The Linguist

The Linguist 55,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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10 The Linguist Vol/55 No/1 2016 FEATURES T he new GCSE syllabus for modern foreign languages (MFL) will present significant curriculum change and, with it, many challenges for the way we teach and assess languages at Key Stages 3 (ages 11-14) and 4 (14-16). MFL departments are not alone in this, as the changes announced by the Department for Education (DfE) in 2013 are to affect the whole school curriculum. At the time, Glenys Stacey, Chief Executive of Ofqual (the regulating body for qualifications), said it was "a significant change for students and for schools", with fresh content, a different structure and rigorous assessment. After the initial panic caused by a fear of change, the autumn term has been an ideal opportunity for MFL departments to analyse these changes in more detail, view specimen examination papers and prepare to deliver the syllabus for the first new GCSE exams in 2018. At St Ursula's secondary school in London, we began to prepare in the summer by considering the draft specifications produced by the examination boards (although, at time of writing, only one board's specification has been approved and accredited by Ofqual). The key changes recommended by the DfE include a new grading structure (as with other subjects), with a 1-9 scale replacing the current A*-G grades and an equal weighting of the four skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking), compared to 30% for both speaking and writing previously. In terms of content, there will be a greater emphasis on grammar, spontaneous speaking, translation and the use of authentic literary texts. For many, there was a feeling of déjà-vu when skills such as translation, transcription and role-play made an appearance on the draft specifications. Indeed, it has been suggested that Gove's decision to scrap assessment by coursework in favour of a final exam is a return to "the old O-level style end of course examination". 1 We soon discovered that there was no need to rewrite our entire schemes of work, since in many ways we will continue to teach the same content; the 'themes', as directed by the DfE, may be slightly different, with a greater focus on the culture of the target- language (TL) countries and communities, but fundamentally the language and grammar required will not change. We will, however, need to focus on the ways we prepare our students for assessment. As a department, we had already introduced some of these changes, since our focus in the 2014-2015 school year was on embedding spontaneous student talk and the use of authentic cultural literary resources in our schemes of work at Key Stage 3 (KS3). We have been teaching, promoting and rewarding the use of interactive language, and have adapted our Year 9 scheme of work to use foreign language films as our primary resources. In September, we began to teach a new Year 7 scheme of work for French, using Le Petit Prince as the key resource for the first term. This change had a mixed reception in our department. While some teachers found the use of text inspiring and were keen to move the teaching focus away from simple vocabulary at word level, others found the teaching of key structures and skills (dictionary use, translation, reading for gist) difficult and were not convinced that students in their first year of KS3 would be able to cope. The benefit of this greater emphasis on literary texts is not only that teachers are encouraged to use more authentic materials, but also because it enables us to share a love of languages – which is the reason I joined the profession. What better way than through poetry, song, literature and film? Although some teachers have expressed concern Rosie Jacob on why her school is changing its schemes of work across all year groups to prepare for the 2018 GCSE GCSE: in with the new IMAGES: © SHUTTERSTOCK

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