Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) at Devonshire Primary Academy
Academy status allows schools certain curriculum freedoms. However, in exercising these freedoms it is essential that leaders have considered the long-term impact of any perceived curriculum limitation in terms of potential long-term outcomes for learners. At Devonshire Primary Academy we are committed to securing the very best long- term outcomes for all our learners including ensuring that they are well prepared for EBACC success at the end of Key Stage 4.
Our Academy decision not to offer MFL as a weekly taught subject is entirely evidence informed:
Lynn Elder (Department for Educational Studies University of Oxford) in her 2004 paper ‘Near-Beginner Learners of French are Reading at a Disability Level‘ explores the language learning issues encountered by secondary aged pupils who do not have a secure grasp of grammar in their mother tongue. Elder concludes ‘I propose from these (her research) findings that there must be negative effects on pupils’ motivation and interest in learning French, and on their sense of feeling confident about, and satisfied with, their progress in the language when they are experiencing difficulties with reading it. This negative feeling about achievement could lead to a state of disaffection as has been investigated by Jones, Jones, Rudduck, Demetriou and Downes (2001). The problem of waning interest in MFL learning by Year 8 (Williams, Burden and Lanvers, 2002) might be explained in part by learners’ problems with accessing the written word intelligently and successfully.’
‘Language without Limits’ identifies that, ‘Some deficiencies in prior learning occur quite frequently and can present formidable obstacles. Prerequisite skills or knowledge may need to be taught explicitly, in the mother tongue, so that learners can master the skills and then make progress in the foreign language.’
They identify the following ‘Common Deficiencies’:
Insecure understanding of analogue and/ordigital time formats.
Only a vague understanding of sound-symbol correspondence.
Lack of familiarity with alphabetic order beyond the ability to ‘rattle off’ the alphabet.
No knowledge of dictionary conventions.
Lack of social skills needed to work effectively alone or in a group.
No experience of learning ‘by heart’, or other learning strategies.
Furthermore, Myles (2017) reviews the evidence base and finds that unless pupils are truly immersed in an MFL 1-2 hours per week have little effect on future proficiency, indeed only one study (Larson-Hall found a small advantage from 6-8 hours per week of MFL intervention at primary age). Myles’ review does however indicate that young children are enthusiastic about learning new phrases if slower to learn than their adolescent counterparts.
Therefore, at Devonshire our MFL Curriculum intent is to effectively teach the pre-requisite language and key skills (e.g. digital time) in English to enable our pupils to rapidly progress in their MFL language learning at Key Stage 3 and 4. We are however, keen to promote a notion of our learners as Global Citizens so as part of the wider curriculum and enrichment activity (Clubs/ Themed Days) we introduce language and traditions from around the world. Indeed we use the wider Trust resources to enhance the MFL offer enabling access to MFL teaching for individual learners.
Elder (2004) ‘Near-Beginner Learners of French are Reading at a Disability Level‘ in the ALL Journal Francophonie (No. 30, Autumn 2004, pp9-15);
‘Language without Limits’ weblink – http://www.languageswithoutlimits.co.uk/skills.html;
Larson-Hall, Jenifer. (2008) ‘Weighing the Benefits of Studying a Foreign Language at a Younger Starting Age in a Minimal Input Situation’, Second Language Research, 24.1: 35–63;
Myles (2017) ‘Learning Foreign Language in Primary Schools: Is younger better?’ weblink – http://www.meits.org/policy-papers/paper/learning-foreign-languages-in-primary-schools-is-younger-better