Saturday, 29 January 2011

Primary School League Tabels

Teaching and Learning Modern Foreign Languages in the United Kingdom Part 1
I.1. Modern Foreign Languages within the curriculum: 1900 - 1988
Between the1880s and 1904, many pupils had the opportunity of learning a Modern Foreign Language. The main language taught was French; however, German was also taught occasionally. This was the case in most schools existing at the time, although schooling was less compulsory, with compulsory education targeting only a range of students from six to twelve.
In 1904, the Board of Education suppressed Modern Foreign Languages from the curriculum. The 1944 Education Act was a turning point for the United Kingdom's educational system. It made school compulsory between the ages of 5 and 15.
The Ministry of Education, which had become the Department for Education and Science, introduced the "tripartite system". Students had to start secondary school at the end of Key Stage 2.
In 1944, the Local Education Authorities provided the facilities and equipment for schools. The subjects taught, and the methods and contents, were left to the teaching profession and head teachers. Where Modern Foreign Languages were made available, the main skills developed were reading and writing. The emphasis was on grammar, literacy and the communicative aspects of languages were completely overlooked. The emphasis was placed on developing intellectual skills, and the teaching methods were the ones employed for classical languages. Modern Foreign Languages were not seen as a means to an end; the ability to communicate with a native speaker of the target language seemed to be of very little importance. Until 1965, universities in the United Kingdom required prospective students to have a basic knowledge of a foreign language in order to process their applications. It is interesting to note that ironically the decision to suppress the language prerequisite was made the same year when the Centre for Information on Language Teaching was created.
A feasibility study was carried out in 1962, for an early start at learning a Modern Foreign Language in primary schools. I.1.c. The birth of new comprehensive schools
This appears to be in direct link with the introduction of comprehensive schools, a new generation of schools where the eleven-plus exam had no longer to be taken to gain entry.
Local Education Authorities were encouraging innovations within schools.
The idea of comprehensive education, which implies that all students attend a common school rather than having to sit the eleven-plus exam, which was a selective process to determine whether the child could enter a secondary modern, a grammar or a specialist school, came rather late to the United Kingdom. Between 1945 and the beginning of the 1950s, some Local Education Authorities suggested the creation of comprehensive schools but the Government was extremely reluctant to this idea and decided to even strengthen the system in favour of Grammar Schools.
Some of the Grammar schools having a direct grant from the Government went comprehensive, as they only had one other alternative which was to turn into fully private schools.
In 1969, the Department for Education issued Circular 18/69, compelling teachers of Modern Foreign Languages to complete a course of professional training to teach in maintained schools. It was seen as vital to address the lack of competence in the classroom, particularly, since the first General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level in Modern Foreign Languages had been introduced in 1964. In 1977, Her Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI) published the report "11-16: the Red Book", suggesting to include a Modern Foreign Language within the core curriculum. They advised to teach a language four periods a week in a forty-period week. The same year, HMI carried out a survey, "Modern Languages in Comprehensive Schools", which reached alarming conclusions: two out of three students starting a language at the age of 11 were dropping it at the age of 14. Only one out of ten pupils reached the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level pass grade after five years of studying the language.
Margaret Thatcher's first Education Act, which was published the very same year when she became Prime Minister, gave back the right to Local Education Authorities to select pupils for secondary school entrance. She revoked the Education Act issued by the Labour government in 1976. She also decided that the Government should control the school curriculum.
In 1985, the Department for Education and Employment published a document entitled "Better Schools", which suggested that most students in secondary schools should receive a course in Modern Foreign Languages that could be of actual use, and that a second language should be offered in Year 8 or in Year 9 to the students who would gain from it. Nevertheless, one year later another report showed signs of very low achievement in Modern Foreign Languages. Despite all the reports previously mentioned, the Consultative Document about the Curriculum for students aged 11 to 16 delivered in 1987 recommended to include a Modern Foreign Language within the foundation subjects. This means that a language would become compulsory for all the students for five years. In 1978, the Waddell Report already recommended a single exam at age 16 to replace the General Certificate of Education and the Certificate of Secondary Education.
The 1988 Education Reform Act's main innovation was to establish for the first time a prescribed national curriculum for all state schools for the students from the age of five upwards. Within this curriculum, it was decided that languages would figure as a foundation subject in secondary schools, although informally many comprehensive schools, which before this Act had the freedom to decide whether they wanted their students to pursue a language up to the age of 16 or not, had already made them statutory.
