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Proposal to take GCSE at end of Year 9

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by SN909, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. SLT at our school have come up with a proposal that we in the MFL department are really struggling to get our heads around and it would be really helpful to know what other schools are doing: The suggestion is to stop teaching French as main from year 7-9 and Spanish as second language in Years 8-9 and instead to change to Spanish as the only language (in a department where the majority of the teachers are French specialists - but that's another issue!) and put the majority of students through GCSE at the end of Year 9 and then offer French at ab initio level in year 10. Our concern is that to push students through such an academic subject so early will be detrimental both to students' confidence, and to our results. Our school's A* to C last year was 69% and it is a reasonably academic school but we think this proposal is bonkers to say the least!
    What are other schools doing in the light of the International Baccalaureat? How many languages do you teach at KS3 and does anyone have experience of a wholesale approach to GCSE at year 9 as opposed to putting through only the brightest?
     
  2. SLT at our school have come up with a proposal that we in the MFL department are really struggling to get our heads around and it would be really helpful to know what other schools are doing: The suggestion is to stop teaching French as main from year 7-9 and Spanish as second language in Years 8-9 and instead to change to Spanish as the only language (in a department where the majority of the teachers are French specialists - but that's another issue!) and put the majority of students through GCSE at the end of Year 9 and then offer French at ab initio level in year 10. Our concern is that to push students through such an academic subject so early will be detrimental both to students' confidence, and to our results. Our school's A* to C last year was 69% and it is a reasonably academic school but we think this proposal is bonkers to say the least!
    What are other schools doing in the light of the International Baccalaureat? How many languages do you teach at KS3 and does anyone have experience of a wholesale approach to GCSE at year 9 as opposed to putting through only the brightest?
     
  3. Yes, you are right. It is crazy. I totally disagree with bringing GCSE forward to Year 9. There should be less emphasis on "exams" and more emphasis on actual "learning". Having that extra year at KS3 learning a language can make a big difference to vocabulary acquisition, language exposure, and time spent on perfecting skills. Rushing into exams just means less time is available to pupils to become more experienced in the language(s) they are learning.
    Also if your school does only offer romance languages, having Spanish first, then French later as ab-initio is totally ridiculous, and obviously the idea of a non-linguist. French has a deep writing system, which means the phoneme-grapheme relationship is distant, whereas Spanish has a much shallower writing system, meaning its phoneme-grapheme relationship is much closer. As a result, Spanish is generally a better choice than French if being taught fast-track, as reading, writing and spelling is much easier.
     
  4. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Yep. Bonkers. Do they know anything about language learning? Do they ever want any A-level linguists? If they do GCSE at the end of Y9 will they allot extra time to it?
     
  5. After reading the OP and inspired by last night's programme 'Posh and Posher' I have just done some independent school surfing. When you look at the Eton College GCSE results the first thing you notice is the number of A* s, around 170 last year in French.
    What is also noticeable is the amount of time devoted to learning MFLs. It is obvious what is necessary if you want great results. (Leaving selection aside). So if you cut the amount of time for learning to the bare minimum you will cut your grades.
    I am also tempted to agree with Matthew Wright on his programme this morning, when he opined that state education was organised to prevent the proper education of the masses.
    Your SLT are either part of this conspiracy or as the last poster said bonkers if they expect you to maintain your results.
    I also believed that we were here to educate not merely prepare for certification.
     
  6. lifereallyistooshort

    lifereallyistooshort New commenter

    I've never understood the rush to push pupils into MFL exams early. It's not as though we run out of language to teach and a proper run-up to GCSE with a good group allows time for enrichment and for laying the foundations for A-level. Language learning is about acquiring skills which improve with practice, not learning a chunk of knowledge which is then tested, abandoned and forgotten. This proposal, and others like it, are clearly not put forward by people with an understanding of MFL learning.
     
  7. Jessaki

    Jessaki New commenter

    This is exactly what my school are proposing, except that they will give the incoming Y7s the choice of which language they learn so they are more motivated to do the GCSE in Y9. French is currently the schools main language, with German being the second language offered to pupils at Y8 and 9. Spanish is offered currently only at GCSE, taken as an option in Y10 often with complete beginners taking the course from scratch over two years. Our feeder schools teach Spanish, so I highly suspect they Y7s will choose French and Spanish, resulting in German disappearing off the curriculum. They plan to offer the either of the three languages to Y10 as a second language GCSE once they have completed their first in Y9, but like the Spanish now, this means teaching it totally from scratch - and yes the emphasis will still be on getting those C and above grades. Pupils can also opt to do AS in Y10/11.
    I did my PGCE placement in a school that as a rule did early entry GCSE in Y9 to tops sets, and it was laughable. They kids learnt all their speaking off by heart and all said the same thing. They were taught to the test, with very few pupils (if any) being able to produce language independently. If you said anything to them in TL that was not a set phrase they knew how to respond to (even if you were asking the same thing, but in a different way), they didn't have the linguistic knowledge or even confidence to work out what on earth you were on about! They just weren't ready and made the GCSE useless in practical terms, because they'd never be able to use the language independently.
    I don't necessarily think it's fair to force top set kids who are very able to sit through the GCSE course in Y11, if they are very capable and will achieve the best grade possible early, then I am all for it - as it may encourage them to take a second language GCSE or if the school has a 6th Form, may allow them to start the AS course early.
    But the idea of teaching GCSE in Y9 as standard is quite frightening.
     
