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.
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Authority: Renfrewshire Council
Case Study Focus: Progressive planning for first additional language from Nursery – P7
Establishments: Houston Primary School
Learners’ stage: Nursery - P7
The school serves the village of Houston. The school roll currently stands at 425 and there are nineteen classes, none of which are composite. In addition, there are 80 children who attend the nursery class. Houston Primary School is an associated primary school for Gryffe High School.
Prior to 2006, French was taught at P6, P7 and the Nursery. It was also offered to the children in the rest of the school as an optional out-of-school activity called “Le Club Français”.
With equality of opportunity in mind, in 2006 the school decided to introduce French from P1 to P5. At this point, there were two members of staff with degrees in French and four who were MLPS trained. Support was offered to other teachers in the form of sound files and other materials. In some cases, teachers arranged to swap classes so that one taught French, while the other teacher taught PE or music.
Since then, the school has progressed to the stage where fourteen teachers have attended a Primary Language Learning (PLL) course organised by the local authority in French or Spanish. With the support of the SMT, some members of staff have also participated in an exchange to Lyon and language immersion programmes in France and Spain.
Spanish has been offered at P5 as an extra-curricular activity. The school plans to include it more formally as an integral part of the curriculum at P5 in the next session.
The school is one of the six schools in Renfrewshire that have piloted a progressive framework created by the local authority which outlines the skills development that can be expected as learners progress through the primary stages. This framework allows for flexibility and teachers can plan and choose the materials and activities that are most appropriate to all their learners’ needs.
Learning and teaching
The aim of the learning and teaching is to develop children’s skills and confidence in listening and talking, reading and writing, in the target language. A wide range of strategies is employed to embed modern languages more fully across the curriculum, making links where appropriate and relevant. Daily routine, classroom organisation, use of the outdoor environment and interdisciplinary learning activities provide interesting opportunities for children to demonstrate their skills in a meaningful context.
See videos of some learning in action at Houston Primary School (YouTube)
See some examples of displays to celebrate and support learning (Flickr)
To broaden cultural awareness at all stages, the children are given opportunities to explore the culture of countries where French and Spanish are spoken. They investigate, for example, landmarks, food, festivals and celebrations, the arts, the education system, the Euro and trade.
The school uses a wide variety of active, stimulating and inclusive activities and resources such as songs and games, interactive IWB activities, websites, Power Points, sound files, CDs, DVDs. Teachers make good use of resources from other areas of the curriculum such as number fans. They also use puppets, flash cards, big books, toys, musical instruments, AV devices such as recordable pegs, talking tins, microphones, and dictionaries to improve the learning experience. Use of effective ICT underpins learning and teaching at Houston Primary School and teachers make use of blogs to communicate with their partner school in France.
The teachers have integrated French into various interesting and relevant contexts for learning. This includes P2 learning about Blanche-Neige in French as part of their work on fairy tales and P5 learning about the planets in French. A good example of this approach is a P6 project “A la boulangerie”.
Learners used their numeracy skills to participate in various activities that required them to use weights and measures in the target language. They advertised their boulangerie throughout the school and baked items to sell to other pupils and to the community. They also used their IT skills to create designs for their cake bags.
To monitor language progression, teachers use ongoing assessment and gather evidence to demonstrate individual progress in learning. Progress in languages features on school reports to parents.
The school strives to ensure that all four skill areas are developed and that learners move from basic word level towards more independent use of the language, with sentences and paragraphs. For example, in the nursery, the words for colours are introduced. By the end of P7, children will recycle these words accurately in sentences with the correct adjectival agreement.
Access Education Scotland’s Guidelines on a 1+2 approach to language learning.
A French native speaker in the local community helps lead the language learning in the nursery school along with the nursery staff. Parents too are very supportive. They take part in open afternoons and events. For example, in the nursery children learn a French Christmas song and sing it as part of the Christmas show. Parents help their children practise the song at home.
A school blog also ensures that parents can see the learning that has taken place in all areas of the curriculum including modern languages. Additionally, information about language learning is shared with the wider community in the local magazine.
Houston Primary School has a strong partnership with the local secondary school.
Gryffe High says:
Staff from primary and secondary schools also plan to work together next session to deliver joint language workshops that explore globally celebrated events such as the French 'Mardi Gras' celebrations and the Mexican 'Day of the Dead'.
The teachers have developed an interesting link with a primary school in Lyon. This has resulted in one of the Scottish teachers shadowing a colleague in Lyon. This was followed by a reciprocal visit to Houston Primary School by two French teachers who very impressed not only by the school’s creative approaches to learning and teaching, but by the quality of the learners’ ability in French. As a result of this partnership, the school has developed a blog where children regularly exchange information and photographs with their French counterparts.
Children in P5 said:
The headteacher is very supportive of modern languages, but staffing is a challenge and requires to be considered every year:
The next step in development is to look at planning for L3 and to develop smoother transition to support the pupils at P7 - S1.
The school will start this by introducing Spanish as an L3 with children at Primary 5. They plan to explore a cultural context to link it with other subject areas while ensuring that there is still progression in language and skills development.
Houston Primary School will also continue to be part of the Renfrewshire languages pilot. The pilot will continue next year with more schools being invited to join, following authority training for staff in French, German and Spanish.