In 1996, the Education Act reinforced all the previous Acts from the famous Butler Education act of 1944 onwards, but in the languages field it mainly reasserted the fact that Modern Foreign Languages was a foundation subject and that all students in Year 10 had to take their French, German or Spanish GCSE. Schools had to obey the law.
In spring 1998, the Foundation was contacted by language teachers' representatives and delegates from the world of business, to inquire about the situation of Modern Foreign Languages in the United Kingdom. (The Nuffield Foundation, 2000: 10).
After two years of work in partnership with organisations such as the Association for Language Learning, the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, many universities, Local Education Authorities, business schools and Chambers of Commerce, they published a final report and recommendation pamphlet entitled "Languages: the next generation" on 10 May 2000.
The Nuffield Languages Inquiry's final report reached a number of conclusions from its main findings:

o There is a lack of proficiency in one or more languages within the United Kingdom human resources.
o Languages are not taught efficiently in secondary schools, and the number of languages offered is too limited. Often, Modern Foreign Languages are presented as irrelevant even within schools.
o The post 16 provision for languages is too specialised and needs to broaden up; after sitting the GCSE, 90% of students drop the language that they had been learning.
o There is a crisis in the numbers on rolls in Modern Foreign Languages departments at university. The profile of Modern Foreign Languages must be raised within British society. Speaking more than one language must become a priority. Languages should be taught to pupils from the age of seven, at an age were there are no inhibitions and children have an intrinsic motivation for learning. The teaching and learning of Modern Foreign Languages in secondary schools needs to be improved. Students should have the necessary skills to learn another language later in life. The report also advises to abrogate the decision made in 1966, which revoked the need for skills in a language to enter university. Information and Communication Technology, which is in full development within schools, has to be part of the teaching of a Modern Foreign Language, and the latter should become a "key skill" as Numeracy, Literacy or Information and Communication Technology are already.
"The national strategy for languages should provide a coherent and consistent path of language learning from early childhood throughout life. To lay sound foundations for this path, learning for all children should start in primary school and become a sustained dimension of their entire school education (...). The government should make arrangements for the development of a national framework to define levels of language competence and provide a set of robust grade descriptors for levels of attainment to which all language qualifications should be connected." (The Nuffield Foundation, 2000: 94).
"David Beckham's decision to learn Spanish now he has signed to play for Real Madrid next season should help fire children's interest in learning the language at school, a minister said today. The language that suffers the most from student disaffection is German, which many comprehensive schools do not offer any longer. School Z, for instance is phasing out the tuition of German, and only Years 9, 10 and 11 are still learning this language. According to the same source, the top three languages causing barriers in efficient business trade are French, German and Spanish, which are the three main languages offered within British schools. Unfortunately, businesses then hire natives of the foreign language needed who are also fluent in English, to help them work with prospective European partners. The lack of proficiency shown by British people in Modern Foreign Languages is a hindrance to business, which to some extent is detrimental to the United Kingdom's economy. There also seems to be some kind of stigma linked to languages.
"Learning other languages gives us insight into the people, cultures and traditions of other countries, and helps us to understand our own language and culture. Drawing on skills and expertise of those who speak community languages will promote citizenship and complement the Government's broader work on the promotion of social cohesion" (Dfes: 2002: 12)
Mixed messages exist amongst the population in the United Kingdom concerning the perception of languages. Pupils in secondary schools do not show great enthusiasm for this school subject, as recent figures published in the Times Educational Supplement show: "in some cases dropout rates from GCSE language courses are extremely high - from 50% to 90%"( Pupils often do not see the point in learning a foreign language. English is spoken all around the world as a first, second or third language. Many countries use one language in their everyday life, but English is their official language. The Centre for Information on Language Teaching wants to promote languages in the United Kingdom, and the interpretation of these statistical figures appears to be very optimistic.
Modern Foreign Languages are not the easiest subject in the curriculum for pupils. In larger schools they might also have media, business studies, and as it is a requirement, Modern Foreign Languages are offered. Often, the attitude about languages that surrounds them is not very encouraging. Pupils also do not get language support from families. For generations, their families did not have to learn a language. Or, they were not very good at it because of the failure in the educational system in teaching Modern Foreign Languages adequately when schools turned into comprehensive schools.
