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Language teaching and learning beyond vocabulary and grammar: our success stories

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 March 2022

Zhu Hua, Caroline Conlon, Camilla Smith, Fotini Diamantidaki and Áine McAllister.

The strong reactions from the language teaching and learning community to the Government’s French, German and Spanish GCSE subject content review are hardly surprising. If the review’s intention was to make the subject ‘accessible’ and to motivate students, then making a few tweaks to words, themes and topics, question types and grammar will not do the job.

Learning another language is not simply about putting words and sentences together; it is about communicating ideas, feelings and experiences; connecting with people and cultures and broadening horizons. Language curriculum, assessment and pedagogy need to focus on developing intercultural competence.

So what has worked well in classrooms? How do we create space for cultural exploration and exchange of perspectives? And what role does (more…)

Ofsted has turned our attention back to what makes a good curriculum. We now need better answers

Blog Editor, IOE Digital23 January 2019

 John White.
Ofsted has begun consulting on a revised draft inspection framework.
The inspectorate wants to move away from an over-reliance on results and to focus on how these have been achieved – ‘whether they are the result of broad and rich learning, or gaming and cramming. ’The aim is to ‘‘rebalance inspection to make sure that young people are being taught the best of what has been thought and said’.
Ofsted’s focus on whether a school has a good curriculum is welcome. If taken seriously, it should lead us into deep and complex issues about what education should be about. But, bound as it is by current legislation, Ofsted has a very specific interpretation of this. Its references to knowledge and skills and nod to Matthew Arnold’s well-known dictum show its reliance on the current National Curriculum aims, introduced by then Education Secretary (more…)

Michael Young: fighting for working class students’ access to knowledge

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 October 2018

John Morgan. 
The Guardian Education section last week published a profile of Michael Young, Professor of the Sociology of Education at UCL. Its author, Peter Wilby, charts what he saw as Young’s dramatic shift from countercultural figure on the educational left to alleged supporter of Michael Gove’s narrow view of the National Curriculum.
Wilby reverts to what has been described as the default settings of educational discourse in England, whereby to be in favour of the dissolution of subject boundaries is to be “progressive”, whilst to be in favour of strong subject boundaries is seen to be at best “traditional”, and at worst, “Conservative”. This could not be further from the truth. As Wilby acknowledges, Michael Young has always sought to advance the socialistcause in education.
The fact that he (more…)

Talking their language: how London's university-school partnerships are helping to tackle the MFL crisis

Blog Editor, IOE Digital13 January 2017

Caroline Conlon
In the ‘Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review’ published last November by the Teaching Schools Council for the Department for Education, Review chair Ian Baukham paints a bleak picture of language learning in England’s secondary schools. He says, ‘… currently fewer than half of pupils take a GCSE in a language’ and ‘beyond GCSE, modern languages are in crisis.’ He adds, ‘Without concerted action, languages in our schools are at risk, and may become confined to certain types of school and certain sections of the pupil population.’
On top of that, the Guardian reports that Brexit is threatening the supply of teachers who have come to the UK from Europe because Theresa May has refused to give EU nationals  any assurances that they will continue to be welcome. This is of particular concern for MFL teaching.
But as we demonstrate in our new book, Success Stories from Secondary Foreign Languages Classrooms – Models from London school partnerships with universities, all is not doom and (more…)

Yes Ministry: writing project gives creativity a boost

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 March 2016

Dominic Wyse
If you agree that the Primary National Curriculum for English is too complex and over-loaded with detail, try a little experiment. See what happens when you take the 2014 Music Curriculum and adapt it appropriately.
My team and I have been researching the development of children’s creativity, and I think this could represent a new vision for English in the curriculum of the future:

 Purposes

One of the highest forms of creativity

Increase [pupils’] self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement

Aims

To create and compose writing on their own and with others

To understand and explore how writing is created

KS1 programme of study (more…)

Subject to change: here we go EBacc again

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 November 2015

Chris Husbands.
The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has begun to flesh out plans to make the English Baccalaureate – English, Mathematics, Science, History or Geography and languages – all but compulsory for 14-16 year olds in England.
The idea that all pupils should study a common curriculum throughout compulsory schooling is hardly new. The concept of a ‘comprehensive curriculum for the comprehensive school’ underpinned David Hargreaves’s widely read and influential 1985 book The Challenge for the Comprehensive School – it was subtitled ‘culture, curriculum and community’. In 1988, Kenneth Baker’s National Curriculum embedded a national curriculum from ages five through 16 in statute. I was a secondary school history teacher at the time and remember turning out to earnest conferences of history and geography teachers who were – in most cases – relieved that government had achieved what our would-be eloquent arguments had not: to convince deputy heads responsible for option systems to make our subjects (more…)

Twenty-seven years on from the national curriculum

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 June 2015

Chris Husbands.

Will the 2015 drive for curriculum entitlement succeed where 1988 and the national curriculum did not?

We’ve been here before. A government re-elected; impatient to press on with education reform; concerned about the way schools respond to change; determined to implement radical curriculum and assessment change.

This time it is the proposal that the EBacc become a requirement for all 16-year-olds. In 1988 it was the then novel national curriculum. It was to be a requirement for all pupils from 5 through to 16, embedding academic subjects as the building blocks for curriculum planning. (more…)

Why we must take the National Curriculum out of ministers’ clutches

Blog Editor, IOE Digital23 March 2015

John White
Nicky Morgan has just rejected ASCL’s call for ‘a broad nationally defined core curriculum framework’ to be set by a curriculum commission at arm’s length from politicians.
This will review the framework every five years and include representatives from school leaders, teachers, parents, industry, and politicians. Schools are encouraged to build a culture of curriculum design and development including but going beyond this core. (more…)

A caricature of character education? Morgan needs a broader vision

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 January 2015

John White
The Department for Education has just invited schools and other bodies to bid for money to support projects in character education. Since her appointment last July, Nicky Morgan has shown an especial interest in this area. In a recent talk at Birmingham University, she spoke of “ensuring that young people not only grow academically, but also build character, resilience and grit”.
She went on: “We want to ensure that young people leave school with the perseverance to strive to win…. We want pupils to revel in the achievement of victory, but honour the principles of fair play, to win with grace and to learn the lessons of defeat with acceptance and humility.” These values are reflected in the bidding invitation. Pride of place is given to perseverance, resilience, grit, confidence, (more…)

Nicky Morgan’s new loom: weaving values into the curriculum

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 October 2014

John White
In her recent appearance before the Select Committee on Education, Nicky Morgan said that “we must not be shy about talking about fundamental British values.” She added that schools should promote values like mutual respect and equality between girls and boys; and that ideals such as democracy and tolerance must be “woven” into the curriculum.
If these are British values, I’m a Dutchman. The ones she mentions are those of liberal democracy. They are prized as much in Helsinki or Washington as they are in London. It is excellent that the new Secretary of State is backing them in our schools and that she is not giving them lip service, but suggesting how this should happen. She is right that weaving them into the curriculum is the way forward.
A lot turns, of course, on where she’s taking this. There are two possibilities. One is that she follows her predecessor in (more…)