  8. Thanks for these replies - we are compiling evidence to go back to SLT with to say in the politest way possible "you're off your heads and this is madness to attempt!"
     
  9. I've seen it done where the upper band had to carry on at KS4 with a language, but the lower band were entered for the foundation paper in Y9. None of these would have carried on at KS4 with a language, and probably wouldn't have progressed any further anyway, so the extra two years wouldn't have made a difference to their grade
     
  10. I did O-levels at 15 (4th year grammar school). Whatever social justification Comprehensives had, few allowed this option to those who could have profited from it. (My daughter's did, and she got 13 O-levels by being allowed to do the two English exams in year 9, and use that time in yr 10 to do Art and Fashion, in between the academic subjects.) This despite the supposed obligation to "differentiate", so that pupils of every ability could achieve their full potential. Pupils at both ends of the spectrum have been let down for decades.

    As for too many teachers with the wrong language - help them switch: anyone with a degree in French should be able to get to the same standard (forget literature) in another Romance lang in a year. In the 60's, MFL teachers were seconded for 3 terms to get to degree standard in Russian. I did A-level French and Spanish (and Latin), got a job as Courier on coach tours (before airborne package hols) and was fluent by the end. Tough time now - got to maximize your scarce talent.
     
  11. As an MFL teacher (and member of SLT) I'm rather dubious as to the wisdom of this. Brighter students, yes but students of lower ability wont have the experience, consolidation or language learning skills to do themselves justice. What ever happened to 'personalised learning'?
     
  12. chriszwinter

    chriszwinter New commenter

    As I read the post and the replies, I can't disagree with any of them. I wonder if there is a linguist on your smt. I imagine not, and would even hazard a guess that there are inviduals there who happily say, "I was never any good at languages." The reply which you have to suppress is "No, and you're not any good at common sense either."
     
  13. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    jessaki wrote:
    I teach very bright kids through to the end of Y11 and it's fine. You just make sure they get interesting, challenging work to do and you don't constantly teach to the test. There is nothing unfair about it.
     
  14. I agree spsmith, this is a very strange approach. It panders to the 'lets get this MFL business as soon as we possibly can, then we can all forget about it'. The task should be to give a firm foundation for further language learning and show what an enriching experience it is to learn another language. All this takes time.
     
  15. lifereallyistooshort

    lifereallyistooshort New commenter

    And I agree with spsmith and OTTER. Personally, I feel we sell bright pupils short when we allow them to sit MFL GCSEs early. If we think of our task as teaching a foreign language, rather than merely getting them to jump successfully through exam hoops then there is a huge amount, both linguistically and culturally, that can be explored in year 11, fitting in controlled assessments along the way. Hopefully, an enriching, exciting and challenging experience which will inspire more of them to continue to A level, for which they are then well-prepared.
     
  16. yasf

    yasf New commenter

    You can always switch to IGCSE if GCSE is too easy for your class.
    It's much better preparation for post-16 anyway.
     
  17. I have been following this with interest because my school is putting this year's yr 8 top sets in for GCSE French at the end of yr 9 and then their language learning will be over. Effectively language teaching will end at the end of yr 9 with no prospect of pupils carrying on to do A level as they do currenntly. We are a school which is hovering around 35% A-C inc maths and English so our students are not necessarily high fliers.
     
  18. I am going to complete a GCSE in Y9 in German and also am starting to do French at GCSE this year I had done both subjects Y7-Y9
     
  19. BrightonEarly

    BrightonEarly Occasional commenter

    We're also being asked to bring in an accelerated GCSE at the end of Y9. Pupils can opt into this course in year 8 following one year of language learning with 3 x 75 minutes lessons a fortnight.
    We have said that reaching a 'C' grade in those circumstances would be challenging. That point has been accepted. It is then envisaged, that the pupils could opt to aim for Higher level GCSE in Years 10-11, or perhaps start AS as a 2 year course.
    We currently use Echo and Expo GCSE in Years 10-11 (happily moving between foundation and higher books for different pupils in the same class). Pupils might be able to access the foundation level of the book in Years 8-9, but then what would we use in years 10-11? I think it would be demotivating to follow exactly the same content albeit at a higher level.
    I haven't used Echo 3, though I am familiar with Echo 1 and 2. If anyone is using Echo 3 could they say how well this matches with the AQA GCSE topics? Or is there an express beginners to GCSE course that anyone can recommend for French and for German that would be suitable for a 2 year course for younger pupils?
     
  20. yasf

    yasf New commenter


    It's a revolting idea that is merely trying to get round the ebac. Personally I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.
    It takes no account of how language is aquired and is obviously the brainchild of non-linguists.
    No such course books exist, because no self respecting linguist would try to create such nonsense.
     

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