The way English has been taught for decades has not made it easy for pupils to access a foreign language. Before the Literacy Hour was introduced at Key Stage 2, pupils were no longer taught grammar. Although languages can help tremendously to improve Literacy skills, pupils often feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of new grammatical knowledge they have to acquire. In School X, pupils in Year 10 and 11 left primary school before the English Key Stage 2 Strategy and the Literacy hour were introduced, or they had only been taught under the newly enforced system for a year. The difference with the pupils who started secondary school in the past three years is very impressive and significant. The knowledge acquired in primary school facilitates their understanding in languages, and Modern Foreign Languages lessons consolidate the learning previously acquired. This is a very good example of the cross-curricular benefits that pupils can obtain from learning a language. Lower achievers cannot always overcome these difficulties in Modern Foreign Languages. During the first few weeks I taught at school X, pupils had to be sent to detention systematically for not producing homework. To try to counteract these difficulties, various techniques are used by schools. Most schools require that parents sign a home-school agreement which states the responsibility of parents and pupils for their learning. The home-school agreement is designed to involve parents in their child's education as much as possible. The National Curriculum for Languages, in its Programme of Study, highlights the importance of training pupils in becoming independent learners, as does the National Key Stage 3 Strategy. In spite of this, pupils in school Z, are provided with a homework timetable to help them in organising their working time. In the United Kingdom, a culture of competition and achievement is bred within society, but more specifically within schools. Although languages are not a compulsory feature yet in primary school, prior attainments are taken into account as soon as a child starts secondary school. The assessment that the Government wishes to set up implies that pupils leaving primary school with good results will be more likely to go on the rolls of schools that are on top of the list in the league table. Consequently, it can divide schools into categories, as was the case before the existence of comprehensive schools.
"Allowing schoolchildren to drop languages at age 14 is reinforcing an existing class divide, warns a report from national education bodies. Schools with more pupils on free school meals are making languages optional. One school reported 40% of pupils in Year 11 not studying a language (last year's option choices), rising to 90% for Year 10 (this year's). This school also reported knock-on effects in Key Stage 3, with curriculum time being reduced for lower ability groups." Some grammar schools have high expectations of the potential candidates which will be part of their Year 7 pupils, and do not want to rely entirely on the assessments made by primary schools, and therefore have entry tests. Unfortunately, even some comprehensive schools use the same technique to hand-pick the best from the average pupils. Pupils are sent to comprehensive schools, where the expectations are lower, and it is in this kind of environment that the entitlement to languages at Key Stage 4 is at risk, as shown by the previous figures. Donald McLeod's article on the TES website illustrates this concern: "In 2003, 70% of schools with more than 10% of pupils on free school meals had made languages optional, as opposed to 31% of the rest. Some 67% schools with half or fewer of their pupils gaining 5 A* to C's at the GCSE had made languages optional, whereas only 38% of schools with higher attaining pupils had done so."
Pupils in comprehensive schools are set targets in all their subjects. Besides, in school Z, the Modern Foreign Languages department sets targets for pupils' levels of achievement for each half term.
In Modern Foreign Languages, pupils sit end of year exams and end of unit tests in the four basic skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) every half term. This is a common assessment pattern used in many schools in the United Kingdom. ( Indeed, it is fair to wonder whether pupils still can enjoy their time at school for the mere pleasure of learning something new and different. The numerous assessments imply further time pressure for teachers into delivering the curriculum and to get pupils thoroughly prepared. School management evaluates the instruction provided by teachers according to the results that pupils receive in the various tests. In the United Kingdom, comprehensive schools are mainly funded by grants provided the Local Education Authorities which themselves are subsidised by the Government. The way budgets are dispatched between schools depends largely on the system in place for allocating money, which varies according to the Local Education Authorities. Some factors which are taken into account are the number of pupils on roll in the school, the size of the Sixth Form, and the achievement of the school in terms of exam results.
School Z is within the administration of this Authority. The money available does not enable the Head Teacher to improve the school according to his development plans. The Modern Foreign Languages has had the opportunity of acquiring new resources even if the department exam results are far below the national results; in 2005, only 9% of the pupils gained a grade A* to C in their GCSE exams. Although other departments also need to expand their resources, Modern Foreign Languages appeared to be a priority. By making this decision of allocating an increased budget to Modern Foreign Languages, the Head Teacher of school Z makes a statement about his views on the subject. Schools in the United Kingdom have the opportunity to be granted further financial support by becoming specialist schools in varied fields such as sports, art, technology, information technology, business, or languages. Specialist languages schools, whilst making their bid, develop their department in order to show the existing resources and competences, and then, once the status is approved, they can expand the specific area, but also manage to bring general improvements to the school. For instance, Specialist Language School W managed to hire three Modern Foreign Languages assistants and each member of the department was provided with a laptop computer. In the Times Educational Supplement, 11 March 2005 issue, the efforts made by the Government to multiply the number of Specialist Languages are put forward: "Mr Twigg will announce today that the Government will spend £30m on increasing the number of specialist languages schools to 400 over the next five years. Schools with languages as their first or second specialism will get an additional £30 per pupil".
