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Exchange time

Roma arena in Saintes
It's that time of year when we do our annual exchange with the Institution Saint Louis in Pont l'Abbé d'Arnoult. Have look at their new web site. We began exchanging in February 1989 so hundreds of students have taken part over the years. I guess it's one of the things I am most proud of in my career. We set off tomorrow for ten days with a smaller group than usual (16 students). We do a morning of lessons, an afternoon watching a movie (I've chosen Etre et Avoir), then a day exploring Saintes and doing a guided tour of the Château de la Roche Courbon which I have previously mentioned in this blog.

It's been a tiring half term, what with getting over some disappointment with GCSE writing marks, plus the usual drain of day to day teaching, preparing, marking, meetings and the umpteen other chores which raise the stress levels a bit. Fortunately, the classroom remains an enjoyable place to be and nearly all our students are keen to learn and, on the whole, not switched off by language learning. At a grammar school like ours, with compulsory French to GCSE, we are shielded from the general crisis in language teaching to which Anthony Seldon, Head of Wellington College, recently referred..

League tables and so-called value addes scores have led to all kinds of unintended consequences in education in our country. On the one hand, we want students to study subjects they enjoy and have aptitude for; on the other, we need to be clear in our curriculum about what we hold important in society. Modern languages have become, to a considerable extent, a pursuit for the middle classes in private schools, grammar schools and the upper sets of comprehensives. We can raise their status again by fair grading, good teaching, clear understanding of methodology and by schools having a determined policy on internationalism. The latter will be hard to achieve because alas, most leadership teams do not share the passion for languages and other cultures as MFL teachers. Universities focus a good deal on the international dimesnion, to some extent for pecuniary reasons, and schools should do the same.

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