Case study of Douglas Academy and associated primaries on the provision of Spanish, chosen as the L3, to be studied from P5 to ensure progression from primary into secondary.
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We asked Barry Smedley, Head Teacher at Douglas Academy, the following questions about language provision and the curricular model at Douglas Academy. Watch the videos to find out more!
1. Why do you see languages as an important part of the curriculum? What benefits do you see across the curriculum and what has its impact been on the young people in your school?
2. How does language learning articulate with the priorities of the National Improvement Framework?
3. How have you ensured that enough time has been given to the L2 and what steps have you taken to implement the L3?
4. What is your vision for the languages curriculum?
5. Have you encountered any staffing difficulties which have impacted on your ability to deliver learners’ full entitlement to languages?
6. Uptake in your school is growing. How have you created this climate?
Authority: East Dunbartonshire
Case Study Focus: L3
Establishment: Douglas Academy and associated primaries
Learners’ stage/s: P1 – S6
Douglas Academy is a six year non-denominational, co-educational, comprehensive school serving Milngavie, Craigton and Baldernock. The Music School of Douglas Academy, which was set up in 1979 to provide specialist provision in music for gifted young musicians, has been incorporated into the main building. There are four associated primary schools: Baldernock, Clober, Craigdhu and Milngavie. In addition, the school receives many placement requests from families who live beyond the catchment area. The current school roll is 994.
Learners experience a full range of curricular areas throughout the BGE, with some opportunity for choice at the end of S2. Further options at the end of S3 offer opportunities for young people to study up to seven national qualifications in S4 leading to a further five in S5/6. The school demonstrates a strong ethos of fairness and equality through the school charter, Unicef Rights Respecting Schools and encourages a strong pupil voice at both departmental and whole school level.
In the Douglas Academy cluster, all learners study French as L2 throughout the BGE until the end of S3. In the secondary school, French is allocated three periods a week, an arrangement which will continue to be unaffected by the provision of L3. The department strongly feels that this level of provision is necessary in order to have enough time to build all four skills. Spanish has been chosen by the cluster as the L3, to be studied on a continuum from P5 to afford progression from primary into secondary.
In the senior phase young people are encouraged to continue with one or more languages. The department can offer a range of qualifications and awards in French, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin.
The principal teacher was pro-active in seeking out opportunities for engagement with the associated school group in the early stages of the implementation of 1+2. She also attends cluster meetings when the agenda is relevant to the 1+2 policy or language curriculum planning more generally.
At Douglas Academy, French is the main language offered while the second additional language has traditionally been Italian. However, the decision was taken at cluster level to implement Spanish as L3 because everyone in the department is qualified to teach it.
Learner voice has a big influence on improvement planning in the Modern Languages department and there is a departmental pupil council. Therefore, the decision to replace Italian with Spanish was taken after consultation with pupils themselves. This allows for better articulation and progression for both Spanish and French and allows the secondary teachers to build on prior learning.
In order to aspire to the principles of CfE, the secondary curriculum has been designed to offer an interesting range of elective courses. Each course is allocated one period per week for a ten week block during S1 and S2. This provided the languages department with an ideal opportunity to include provision for L3 without impacting negatively on the time allocated to L2.
Listen to staff talking about the planning process:
Pupils choose eight from a range of 11 electives on offer throughout the first two years of the secondary school. There is therefore, an opportunity for everyone to have an experience of L3 in Spanish and Mandarin during the broad general education. Learners can choose to study electives in both languages over the two years.
Each elective class is capped at 20 learners and the work covers all four skill areas with the main focus being on talking and listening. There is also a strong emphasis on culture and festivals. The courses are designed to make the subject appealing to younger pupils so they are encouraged to opt for languages as they progress further up the school.
There are a variety of language options available after S2. There are three periods of language allocated to both French and Spanish in S3 and S4, meaning that dual linguists are allocated 6 periods of language study per week. Additionally, learners have the option of studying Italian, French and Spanish in S5 and S6.
The school has used 1+2 funding to invest in building the capacity of staff. Secondary teachers designed a course to upskill primary colleagues in Spanish using language teaching pedagogy that could be transferred to their primary classes. The course was offered to all teachers in the cluster and ran for one hour a week over ten weeks. Those who took part will take a lead role in driving languages forward in their schools.
A member of the department is assigned 2 periods a week for cluster working. The time is used to spend a 6 week block in each primary. 2 weeks are allocated for planning, 2 for delivery and 2 for evaluation of a language unit. The unit is usually delivered to P7, with primary and secondary staff co-op teaching.
The department has invested in extra online provision with 1+2 funding contributing towards the costs. They have also developed a local authority Glow page to share resources and to support one another.
Hear staff talk about the implementation process::
and the liaison between primary and secondary colleagues:
Meet some of the pupils involved:
and listen to their experience:
along with their thoughts on Language Learning:
Uptake in all four languages languages is high at all levels, with many learners choosing to study more than one language. The last few years have also seen a dramatic rise in the number of Advanced Higher candidates. All primary staff involved in the Spanish training are hugely positive about language learning and have had a great experience of working together, which they have shared with colleagues in their own schools. Relationships across the associated schools group are very positive and thanks to careful collegiate planning, teachers in both sectors feel informed and supported. It is clearly important to all staff that learners of all abilities enjoy languages and understand the benefits that learning a language can bring.
Listen to staff talking about the impact the approach has had:
Pupils give their views on the subject:
and explain how they’ve been able to transfer skills:
The principal teacher and primary head teachers will fully evaluate the first year of the cluster led approach with a view to developing a sustainable model that will support further language learning and teaching. They will ensure that languages are included in the revision of the entire BGE curriculum.
The department is also planning to develop further the Languages for Life and Work Award, as an alternative pathway in the senior phase. There are aspirations to add Russian to the languages available as an S6 elective if there is an appetite for it from pupils and if staffing permits.
In this video clip staff talk about their next steps going forward:
Access the Douglas Academy curricular map.