and writing of course. By the end of year 4 they are writing sentences on familiar topics, but for me the focus is on maximum comprehensible input over output.
     
    agathamorse, MosaiK and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  13. palmtree100

    palmtree100 Lead commenter

    Another thing to remember is that MFL in primary is often the least valued subject by SLT and teachers alike. If something more important is happening in school, MFL lessons are dropped without a second thought. SEN children are often withdrawn from my lessons for other interventions. So it is hardly surprising that the level of the children is variable on arrival at secondary. As specialists we are fighting a battle to raise the profile of our subject, which is particularly hard in primary where many believe MFL is an unnecessary burden on an already packed curriculum.
     
  14. MosaiK

    MosaiK Occasional commenter

    @palmtree100
    You are absolutely right in what you say and I apologise if you thought I was criticising how Primary MFL is taught. I merely summed up my experience with the level of MFL I have come across when learners join others in Y7. I base my comments on many years of Primary Liaison which involved teaching French and German lessons to Y4-6 learners on several occasions. For most of these children I was the first actual MFL teacher they ever encountered at Primary School (, as well as being the first native speaker). I wholeheartedly agree that MFL teaching at Primary level should include all the basics and I also think it should initially concentrate on fun activities to encourage children to take their languages further. If by the end of Y4 your pupils are able to write sentences on familiar topics then they will most likely be ahead of their peers when they go into KS3 and help to drive standards. Thank you. :D
    As I said before, the problem of varying levels of MFL by the end of KS2 can only be eradicated by Primary Schools employing MFL-skilled teachers rather than relying heavily on Rigolo and various websites as 'self-teach' resources. Otherwise there will always be differences by the time children reach KS3. Nothing, not even the internet (!) will ever replace the positive influence a skilled and enthusiastic teacher can have on impressionable young learners. ;)
    On your other point, sadly many High Schools also do not value MFL at KS3 as much as they should and are equally happy to drop MFL at short notice, e.g. for last minute assemblies, or students are frequently withdrawn from MFL to attend peripatetic music lessons, literacy or numeracy catch-up etc... :eek::rolleyes:o_O This would not be so bad if they weren't then put back into their regular MFL class as if they had been there all along and expected to swim, as the teacher struggles to help them catch up on the missed MFL experience AND on their lost enthusiasm for a subject most of these students already struggled with before being withdrawn... If the same students were removed from a variety of subjects, say on a rota perhaps, that would make it a lot easier for all involved. At KS4 the value of MFL tends to rise due to schools' interest in their English Bac numbers.
    I am fully aware that some schools do value MFL - often because one of their SLT is a MFL specialist - and also that several schools ensure that learners are withdrawn from odd lessons on a rotational basis.
    :)
     
    agathamorse likes this.
  15. palmtree100

    palmtree100 Lead commenter

    Thank you for such a detailed reply, giving us an insight into the struggles faced by our secondary MFL colleagues, which are surprisingly similar to primary! I used to teach secondary years ago and it sounds like the subject is less valued now than before
    I realise now you were accurately describing the level of most new year 7s - sorry I can get a bit defensive - which is bound to be the reality given the lack of time and money invested into primary MFL. I have noticed that primary MFL posts are rarely advertised, schools that have specialists have usually stumbled across them by accident, otherwise relying on class teachers to try their best to teach a few words here and there.
    As a specialist I do quite like to incorporate a bit of Rigolo with the year 3 and 4 children! With the absence of text books that we had in secondary it is nice to have any resource that isn’t made by me! Good for a bit of listening as it’s visual as well, but obviously does little for speaking or communicative activities. A few of the worksheets are quite handy gap-fill activities in year 3 and 4. But I plan what I want them to learn and then see if there is anything from Rigolo that fits, if not I don’t use it. More and more listening material can be found online these days in the form of videos, songs etc. I don’t want them to only hear my voice!
     
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  16. palmtree100

    palmtree100 Lead commenter

    Separate groups is one solution, and more flexibility in which language children take in year 7, usually they have no choice so are often unable to continue with the language they studied in primary even if they wish to.
    I guess another option in the long term would be for a national plan : all primaries do French, then children continue that in secondary (at a higher level) plus choose another language from scratch. In KS4 they can drop one language if they wish. SEN/ below could perhaps choose one language only when in year 7.
     
  17. MosaiK

    MosaiK Occasional commenter

    Please never stop being defensive about this issue, MFL still have a long way to go in this country before people appreciate what they are being offered as part of their education. MFL need people like you and others here to defend their value and fight their corner. :cool:

    And this in my opinion is exactly the way Rigolo should be implemented. :D I have come across too many Y7 children who told me that all the French they had at Priamry was to sit in front of Rigolo week after week ( or fortnightly in many cases), because their teacher didn't speak any French and the TA who knew a little French was busy... You read into this what you will and you are bound to read it right :(.

    On your and Lara's (@Lara mfl 05) other point, sadly I don't think that many school will ever have the resources to sensibly staff several levels and/or languages at KS3 as there just aren't enough MFL teachers coming through... several of those who make it through PGCE then stumble at NQT level or in their first couple of years. It is tough to teach a subject that carries so little value until KS4 - and then it becomes a real struggle to enthuse those students who by then lack both in skills and in interest. Fewer successful students at KS4 and KS5 means even fewer going through to MFL at Uni etc... :mad: It's a mad and tough world out there for the status of MFL in this country.

    I don't dispute that there are pockets of worth but in my experience they are few and far between. :eek:

    Oh well, it's a new day, a new week even, to spread the word... :);):D Let's stay outwardly positive and defend what we believe in... :cool:
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
    palmtree100 and agathamorse like this.
  18. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    I understand that LB Hackney has now decreed that all its primaries should be teaching Spanish (I think.) This seems to me to be a way forward if we are to ensure progress from KS2 to KS3.
     
    MosaiK and palmtree100 like this.
  19. Geekie

    Geekie Occasional commenter

    This is a long-standing arrangement in Hackney.
     

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