Skip to main content

Tackling the MFL teacher shortage

If you are teaching in England you may well be aware that the government intention is for nearly all young people to study a language as part of the Ebacc suite of qualifications. That means GCSE MFL for nearly all by 2020. The "nearly all" is not yet totally clear. Some are saying that about 90% of pupils will be expected to do a language to GCSE level. Bear in mind, however, that most schools are under no obligation to follow this directive and the evidence seems to be that many will not. Schools who do not enter enough pupils for the Ebacc have been told they cannot be graded "outstanding" by Ofsted, but even this powerful inducement may not have the desired effect.

To achieve the 90%-plus rate of GCSE entry schools will need to recruit many more language teachers. By one estimate this means 2000 new teachers. There is already a shortage of MFL staff, more noticeable in some areas than others. The government is aware of the issue. It knows that the supply of university linguists is small and that it may not be possible to recruit enough staff from the rest of the EU. Keep in mind that we already depend hugely on "imported" teachers to fill gaps in schools; things may be even trickier if free movement of labour across Europe is limited.

As an aside, if you want to know why the labour government decided to drop compulsory languages at GCSE, read what Estelle Morris, the education minister at the time, said.

Although not much reported, in March of this year the DfE introduced its scheme to attract more people to language teaching. Details are here. They have proposed what they call Teacher Subject Specialism Courses. They could have called their scheme "Make Do and Mend".

This is what they say:

"The purpose of this training is to improve the subject knowledge of non-specialist and returning teachers. It will increase the number of hours taught by offering school-led teacher subject specialism training opportunities. This training is delivered free of cost to participants. This includes: 


  • non-specialist teachers who could potentially teach a relevant subject in addition to their main subject; 
  • non-specialist teachers who are currently teaching a relevant subject either full-time or in addition to their specialist subject teachers looking to return to the profession;
  • language specialists (in the case of MFL) who aren’t currently teaching;
  • MFL language specialists (in the case of MFL who could potentially teach an additional language)."

In a separate guidance document for "lead schools" they say:

"The purpose of teacher subject specialism training for MFL is to provide school-led MFL subject specialism training to non-specialist teachers and MFL subject specialism training to specialist MFL teachers who are not currently teaching MFL and may need refresher training to enable a move back into an MFL teaching role may be looking to teach a new language in addition to their language specialism.

This will build capacity within the system to enable schools to address strategically workforce and deployment challenges to support delivery of the Ebacc and build the skills necessary to enable non-specialists to move into an MFL teaching role or up-skill non-specialists already undertaking an -MFL role. The priority target groups for secondary MFL are:
  • teachers not currently teaching MFL with post A level MFL qualifications teachers not currently teaching MFL with good A level MFL qualifications; 
  • teachers not teaching MFL who are native/near native speakers; 
  • non-specialist teachers currently teaching MFL in addition to their specialist subject; 
  • specialist MFL teachers who are not currently teaching MFL and who need refresher training to enable a move back into an MFL role; 
  • specialist MFL teachers who have the capacity to teach a new language in addition to their language specialism."
So the DfE is happy for teachers with an A-level in MFL to teach GCSE, to "upskill" existing non-specialists and to encourage specialist in one language to do another.

I wonder if the DfE is aware of the evidenced correlation between teacher subject knowledge and teaching quality (it is), as well as just how long it takes to develop skill in a language.

It is difficult to see how this initiative will produce enough properly skilled MFL teachers for the future. The best hope will be to increase further the number of native speakers. When MFL became compulsory in the 1990s I doubt that there were enough good teachers around, but at least there were more graduate linguists coming through the system.

We shall muddle through somehow, victims of a misconceived policy and poor forward planning. Pupils in less favoured areas will have to make do with well-meaning teachers who have trouble stringing sentences together, don't know enough words and cannot explain grammar. The problem does not just lie with MFL, of course. Maths and physics have been coping with under-skilled teachers for many years. That's another story.



 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.

Attitudes16





An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at dolanguages.com, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’(http://pdcinmfl.com). The point i…