Our report gives advice on improving modern foreign languages pedagogy.
What does the report say?
Only a third of pupils at the end of key stage 4 achieve a languages GCSE at grade C or better. Many are just giving up languages study when they get to the end of key stage 3, with less than half even entering a languages GCSE. It’s been suggested that this is partly due to pupils not enjoying languages lessons and also feeling that they aren’t making progress. Reviewing and improving pedagogy is key to addressing these issues.
Many language courses are organised around themes, such as ‘free time activities’, ‘the environment’, ‘home and family’. The choice of vocabulary can be too specialised, teaching relatively rarely used words at the expense of common words. This can lead to pupils realising that they cannot say or understand basic things in the language, contributing to a lack of enjoyment and feeling that they aren’t making progress.
The report says that pupils need to gain early knowledge of the vocabulary, grammar, and sound and spelling systems (phonics) of their new language, and how these are used by speakers of the language. And they need to reinforce this knowledge with extensive planned practice and use in order to build the skills needed for communication.
Taken together, most of the report’s fifteen recommendations, advocate teachers adopting a clear, planned and sequenced direct teaching of vocabulary, grammar and phonics right from the start of key stage 3.
The report also includes advice for head teachers and senior leaders, who may not be linguists themselves, to help them engage with languages teachers and departments and understand the aspects of pedagogy which may improve interest and achievement in languages.