By 2021, every school in Scotland will offer children the opportunity to learn a first additional language from primary one, and a second additional language by primary five.
Affiliation: Capability Scotland
Case Study Focus: How inclusive pedagogies and technologies such as alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) systems are supporting young people to achieve qualifications which recognise language learning.
Establishments: Corseford School, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire
Learners’ stage/s: Upper Primary to Senior Phase
Corseford is a grant-aided school in Renfrewshire and is run by Capability Scotland. The school supports children and young people with complex health, education, movement and communication needs aged 5-18 to achieve their potential.
Each child at Corseford, follows an individualised programme, tailored to their specific needs which consists of education, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and health care as required.
Corseford follows the National Guidelines of Curriculum for Excellence. The school has primary, secondary and senior phase departments and children move through the school with an appropriate peer group. The balance of the curriculum changes as pupils move through the school in response to their changing needs and in line with the wellbeing indicators of Getting it Right for Every Child.
In secondary school, pupils have access to a broad range of subjects including: English, Spanish, science, social studies, art, music and drama and have the opportunity to obtain SQA national qualifications.
The senior phase provides an appropriate setting for older students to further develop their skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work. The programme is tailored around preparing pupils for independent living and there are opportunities for work experience and taster days at a local college.
Corseford School is committed to using the latest technology to support the independence of young people and to meet their complex needs. Many pupils depend on technology for communication, reading and learning. Technology is also vital to promoting independence as it supports pupils to use their Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) systems, control their power wheelchairs and smart wheelchairs and operate environmental control systems.
Find out more about the school on the Capability Scotland website and in the school’s recent HMI Inspection Report.
Recommendation 9 is a key recommendation of Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 approach (Scottish Government, 2012), in which:
Prior to September 2014, French had been taught at Corseford in upper Primary, Secondary and Senior Phase classes but, with a change in staff, Spanish was introduced.
As described in more detail later, all young people at Corseford experience some Spanish language and culture by way of whole school activities such as assemblies and corridor displays.
In terms of specific lessons, learners of Spanish in upper Primary, S1/S2 or Senior Phase classes, have a variety of opportunities to develop and reflect on their skills in reading, writing, talking and listening in Spanish.
The aim is to develop pupils’ skills for life, skills for learning and skills for work and:
Learning is pitched at an appropriate level of pace and challenge, going beyond the teaching of simple words and phrases towards the construction of oral and written sentences within a variety of contexts.
Learners who continue with Spanish in the Senior Phase are likely to be working towards accreditation at National 1, 2 or 3.
National 1 modules are: Life in Another Country: Aspects of Life and Life in Another Country: Language.
National 2 modules are: Life in another country; Personal language; Transactional language; Language in Work.
Modern Languages for Life and Work Award modules are: Modern Languages for work purposes; Modern Languages for Life; and Building own employability skills.
The key to Corseford’s approach to learning in Spanish and across the curriculum is:
Learners, support and teaching staff across the school participated in a Café Español in May 2015. Everyone was encouraged to use the Boardmaker menus to order food and drinks in Spanish while some of the Spanish students served and took payment in euros.
Carefully planned lessons provide opportunities for learners with communication challenges to use their AAC devices to communicate in Spanish.
Spanish words and phrases are programmed into their communication systems by skilled staff. Teigan, S1/2 explained that her talker is easy to use. Lisa, S1/2 said that the pages with the Spanish words on the talker are useful in lessons. Sometimes Jack uses a talker, other times he uses a Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display or PODD book.
Pupil Support Workers are trained to programme the devices and adding new vocabulary is a regular part of their job. They agree that it is a straightforward process although sometimes it might take two or three attempts to input variations of a Spanish word before they get the right pronunciation from the machine.
Find out more about PODD books, other augmentative and assistive communicative technologies, AAC Scotland and the Other Ways of Speaking publication from the Communication Trust.
The recent addition of a sensory theatre at the school has great potential to open up new learning experiences for pupils.
Rufus and Gary enjoy a virtual trip to the Costa del Sol in the sensory theatre, where there are images to look at, sounds to hear and feel, objects to touch and smell.
For CfE friendly advice, ideas and research for languages for any learner with additional learning needs, go to Languages without limits.
Impact has been felt across the school’s community and beyond.
For example, Gary in the upper Primary class uses a Nova Chat (talker) to communicate and after only a couple of Spanish lessons he was using the Spanish words programmed into his talker to chat to people and greet them along the corridor. One of Gary's daily responsibilities is to deliver the lunch list for the primary school to the kitchen staff. After only two weeks of Spanish lessons Gary greeted the staff by saying "Hola, here is the lunch list for primary. Adios!".
In the Senior Phase class Sam explained that he had enjoyed learning about transport and using his symbols in Spanish class. Jack thought Spanish lessons were fun and his teacher was great, though sometimes it can be tricky to answer questions. Jack goes on holiday to Spain every year and is able to communicate in Spanish with his PODD book and his talker on his visits.
Parents and guardians have been overwhelmed by the progress of the students since they began Spanish in September 2014.
With Gary using his VOCA to communicate effectively in both English and Spanish, his parents said that they had never thought that he would be able to use one language, much less two.
Rufus has impressed also his parents as he is able to keep up with his sister when they do Spanish homework together.
In awarding the inaugural ‘Making Languages Come Alive’ category at the Scottish Education Awards 2015 to Corseford School, the SEA judges commended staff for their innovative and engaging approach to teaching. Pupils were also praised for their impressive learning and ability to use the Spanish language confidently in lessons and in other areas of school life including school assemblies.
Following on from the success of Spanish, the plan is to introduce Gaelic as a second additional language (L3) in 2015-16.
Scottish Government (2012) Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.