Languages: 'Collaboration of schools has never been more important'
QA Education talks to Sue Cave, the founder of Cave Languages, about the teaching of languages and the provision her company offers both for teachers and pupils.
How long have you been teaching French and what made you decide to train teachers?
My career in language teaching started in a secondary school as a teacher of French. I have also taught French to adults; English to speakers of other languages and in 1995 started teaching French in primary schools. I became one of the Primary MFL advisers for schools in Wokingham in 2006 and was involved in a comprehensive training and support programme for local teachers. At the same time I continued to teach French in two primary schools, believing that it is important ‘to practise what you preach’ when training others. In 2014 when there was no longer funding for adviser posts, I set up my own company Cave Languages so as to be able to continue this fulfilling and enjoyable role as a language consultant and trainer.
What kind of training does Cave Languages offer for teachers of MFL?
There are two main areas of support which primary teachers seek in order to be confident about delivering foreign language lessons. First of all, they need to feel secure about their knowledge of the foreign language which they are teaching. Cave Languages offers linguistic-upskilling sessions in both pronunciation and grammar.
As co-author of Physical French Phonics, I use this to systematically review all the key sounds and their corresponding letter strings. It is a kinaesthetic way of learning with a different action for each sound. Teachers are always amazed how effective it is and often say, ‘If only I had learnt French at school like this!’
Pronunciation skills together with a refresher of grammatical knowledge necessary for teaching in a language in KS2 are an effective combination. In addition, many primary teachers have no, or very little, experience of delivering a foreign language and are keen to learn about the methodology and how it relates to the new KS2 MFL Programme of Study objectives. This is the other training course on offer.
Tell us about your scheme of work…
The Cave Languages scheme of work is designed to address the needs of primary teachers who are time-poor, lack confidence in their linguistic ability and wish to ensure that they are working towards the objectives of the KS2 Programme of Study. It is a result of years of experimenting in the classroom in order to create an engaging, creative and effective scheme of work. There are detailed lesson plans which reference interactive activities in Smart Notebook files with sound files for all vocabulary items; the teaching of phonics is included, plus templates for the classroom resources, audio files for the scanned storybooks and rhymes read by native speakers and accompanying workbooks to download. This is freely available as long as a school has purchased the resource and story books which are included in the scheme.
In what other ways does Cave Languages support teachers?
The Sharing Good Practice area of the Cave Languages website is where I post information to keep primary teachers abreast of what is happening in the world of languages. My breakdown of KS2 objectives for assessment purposes as well as examples of school MFL policies are two of the most frequently downloaded items. Some of my conference presentations can be found here too. I seek out the latest events and interesting resources through social media and provide links to these. Teachers can also subscribe to my monthly Primary MFL Update newsletter. On behalf of the Association for Language Learning I coordinate the Thames Valley Primary Hub; a network and support group. The termly meetings give teachers an opportunity to share their successes, queries and concerns about teaching a foreign language. It is free and all are welcome.
What are the challenges for primary language teaching in the UK?
The greatest challenge is ensuring that primary teachers are prepared and confident to deliver high quality language lessons. The introduction of the teaching of a modern foreign language as a Foundation subject at KS2 coincided with a time of austerity in public funding. Many teachers present and future are in need of continuing professional development but the primary schools find it difficult to allocate a budget for it. Finally, now that the teaching of languages is compulsory from 7-14 years in state schools, the collaboration of primary and secondary schools has never been more important.
For more information on Cave Languages, see www.cavelanguages.co.uk.