2020 Summer Term


  • We're here to help
    Geoff Barton says school and college leaders have risen to the challenges of the current pandemic and have provided calm and principled leadership. Here he highlights how ASCL has and will continue to support you throughout. More
  • Stronger together
    Senior leaders Abigail Boddy and Catherine Carre believe that having two heads rather than one can offer a healthy, powerful and sustainable approach to school leadership. More
  • The missing link
    MFL Consultant, Suzanne O'Farrell highlights ASCL's Key Stage 2/3 Flexible Transition Toolkit, which provides primary leaders with an expert overview of what knowledge and skills could equip their learners for a good start in Key Stage 3, and provides strong deliverable foundations for language learning at secondary. More
  • Technically speaking...
    With so much uncertainty concerning the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Suzanne Straw, from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), reflects on the findings of NFER's research on T levels, and the implications of the current context on the roll out of the first T levels in September. More
  • Be LGBT inclusive
    Deputy Headteacher David Lowbridge-Ellis shares ten simple ways you can support your LGBT staff and pupils. More
  • Strengthening bonds
    Chair of the Teaching Schools Council, Richard Gill, sees the new Teaching School Hubs as an opportunity to evolve the education system. Here he explains his thinking around the hubs and talks to one school leader taking part in the test and learn hubs. More
Bookmark and Share

MFL Consultant, Suzanne O’Farrell highlights ASCL’s Key Stage 2/3 Flexible Transition Toolkit, which provides primary leaders with an expert overview of what knowledge and skills could equip their learners for a good start in Key Stage 3, and provides strong deliverable foundations for language learning at secondary.

The missing link

What do we want pupils to know and to do by the end of Key Stage 2 and how does this support their transition to language learning and progression in Key Stage 3? How can we create a successful bridge between foreign language learning in primary and secondary, which acknowledges and builds on the variability of pupil progress and time allocation in primary schools, and acknowledges that pupils may have studied a different language to the one they will learn in secondary? ASCL’s Flexible Transition Toolkit aims to provide genuine continuity of learning between primary and secondary schools, taking account of these challenges. Success in uptake at secondary is underpinned by a successful transition process and meaningful primary experience.

The challenges

While there are clear recommendations in the National Curriculum that the secondary language learning experience should build on primary language learning, there has been no nationally recognised or meaningful benchmark of attainment for primary schools, resulting in very different approaches to language teaching and learning in primary schools.

The MFL KS3 programme of study (POS) (https://tinyurl.com/ya62477s) refers to cross-phase coherence (DfE 2013): “teaching… should build on the foundations of language learning laid at KS2, whether pupils continue with the same language or take up a new one”.

The KS2 POS (https://tinyurl.com/y9xus74j) states that “language learning should establish the foundations of learning how to learn a language and enable pupils to develop an appreciation of how language works in addition to making substantial progress in one language”.

Teaching Schools Council MFL Pedagogy review (2016) (https://tinyurl.com/ycra6xcg) recommends, “Language teachers should know and build on the grammar taught in the KS2 NC for English”, and that “secondary schools should know about the modern languages taught at their feeder primary. Wherever possible, they should support language learning in primary and plan to build on pupils’ primary school language knowledge.”

The Primary Languages White paper (https://tinyurl.com/tqdvoc7) recommends that “primary schools should provide receiving secondary schools with a clear statement of what pupils have been taught and what pupils should know and be able to do at the point of transfer from KS to KS”.

However, the British Council Language Trends report for 2019 (https://tinyurl.com/yy4ar3qz) indicates that roughly 75% of secondary schools start language learning from scratch due to the challenges previously outlined. Florence Myles’ research into primary language learning (https://tinyurl.com/ycyhynwa) states that in the second part of the primary experience, pupils are aware of what they are learning, their progress and achievements and what they don’t know. They are also more aware of the intrinsic value of learning a language. In order to sustain this motivation, they need to see they are not starting from scratch again when they begin language learning in secondary school.

Transition needs to be a process more than an event, never more so than now, with the current policy focus on clear progression as an intrinsic part of curriculum development.

The solution

What do we understand by continuity of learning? We mean building sequentially on previous learning, finding out what specific knowledge has been taught and retained, and aiming to build on this incrementally. ASCL’s toolkit (available in French, German and Spanish) has two distinct and complementary aims:

To provide an informed actionable base for secondary MFL teachers to build upon, so teachers can organise learning in a way that allows pupils to demonstrate what they already know and how well they have explored and retained this knowledge. Teachers are then able to build quickly and constructively on prior learning, avoiding, as far as possible, any downturn in either achievement or motivation.

To provide a minimum body of conceptual knowledge (grammar, vocabulary and phonology) and cultural knowledge that has been explored, retained and actively used by Year 6 pupils at the end of four years of language learning at KS2.

The ‘drag and drop’ feature of the toolkit allows primary language colleagues to select the grammar, vocabulary, phonology and cultural knowledge that their pupils have explored at the end of KS2. They then drag this across to populate the blank boxes according to their pupils’ learning. (They may add to this if they wish.)

It is adaptable to suit transition scenarios where there is a small or large group of primary schools feeding into one or more secondary schools, as secondary schools can determine the overlap in learning so that there is at least a common actionable base. Where language teachers in partner primary and secondary schools are unable to meet, the toolkit can act as a virtual dialogue tool – giving primary colleagues autonomy to share examples of vocabulary, grammar and phonology explored, and secondary colleagues the opportunity to request that certain areas are covered.

Where a different language is taught in KS3 to KS2, secondary colleagues can use the populated toolkit to support the learning of a second language, through making links to what they have learnt and building on transferable skills. The principle idea is to produce a nationally recognised tool that can act as a baseline, whatever the setting, and avoid a downturn in motivation.

Examples given in the toolkit are for exemplification only; it is not intended to be a prescriptive list. By the end of KS2, children should know a range of all word types, that is, ‘noun’, ‘pronoun’, ‘adjective’, ‘verb’, ‘adverb’, ‘conjunction’ and ‘preposition’, as illustrated in the toolkit, and undoubtedly pupils will have covered more than what is in the toolkit. However, the toolkit proposes suggestions for primary colleagues as to what language structures pupils may have retained, or ‘what’s left in the sieve’ after four years of primary languages.

The content of the toolkit is informed by and complements most commercial resources and packages aimed at supporting the teaching of KS2 languages, and the appendix includes an overview of most commercial and free resources for KS2 languages. Produced by the profession for the profession, ASCL’s toolkit allows schools to take ownership of transition and to create a better, more joined-up and coherent curriculum experience for pupils.

ASCL KS2/ KS3 Flexible Transition Toolkit

The toolkit has been produced by ASCL in association with leading primary and secondary MFL experts and is co-badged with the Association for Language Learning (ALL), the British Council, the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, the Goethe-Institut and the Spanish Consejería de Educación. Download it at: www.ascl.org.uk/MFLKS2Toolkit

Suzanne O’Farrell
ASCL Modern Foreign Languages Consultant