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In the run-up to the highly anticipated Modern Foreign Languages Conference 2018, we caught up with keynote speaker Jane Harvey, President – Elect at the Association for Languages Learning, to address the major challenges facing MFL teaching and the future of MFL learning.
1. What are the major challenges MFL teaching currently faces?
At secondary level, keeping numbers taking GCSE and A level buoyant at a time when examinations are getting more difficult. Falling group sizes and funding difficulties are increasingly putting A level provision at risk in sixth forms and colleges, with a knock on effect for take up at university. The future supply of language teachers is also a concern.
2. How can we improve uptake and develop enjoyment in MFL Learning?
How can we maintain the enthusiasm for language learning that many Yr 7s bring with them to secondary school? Primary school colleagues are really successful in promoting enjoyment of MFL, often working across the curriculum. Exciting projects combining learning a language with another skill can really motivate pupils at KS3, such as the Eurocook project I am currently working on with Monmouth Comprehensive School in South Wales.
3. What is the role of teachers and school leaders in transforming MFL provision?
Without the commitment of senior leadership to supporting language provision in their schools, MFL staff face an uphill struggle. Results are already being adversely affected by the fact that lesson time allocated to languages has decreased in recent years and timetabling longer and less frequent language lessons Is an increasing problem. Where languages appear in subject option blocks for GCSE will affect take up. Senior leadership can actively promote the value and enjoyment of language learning within their school by making it easy for language departments to organise school visits outside the UK, for example.
4. What does the future of MFL learning look like?
We must all speak up for languages and be positive about their value and importance for the UK post Brexit. Many pupils in our schools are already fluent in a second language and we should value these In our classrooms. We need to be open to different ways of learning languages in school such as the Languages Future programme, which brings language expertise in the local community into school.
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