Schools suffer from lack of money, test results do not improve, which places the school at the bottom of the league table, and therefore the school is not attractive to prospective pupils, which implies that the school does not benefit from additional help because the number of pupils on roll in the sixth form does not increase.
Staffing is another issue that undermines Modern Foreign Languages departments. Indeed, there are not enough languages teachers in the United Kingdom at the present time, and the current numbers of pupils taking up languages in post 16 education does not show any sign a potential growth. Universities face numerous closures of languages faculties due to very few applicants. As an incentive, the Government offers the students starting a Post Graduate Certificate of Education a £6,000 grant. In Northern England, schools are so short staffed in Modern Foreign Languages that further incentives have been thought of to attract new staff. Stephen Twigg, school standards minister, announced in 2005 plans to work towards the deficit in languages teaching staff, which now also need to be trained for primary school teaching, as it is part of the Government's new strategies for Languages. "More than £100 million is to be rushed into schools to help primary children learn foreign languages and halt the subject's worrying decline in secondaries" (TES, 2005: 1). On the other hand, as the numbers of pupils learning a language at Key Stage 4 or Key Stage 5 has been on a steady decline since the implementation of the Government initiative to change languages to an entitlement, that is to say an option for GCSE rather than a foundation subject, the number of members of staff Modern Foreign Languages departments has decreased.
Since September 2004, Modern Foreign Languages are an entitlement, which means, as explained earlier, that schools must offer pupils the opportunity to study one language up to GCSE. However, in practice schools deal with this new governmental policy very differently from each other. Head Teachers of Comprehensive Schools have the possibility to implement the decision in varied ways, and for instance in Specialist Languages School the tuition of Modern Foreign Languages at Key Stage 4 is still compulsory. In School Z, where the number of options offered is limited, pupils who opt for textiles have to take a language. Some other Head Teachers promote the learning of a language and ensure that it is valued in the school and community, and so they manage to keep the number of candidates who decide to enter for a languages GCSE quite high. The schools that have suffered the most from this decision are Comprehensive Schools in more deprived areas, where there is no understanding of the resource that languages can be, especially to improve Literacy skills. Some schools even withdraw pupils who have Special Educational Needs from Languages lessons, in order to provide them with extra support in English. In school Z, the Literacy Co-ordinator agrees on the importance of offering children the possibility to gain from learning a language, and he has advised the Special Educational Needs co-ordinator to avoid removing them from lessons.
Pupils acquire transferable skills in Modern Foreign Languages, and this should be explained more thoroughly to the general public.
Modern Foreign Languages teachers sometimes have to face poor behaviour in lessons, due to the perception of the subject. Some Languages Schools, but some Comprehensive Schools as well, have decided to disregard the languages entitlement at Key Stage 4 by creating fast track sections in which pupils take their GCSE exams at the end of Year 9. Other pupils are in mixed ability sets. The policies that the Government is implementing for the 14 to 16 education in Languages also appear to be in contradiction with some development plans for the 16 to 19 provision. As far as Modern Foreign Languages are concerned, Recommendation 14 included in the "14-19 reform: Inclusiveness, challenge, quality and choice", published by the Dfes in 2004, states that "the Government should ensure a comprehensive and flexible Modern Foreign Language offer, building upon the National Languages Strategy (...) The existing entitlement to study a Modern Foreign Language at Key Stage 4 should be extended to 16-19 year olds."
The United Kingdom is aware of the need to raise the profile of Modern Foreign Languages. The necessity to teach pupils languages so that they become proficient users is recognised by the Government. "Britain is Europe's foreign languages dunce: only one in three Britons can speak a second language (...) The inquiry into exam reform by the former chief schools inspector, Mike Tomlinson, suggested a foreign language should become a compulsory part of a new style vocational qualification such as Leisure and Tourism" (The Independent, 24/12/2004: 6). The Government strongly focuses on developing vocational studies and might integrate more specialised languages skills within the curriculum. Traditionally the educational system of the United Kingdom conveyed first and foremost the national language, values and traditions throughout its curriculum. Modern Foreign Languages were not a priority.
