THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
Description of the context and of the needs the initiative responds to:
- In the last 10 years, the UK has been developing the teaching of 'modern foreign languages' as an entitlement for pupils throughout Key Stage 2 (ages 7-10) in primary schools; the preferred model of delivery which emerged in most schools proved to be the ‘class teacher’ (mainly non language specialists); mass linguistic training to upskill them would have been very expensive and long term;
- Lancashire is a large Local Authority with 450+ primary schools spread over a wide geographical area. Giving so many teachers the linguistic confidence to start to teach primary languages was a major obstacle to initiating primary languages in most of our schools
Reasons for selecting the specific thematic area, target group and target language(s):
- The project concept was to support non specialist teachers with no or very little linguistic competence or confidence by ‘broadcasting’ weekly podcasts, containing small, short, quickly acquired linguistic content; these were also used to model and describe methodology (pedagogy)
- French was chosen initially as most primary schools chose to teach this language (80-90%) but once the style and content of the podcasts was developed, Spanish was added.
- The concept and style are readily applicable to any language.
- To develop or refresh the language skills, knowledge and confidence of primary teachers with no or very little existing linguistic expertise to enable them to teach their primary aged pupils (Note: more substantial linguistic upskilling courses at two levels were also run for those who chose to attend)
- To encourage and develop creative and effective ways of teaching primary languages, with a particular emphasis on cross-curricular approaches, especially literacy
Approach adopted in the planning and development of the initiative:
- At this stage, the Department for Education (the DfES) was funding Local Authorities and schools to develop primary languages teaching. This funded much of the project costs e.g. teacher release, advisory teacher/adviser time, rooms and facilities
- Imaginative teachers including Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs), plus local authority-funded ICT experts were brought together to help create initial ideas and develop the ICT aspects
- The core project ‘drivers’ were the MFL Adviser, Primary Languages Consultant, ICT consultant and one AST for each MFL.
Project management strategy and approach adopted - identification of strengths and weaknesses of this:
- the initial idea (Phase 1) was to provide identified secondary school teachers (often from Specialist Language Colleges) with the skills and enthusiasm to create podcasts, who would then develop materials for primary teachers in their feeder schools. Whilst they proved largely enthusiastic about working with podcasts with their own schools and pupils, their interest declined rapidly when asked to join phase two to work for and with the primary feeders. They also had real difficulty in understanding the needs of the (non linguist) specialist primary teacher, so the strategy awas changed.
- Phase 2: the small core team (as above) was asked to further develop the concept and create several pilot broadcasts. These were then ‘trialled’ and evaluated by teachers in various contexts/primary schools and comments acted upon.
- after this weekly episodes (programmes) were created, recorded and broadcast. A theme was composed with simple catchy words and then different songs werer written for the different programmes.
- The units were non sequential and usually self contained (i.e. rarely interdependent) so that teachers could pick and mix what they wanted to teach or wanted pupils to learn.
- There was no charge to schools to download the podcasts
- information was disseminated via the local authority primary languages website (free to access anywhere in the world), by word of mouth, newsletters and through the primary languages courses; also through CILT meetings and the regional network.
- The results of the project were then disseminated nationally through the CILT primary languages show.
Strategies used for fostering learner motivation:
- The short bite sized learning approach was key; also the flexibility and choice for the teachers of how and when to learn at their own pace
- a very ‘light’ approach; although short, the broadcasts were packed with ideas for teaching language and knowledge; games, songs, rhymes, ways of teaching language in context, cultural awareness, literacy, phonics etc
- Support materials (printable pdf files) were supplied with the programmes
- Enhanced podcast technology was used to make the programmes and language more visual (for use on computers/whiteboards)
System of project evaluation used:
- Phase 1: various meetings followed by practical tasks, with feedback at subsequent meeting(s)to the group to cross fertilise/share
- Phase 2: Initial small scale, controlled piloting with units evaluated by developers in their own schools; then a wider pilot with schools not involved in the project (ie ‘cold’ pilot)with feedback via evaluation questionnaires and oral feedback through teachers attending courses who were starting to use them.
Outcomes and ‘deliverables’ produced:
- A series of downloadable units broadcast throughout the year in French (around 30 programmes) which can be repeated; they include scripts, printable materials, additional teaching ideas, etc.
- A similar suite of programmes in Spanish
Consistency of the outcomes with initial plans and with the expectation of the end users:
- The mission was accomplished. However, unfortunately the government has now removed all funding for primary languages development and left primary language development on the back burner for the last couple of years; this has meant many of the structures and developers of primary languages have in the main disappeared nationally though they still exist in Lancashire.
Was an assessment of the quality of the outcomes carried out?
Informally: there was a very high impact on teachers; very positive comments; the materials were clearly used by many, used also for helping them develop schemes of work in their own schools; used also by MFL co-ordinators to help train and motivate staff in a very relaxed and non-threatening way
- the impact was much wider than the Lancashire local authority as other consultants adopted and adapted the ideas in their own contexts e.g. Sunderland podcasts; LA advisers in many parts of the country use them.
It was not really an original intention or target of the project; however, we felt it would provide recognition of our efforts for Lancashire and the developer/teachers
Procedure used for applying for the European Language Label:
After seeing the publicity an initial description was put in. This went through to the finals and we then had some face-to-face evaluation by the Award assessors
Initial expectations (were the initial expectations met?):
Project leaders were delighted to gain the award which gave them the opportunity to promote the project more widely through their courses, newsletters and also via the media (local radio and press) and indeed with local politicians, to promote interest in and awareness of primary language teaching and learning
Several national talks (CILT primary languages show for last two years; talks to NALA – north west regional group of Language Advisers)
Interview on Radio Lancashire
Other actions: creation of more podcasts in Spanish
Mainly kudos; unfortunately after the initial interest higher up the LA hierarchy, this has not been sustained, especially as the government has now done very little to further primary languages teaching and much has now been dismantled through lack of funding
- Carry out a careful needs analysis;
- Create a small dogged, creative and motivated development group;
- Draw together and tap existing systems, funding and expertise sources to maximise impact and efficiency;
- Think about ‘replicability’ which in the end ‘rewards’ and justifies the highly expensive use of time and resource to create and develop the original ideas;
(in Lancashire as large LA ideas have to br conceived on a large scale at minimum cost);
be prepared to adjust and abort non productive or ineffective lines of development and thought, and to ‘drop’ people who do not consistently support and deliver for the project.
THE NELLIP NETWORK’S PERSPECTIVE
EU language policies aim to protect linguistic diversity and promote knowledge of languages – for reasons of cultural identity and social integration, but also because multilingual citizens are better placed to take advantage of the educational, professional and economic opportunities created by an integrated Europe. The goal is a Europe where everyone can speak at least two other languages in addition to their own mother tongue". This project was clearly in line with the second of these policies as the introduction of foreign languages at primary level and motivating teachers and children will increase chances of achieving competence in more than one language (even in England).
A national priority in the UK has been to move foreign language teaching into primary schools to ensure that there is an earlier start. This projecy supports this priority.
THE NATIONAL AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE
The project makes full use of the technology available; the podcasts can be displayed on an ipod, computer or interactive whiteboard and the audio is complemented by transcripts and visuals. This initiative is helping to raise the profile of languages across Lancashire and beyond by making the podcasts freely available on their website and teachers are making the most of this technology to boost their confidence in language teaching
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