European Day of Languages: another reason to celebrate MFL at North Bridge House
The national decline in A-level MFL entries is not stopping North Bridge House from celebrating impressive GCSE results and exciting times ahead for language students.
Across the country schools have seen their MFL departments increasingly neglected by A-level students. Entries continue to fall as the jump from GCSE to A-level has been heightened by the reformed specifications, growing the misconception that advanced level languages are for native speakers only.
At North Bridge House however, we are embracing the change – which brings about a much more adventurous syllabus of film, literature, history and politics – having just seen GCSE results that can only encourage A-level uptake.
NBH Senior Canonbury students performed remarkably well in languages at GCSE this year, celebrating a clean sweep of A* and A grades in Spanish and Mandarin, and 61% A*-A grades across French, Spanish, German and Mandarin collectively. Notably, the three non-native students who took Mandarin each gained an A* in the subject!
And now Ofqual is set to review MFL grade boundaries to take account for native speaking students, higher grades can be expected for able, non-native speakers in schools across the UK.
So how do we achieve 29% A* grades in GCSE languages at NBH Canonbury and how do we motivate students to consider A-level study?
Effective time management
We carefully plan the curriculum and timetable lessons so that time is not wasted at Key Stage 3. Schools should recognise the cognitive demand of learning a language and allocate time accordingly. One or two lessons a week is not enough for students to retain knowledge, which will in turn knock their confidence.
One language studied in depth is more beneficial than two covered briefly. At North Bridge House Canonbury, we try to ease students into secondary education with the languages they are likely to have studied at primary school. Year 7 students have four academic hours of either French or Spanish each week, which continues throughout KS3.
Big ambition – for big results
As Head of Department, Mr MacPherson is ambitious in setting targets for the MFL team, who are equally as ambitious in target-setting for their students. Now the reformed specifications have freed us from clichéd, uninspiring content like “what I did at the weekend”, we have the opportunity to introduce students to A-level themes from the outset. Describing the role of the protagonist in contemporary German cinema or reading and writing spine-tingling horror stories in Spanish already seems much more appealing.
Thanks to generous curriculum time, all NBH Canonbury students will reach GCSE level by the end of Year 9, enabling the study of literature, film, art and popular culture at increasingly sophisticated levels. The curriculum must be much more than an exam specification. To bridge the gap between GCSE and A-level, we take students beyond the curriculum at KS3 and KS4, which proves to be much more rewarding as it facilitates meaningful discussion and conversation.
Seize the initiative
With the government behind us, more engaging courses and increasing pupil uptake at Key Stage 4, not to mention great research and professional development opportunities at our fingertips, we hope more schools can join us in celebrating MFL success. Assistant Head and Head of MFL, Mr MacPherson says:
“I’m beginning to think that it’s never been a better time to be a languages teacher in the UK. The onus is now on us as teachers to ensure that these opportunities aren’t wasted and that they convert to more positive headlines for A level in years to come.”
Published on: 26th September 2017