The birth of Comprehensive Schools could have brought some progress. The selecting process to enter Secondary School known as the 'eleven plus exam' was suppressed and schools were opened to every individual, regardless of class, gender or ethnicity. Languages teaching had to be adapted to fit the new generation classrooms as the lessons were no longer attended by the elite of students. To try to improve matters, Modern Foreign Languages became compulsory at national examination level in 1986. At the same time, business professionals and associations promoting languages, such as the Centre for Information on Language Teaching, noticed a shortage of people able to use languages in professional contexts. The Government was held partly responsible for the absence of coherent policies to promote languages within the United Kingdom.
The Nuffield Final Report suggested some measures which could help to develop the interest and knowledge in Modern Foreign Languages. Most government policies then followed the recommendations of the Nuffield Foundation. A new Strategy for teaching Modern Foreign Languages at Key Stage 3 was elaborated in 2003, alongside a Framework for teaching languages. The introduction of Modern Foreign Languages as a foundation subject within the curriculum in primary schools should be implemented by 2012. Schools are required though to offer the option, as any student is entitled to benefit from tuition in a foreign language.
The innovations in the educational system between the 1960s and the present mean that the teaching and learning of Modern Foreign Languages have had to face many changes too. The resources available to teach the subject were not suitable after the schools transferred to comprehensive schools, and so the resources had to be adapted. "In every other school subject, the model of performance is one who has followed the same learning route that both pupil and teacher must take. Schools in deprived catchment areas are not encouraging students to pursue the learning of this subject and some Key Stage 3 students are already showing signs of disaffection. School budgets vary tremendously according to the way Local Education Authorities allocate their funds, and if schools do not benefit from additional grants it is increasingly difficult to provide up-to-date resources.
Schools can hardly afford buying sets of textbooks to suit the needs of every individual student. Modern Foreign Languages are often a department that performs badly at national examination levels, such as the General Certificate of Secondary Education or the A Levels.
Teaching and Learning is the latest governmental focus in its effort to improve national examination results. Some schools strongly guide their students in their option choice to obtain better overall results. Some other schools think about alternative strategies to enforce the government requirements but also develop their students' languages skills, such as the creation of 'fast track groups', so that students can take their General Certificate of Secondary Education in Modern Foreign Languages at the end of Key Stage 3, when it is still a core subject.
The paradoxical political position of the United Kingdom in educational affairs reflects to some extent the country's public opinion about language learning. According to surveys, the British population appears to regret their lack of proficiency in Modern Foreign Languages but do not transmit this to the younger generation, who is in a position to acquire languages skills at school. Although the decision to introduce Modern Foreign Languages at primary school level as a core subject in the curriculum can only be praised, its actual implementation is yet to be achieved appropriately. Primary school teachers who are not specialists in Modern Foreign Languages might resent teaching the subject, even if they are provided with suitable training. The recent focus that the Government makes on vocational training does not involve Modern Foreign Languages. Figures show that in deprived areas the disaffection and the rejection of Modern Foreign Languages at Key Stage 4, and to some extent at Key Stage 3, have already reached high percentages. Besides, restricting access to some schools by selecting on aptitude is against the principle of comprehensive schools. The plan to turn all schools into Comprehensive Schools was never achieved, and the political direction taken by the current Labour Government turns away even more from this plan. Tony Blair announced a focus on developing schools with a 'specialist status' in 2000. Schools bidding for this status need to raise £50,000 in business sponsorship, set improvement targets for the school and involve the local community. If successful, schools obtain £100,000 in capital grants and an additional £120 per pupil a year for four years. The Government seems to encourage selection and elitism and Modern Foreign Languages are highly affected by this ethos.
Although the elitist approach of the Government is detrimental to Modern Foreign Languages as far as secondary schools are concerned, the introduction of languages at primary school level can generate hope as to a potential for language skills to be developed in the United Kingdom. One might put forward the possibility of outreach work that colleagues from specialist schools can offer to their primary school counterparts. Besides, the number of students on roll in languages at secondary school level decreases, which implies that some Comprehensive School teachers will become available to teach full time in one primary school or in a consortium of primary schools.
So far, students who start Year 7 are taught the rudiments of a Modern Foreign Language during their first year of instruction. As pupils come from various 'feeder' primary schools, the difference in level of achievement will have to be dealt with. Teaching and learning Modern Foreign Languages at primary school has a huge potential in so far that 'fast tracking courses' could become a standard practice, and most students could take their General Certificate of Secondary Education in Modern Foreign Languages at the end of Year 9. The development of vocational strands could also be interrelated with Modern Foreign Languages. To encourage students to pursue languages at Key Stage 4, a vocational course in Modern Foreign Languages designed to lead on this speciality could be developed.


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