October 2010

The know zone

  • Who's the boss?
    A disciplinary issue involving a school leader highlights important questions about the respective legal responsibilities of governors and local authorities, says Richard Bird. More
  • Your number's up...
    While no one likes to consider the prospect of redundancy, there are measures you can take to ensure that your finances are in the best possible state should the worst happen. More
  • Recipe for success
    Sam Ellis invites ASCL members to submit their own data and experiences to help provide the coalition government with expert guidance as it cooks up new ideas for education. More
  • Personnel shopper
    After working in transport, retail and local government, Tracy Nash is now personnel manager at Horbury School in Wakefield and a training consultant for ASCL. A food and wine enthusiast, she and her friends recently staged their own version of the TV show Come Dine with Me. More
  • The great call of China
    The British Council is inviting students to enter a Mandarin speaking competition and schools to apply for funding to develop partnerships between China and the UK. More
  • Lost in translation?
    The government is reviewing the teaching of languages in schools following a continued decline in the numbers taking modern foreign languages at GCSE. So what should be the future for languages in schools? More
  • Friends, romans, citizens... lend me your presentation techniques
    LEADERS’ SURGERY: The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Filing down bureaucracy
    Proposals to reduce bureaucracy were at the centre of debate at ASCL’s September Council meeting, as was ensuring fairness for all in the education system as the academies programme begins to gather steam. More
  • To 'B' or not to 'B'?
    While the Secretary of State’s announcement of an English Baccalaureate could have signalled a move towards a broader, freer curriculum, the current proposal is a performance measure rather than a new qualification, says Brian Lightman. More
  • Band on the Run
    Leaders of schools and colleges have a lot in common with leaders of rock and roll bands, says Ziggy Flop, just not the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. More
  • Lead vocals
    Quotes from John Fogerty, Robert Yates, Teddy Roosevelt and Rosalyn Carter. More
  • Engaging with all students
    Many teachers have taught year 11 pupils who fail to engage in learning or are consistently disruptive in class. More
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The government is reviewing the teaching of languages in schools following a continued decline in the numbers taking modern foreign languages at GCSE. So what should be the future for languages in schools?

Lost in translation?

Plain speaking is not always enough

In today’s global economy, there is a growing demand for people who speak and understand more than one language. Employers are also seeking workers who can demonstrate excellent communication skills, solve problems and show that they are flexible.

Many find language learning a challenge, but overcoming that challenge develops perseverance. Exposure to a wealth of other cultures and traditions teaches open-mindedness and a readiness to explore options. We help students to recognise that while you can call a spade “a spade”, you can also refer to it as “une pelle” or “eine Schaufel” – there is often more than one solution to a problem and MFL learners have a head start in finding the alternatives.

Sandy Woodcock
Business manager, Ribston Hall High School, Gloucester

Cross-curricular accreditation

Some form of language input should take place at Key Stage 4 – although not necessarily a GCSE – to provide not only language learning but language and cultural appreciation. If a greater choice of language ‘accreditation’, and I use that word carefully, was available to students they may be more interested in the first instance and more successful at languages.

It would be helpful if the language opportunities offered were linked to their current areas of studies – business studies, performing arts, vocational courses.

I also believe that we have an ethical duty to ensure that young people have an appreciation of the world they live in and an understanding of others.

Angelina Robin-Jones
Assistant head, Kingsley College, Redditch

A universal language is sufficient for most

I personally do not believe languages should be compulsory again at GCSE. We live in a global community and a pluralistic society. We do need an appreciation and awareness of different cultures and languages but this is not achieved through the teaching of a specific language. We also have to take into account the universal nature of English, especially across various types of media.

The acquisition of a foreign language in itself, though, is a skill that brings a certain type of academic rigour, thinking and processing that is beneficial for many, but not for all, young people.

Nigel Sheppard
Deputy head, Horndean Technology College, Hampshire

Language skills for the future

Language learning is a vital part of education and the young people in our schools need to be equipped for life in a global community. The learning process itself is an intellectual exercise that develops skills of memory, analysis and logic creating deep cognitive learning.

As our students compete for university places and employment in such uncertain times we need to ensure our schools have qualifications that have integrity and currency.

Sara Crawshaw
Director of the Hexham and Newcastle Catholic Partnership

Teach students to be global citizens

I would not reinstate a modern foreign language at GCSE level but I support and encourage the enjoyment of languages at Key Stage 3. I believe that learning a language gives you very real study and citizenship skills and develops self-confidence, but I could see those skills being delivered through a global citizenship module in a personal development course for example, not just in discrete modern foreign languages.

Di Beddow
Deputy head, Hinchingbrooke School, Huntingdon

Cans and broken string