This issue has been rattling around my head for so long, it feels like part of the furniture. And furniture, like wallpaper can become so familiar it becomes invisible after a while. However, last night at our final MLPS session for this course we raised this issue and discussed it again. Here are the dominant themes of the discussion:
There are some take-your-breath-away examples of outstanding, deep, rich, exciting, engaging and relevant learning going on.
There is some anxiety about practice and a lack of confidence with some practitioners
There is inconsistency of practice.
Support for the teachers practising in this area is insufficient – they may do a 12 session course but beyond this there is little in the system to support them on a day to day basis
There still appears to be an ad hoc approach to the responsibility for teaching languages in primary school.
It seems that it’s still OK not to “do it” in p 6&7 if the teacher concerned doesn’t want to or it isn’t enough of a priority for the HT
CfE isn’t a problem in general but some practitioners would like a prescribed curriculum which they all follow
Connections with literacy and language learning in more general terms seem to be rare.
It doesn’t appear to be an embedded area of the curriculum.
It still often seems to be an add on ”slot” in a timetabled primary curriculum (which still is vulnerable to getting bumped to make way for more important things)
There is inconsistency of primary practice across clusters which makes planning in S1 difficult
Building on prior learning seems to be understood in terms of “what has been covered”
Uniformity of content is seen as desirable and a solution to building on prior learning
All learners should know the same things and be at the same level when they arrive at secondary
Content and curriculum as terms seem to be used in an interchangeable way. This approach would appear to be at odds with aspects of CfE.
Language learning in terms of topic areas still seems to have currency. (This approach would also appear to be at odds with aspects of CfE.)
Resources drive planning– “there is an area of x website which we don’t touch – we leave that for you” and it appears that secondary textbooks are used in one cluster under the direction of the partner secondary school
There are inequities in the power – relationships between two sectors in this regard. Sharing of practice has reportedly occurred in one direction only – from secondary –primary
There is still talk (on both sides ) of going (“ up “ to secondary or )“down” to primary instead of working together
An agreement on an accepted minimum amount of language or content would help resolve things.
At present, my MLPS priorities are supporting the teachers in practice. I’m trying to ensure that all p6 & p7 learners across our authority enjoy their entitlement to learn a foreign language as part of their broad and general curriculum. This is not an entirely straightforward task. As well as supporting the teachers in this present cohort, I’m also planning to work with clusters to try to do this now that the training course will finish this weekend. This will be a time-consuming job, working in 18 schools across 2 authorities on one day a week, but the set of issues raised above are of an entirely different order and need strategic thinking and action. I have a few ideas – might Learning Rounds help here? Whatever happens – and we need to make sure that something does – it’s not going to be one person who will be able to resolve even some of these issues. We need discussions involving school leaders, class practitioners, national specialists if possible, and strategic leaders. We need to be aware of what research says about this problem. We need to find out how others are approaching the problem and find out what works, what doesn’t and why. Above all we need to refocus on the learner in the middle of all this and make sure that they are the first concern, not the unfortunate casualty of a planning process which prioritises convenience over meaningful, cognitive progress.