Sunday, 14 July 2013

Thank you Richard

It was with great sadness that I learned on Friday of the death of Richard Horn, the Headteacher who employed me at Hetton School in 1996.

Richard was a supporter of the MFL department (he had no choice - his wife was a French teacher with whom I had worked at my previous school!) and endeavoured on many occasions to make things better for us.

Every year he observed every teacher in school and then spent a further hour with each of us giving his feedback and talking to us about how things were going.  We all valued this enormously.  His wit and sense of humour were legendary.  Everyone wanted him to do their leaving/getting-married/having-a-baby speech.  Like me, Richard was a Londoner, and I always cherish the memories of the day we went to our home town together to collect the school's second International School Award.

In 2002, following my work on new methodology, phonics and thinking skills with Sunderland's then-adviser, Phil Drabble, I went to see Richard to say that I wanted to be an Advanced Skills Teacher, and asked if he would support my application and then employ me as an AST if I was successful.  Richard was sceptical about the AST programme; he didn't think that the DfEE had thought the plan through longterm.  But he supported my application, I was successful, and started working as an AST.  He supported all the International Dimension work that I did and the time out of school that it necessitated, and then lent his support further when I began a secondment to the LA for Primary Languages.

Without Richard's help, support and belief I wouldn't have got to where I am today.  I said this to him on the day he retired in July 2006.  And his reply?  "You would have, my girl, you would have."

Thank you Richard.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The New Curriculum

So we awoke this morning to the news that today would see the publishing of the new National Curriculum Framework following the last consultation, which ended in April.

Well, it's here, and it's distracted me from writing Schemes of Work.

Here are the important links:

Government response to the February-April 2013 consultation

Report of the February-April 2013 consultation

National Curriculum in England - framework document 

First to the consultation.  There were 4576 non-campaign respondents, 1145 of those teachers.  Considering the number of questions that the consultation asked, the report for each subject is pretty brief.  Here is what's said about languages:

"The introduction of languages at key stage 2 was widely welcomed, although many respondents argued for changes to the associated list of prescribed languages. These proposed changes included support for the inclusion of other languages such as Hebrew and Japanese, questions about the relevance of ancient languages, and the suggestion that schools should have a free choice of which language to teach."

There is no mention of Key Stage 3.  Languages respondents were more likely than not to say that the Programme of Study content is sufficiently ambitious.

The following point was also made about the impact of the proposals on "protected characteristic" groups:

"562 (36%) respondents felt that the proposals may impact negatively on pupils with English as an additional language. Reasons included the ‘British’ nature of the curriculum, particularly in history, and the emphasis on grammar and spelling in the English programmes of study.  The prescribed list of languages at key stage 2 was also raised as a potential issue. Those who commented felt that it was likely to exclude and undervalue those communities whose languages were not on the list."

The money factor rumbles on, with many respondents saying that it is a key factor that could prevent successful implementation of the new curriculum:

"1,643 (59%) respondents felt that there was a need for staff training and continuing  professional development to increase teachers’ confidence and capability in designing and delivering the new curriculum and to respond to the need for specific specialist skills (e.g. computing, language teaching)."

The Government's response to the consultation reveals one particularly surprising and very welcome statement:

"We have listened closely to the views of respondents to the consultation – particularly subject experts and teachers - and have made a range of detailed changes to the draft programmes of study in response. In particular, we have:
- removed the proposed list of languages from the key stage 2 programme of study for foreign languages, to give schools a free choice over which modern or ancient language pupils should study over the four years of key stage 2."

The Purpose of Study paragraph in the Framework document is still the only vague mention of other cultures in the whole Key Stage 2 programme of study:

"Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures. A high-quality languages education should foster pupils’ curiosity and deepen their understanding of the world. The teaching should enable pupils to express their ideas and thoughts in another language and to understand and respond to its speakers, both in speech and in writing. It should also provide opportunities for them to communicate for practical purposes, learn new ways of thinking and read great literature in the original language. Language teaching should provide the foundation for learning further languages, equipping pupils to study and work in other countries."

The only change to the Programme of Study itself is in the opening paragraph.  The bold type is mine:

"Teaching may be of any modern or ancient foreign language and should focus on enabling pupils to make substantial progress in one language. The teaching should provide an appropriate balance of spoken and written language and should lay the foundations for further foreign language teaching at key stage 3. It should enable pupils to understand and communicate ideas, facts and feelings in speech and writing, focused on familiar and routine matters, using their knowledge of phonology, grammatical structures and vocabulary."

You can read my comments on the individual aspects of the Programme of Study in my previous blogpost.

There is now to be a further consultation, which begins today, 8th July, and closes on 8th August.  Comments are invited on the draft Order to bring these changes into effect as well as on the revised Programmes of Study.