THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
• DESCRIPTION OF THE CONTEXT AND OF THE NEEDS THE INITIATIVE RESPONDS TO:
As in other parts of the UK, the West Midlands has seen a decline in the number of children carrying on studying languages after the age of 14 (when they are allowed to discontinue language study if they wish). Chris’s experience includes working with Business Language Champions, which brought business experts into schools to promote the value of language learning. She felt a longer term project would be beneficial for schools in the West Midlands, and Links into Languages https://www.linksintolanguages.ac.uk/index.html was able to provide some funding. –
The project was announced and 28 schools applied. Funding limitations meant only 5 could participate. These were carefully selected by the project manager.
• REASONS FOR SELECTING THE SPECIFIC THEMATIC AREA, TARGET GROUP AND TARGET LANGUAGE(S):
Chris herself identified fashion as a topic with a wide range of aspects (textiles, photography, style, publishing etc) of interest to 14-16 year olds (key stage 4 in the UK). French was chosen by the schools involved as the language of focus and one school also did German as well as French.
The main aim was to encourage more children to understand the career relevance of learning foreign languages and to keep going with French.
• APPROACH ADOPTED IN THE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE INITIATIVE:
A straightforward one-year model was selected:
Group planning > launch event > teaching modules > closing event.
Each school was represented in the running of the project by at least one teacher (not necessarily a language teacher) who would ensure that the school contributed what it had undertaken to contribute. The main task was to produce a teaching module on fashion as part of the project, which after peer review was shared for use at all schools
• PROJECT MANAGEMENT STRATEGY AND APPROACH ADOPTED - IDENTIFICATION OF STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF THIS:
Strong points were the project structure and the availability of a fashion industry expert, who lent credibility to the project from the students’ and teachers’ point of view. The fact that Chris and Integra Project Management, professionals in the area of project management in business, were overseeing the running of it enabled it to achieve its objectives. If a school had not been contributing sufficiently well, it would have had to leave the project. In fact, all schools met their commitments.
• STRATEGIES USED FOR FOSTERING LEARNER MOTIVATION:
The launch event and closing event at which the children were asked to work on tasks in mixed groups (students from all the different schools) were important factors, as were the interventions of the industry expert. In addition, the project manager and industry expert visited each school during the project to maintain motivation and provide more insight into the topic and encouragement.
• SYSTEM OF PROJECT EVALUATION USED:
No formal system. The visits to schools mentioned above, and the wrap up event, which required children in their mixed groups to produce a fashion magazine in one afternoon provided means of assessing the success of the project.
• OUTCOMES AND ‘DELIVERABLES’ PRODUCED:
Schools reported an increase in the number of children continuing with French and German and improved motivation at key stage 4.
• CONSISTENCY OF THE OUTCOMES WITH INITIAL PLANS AND WITH THE EXPECTATION OF THE END USERS:
The opinion of the schools and teachers involved, as well as the project manager, was that the project achieved its objectives.
• WAS AN ASSESSMENT OF THE QUALITY OF THE OUTCOMES CARRIED OUT?
No formal assessment was made but participating schools provided numbers for post-project take up of languages which showed that the project had had a beneficial impact, particularly in those schools which had had a low percentage of take up.
It is clear that the model and the involvement of an industry expert are innovative (especially the theme) and transferable.
• MOTIVATIONS LEADING TO THE APPLICATION FOR THE EUROPEAN LANGUAGE LABEL:
This was prompted by the national agency staff involved in Business Language Champions.
• PROCEDURE USED FOR APPLYING FOR THE EUROPEAN LANGUAGE LABEL:
The application procedure was felt to be straightforward.
• INITIAL EXPECTATIONS (WERE THE INITIAL EXPECTATIONS MET?):
The ELL was not really known about, but the award was much appreciated by the schools involved.
Some schools have featured it in their newsletters and on websites. Press coverage, inclusion on Links website.
• BENEFITS FOR THE INITIATIVE AND THE ORGANISATION(S) INVOLVED OF HAVING BEEN AWARDED THE ELL: Higher profile, greater satisfaction
• IMPACT OF THE INITIATIVE FOLLOWING THE AWARD OF THE ELL:
The initiative finished at the time of the award. It could be a good means of informing others of the model as an example.
Explore the database to look for parallel/similar projects in order to get ideas
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 these policies, especially as it aimed to assist youngsters to see the relevance of foreign languages in the workplace. It also promoted French by taking it beyond the classroom and school and making it relevant to students' interests.
EU priorities for 2010-2011 were: a)language learning in the community and b) language skills as preparation for work. This project focused on language learning in the workplace and is clearly in line with the second priority.
THE NATIONAL AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE
What are the three most impressive aspects of this project?
• The overall concept of maximising the potential of fashion as a motivator for language learning and practice by expanding and deepening the subject matter beyond clichés to attract both sexes and a wide variety of socio-economic and ethic students
• The reach of the project – over 250 students from five different schools
• The use of fashion and industry professionals working with a mix of teachers from a range of subjects and schools working together focussing on developing life and work skills which used language as a way of targeting possible needs of the future workforce of SME’s in the local area
How does the project meet the judging criteria?
• Innovative – yes. It takes the normal “fashion agenda” of labelling clothes and pushes it forward to treat fashion as a global industry which contains numerous employment pathways all of which are shown to be potential work opportunities for the students and also underlines the usefulness of languages in both getting work and using them when employed.
• Replicable – yes. The key project outline is on the web as are the work plans and creative ideas. Ideally teachers should be working alongside a fashion professional, and the judges would recommend a link to be st up with the nearest fashion department at either an FE or HE institution to provide that input and an introduction to someone working in the fashion industry. The BFC British Fashion Council could be brought in as well. Perhaps an explicit replica toolkit would have been particularly useful. (This applies not just to this particular project)
• Effective – yes. Four out of five schools showed an increase in KS4 take up that could be tracked back to those who took part in the project.
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