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ALL London January Event

Saturday, 16 January 09:30 -13:30

A Report written by Rodney Mantle, ALL London Minutes Secretary

  ALL London January Event 2016

The Kamran DJAM Lecture Theatre and room G51 at the Russell Square Campus of the School of African and Oriental Studies proved to be excellent venues. Registration was rapid; then tea/coffee, biscuits, a linguascope plastic bag full of goodies and the Branch committee were there to welcome everyone, well over 100 people - hardly an empty seat!

Branch Chair Helen Myers soon got us all attentive and enthusiastic with her welcoming talk, thanking Renate Albuquerque  from SOAS for the venue. Renate talked about Routes into Languages, which promotes language study among young people by training "Ambassadors" and running projects helping prepare Year 11 students for MFL studies in Year 12 and Year 13 students for university. Vice-Chairman Nick Mair mentioned an MFL event organised the Sir Robert Taylor Society in Oxford , inexpensive and pleasant for serving teachers.

Apart from giving an overview of the Branch's activities, summarised in the Annual Report and the Diaries, Helen Myers thanked Eva Lamb from the Sheffield Branch for event ideas.

While Daničle Reed helped reduce the space problems by leading some people off to room G51 for ''Primary matters" by Nadine Chadier & Sylvia Bartlett-Rawlings, many remained for 'ALL about the new GCSE' by Dr Rachel Hawkes, Languages Advisor for TES Resources, Comberton Academy Trust. [A separate report on these sessions will follow]

The new Speaking test
"Glass half full and grasping the nettle,
New GCSE here we come, in fine fettle!
Keeping or tweaking, adapting or seeking
inspiration, in this session you'll find heaven---
ly ideas and resources for seven to eleven."

was Rachel's motto, and we were not disappointed. Admitting that she had expected the consultation process to have got farther when she accepted the invitation, she gave an unvarnished account of finished - and unfinished - business. As only one Board (AQA) had reached draft 2, more change was to be expected. The biggest shift in emphasis was on spontaneity in speaking -why did that take so long? Spontaneity would mean the end of memorised speech and a shift away from stress on grammatical accuracy to communication.

The new Oral test would consist of:
RP (Rôle Play)
TS (Text Stimulus)
PD (Picture Description)

There would no longer be prescribed lists of questions, and candidates would need to give "extended answers" (in practice, app. 40 seconds, with 3/4/5 sentences). This would mean a shift in class practice, with students trained to increase the length of their answers as they progressed from Year 7 to Year 11. This was in some ways similar to the 2008 version. It would involve students asking questions and receiving less teacher support, as well as trying to ensure by planned revision that students did not forget much of what they has previously learned.

Teachers as vigilantes
Rachel cited an example (now withdrawn by OCR) of an inappropriate suggested question: "Is it important to celebrate historical events nationally?" and urged all MFL teachers to monitor the boards' proposals online and object rapidly to anything unlikely to work.

How to do it
There followed a dazzling array of ideas for how to prepare learners for these challenges, including a video of a question practice session. Department meetings would need to devote time to the progression.
Although Rachel made self-deprecating comments about her knowledge of French, her examples in French, German and Spanish were equally useful. For access to her ideas and materials:

The heady intensity of Rachel's presentation justified the rush at the start of the "Comfort break" to enjoy more coffee/tea and biscuits, use the chance to 'network' and visit the two exhibition rooms. There were stands - all busy - from Canela Fina, Goethe-Institut, Maison Claire Fontaine,, MLG Publishing, Sanako, Studio, and Vocab Express.

How the crowd was persuaded to leave all this temptation is a mystery, but one group was soon getting the benefit of Nadine Chadier, Sylvia Bartlett-Rawlings and Nick Mair talking about 'Practical ideas for Primary and KS3', while the other group was absorbed by 'Getting ready for A Level 2016?' from Karine Harrington (, a practising teacher, an SLE for her Teaching Alliance and a consultant. The session covered the main changes in the new 2016 A Level Curriculum, with a focus on studying film and literature.

What are the problems?
One of the biggest challenges here will be the discrepancy between the oral techniques still being taught and learned for the current GCSE and what is required in the new AS and A Levels, as well as the absence of translation from the current GCSE. These discrepancies will continue until 2018, when the new GCSEs start.
The most important changes will include the disappearance of A2: AS is to be a free-standing qualification, but co-teaching will be possible, and AS will be the same as the first year of A. Nonetheless, the summer term would be a problem.
The need for topics/themes to be rooted in the target countries could be a serious deterrence for lower-ability candidates, was a concern voiced in discussion, as well as the requirement that the essay should be in the target language. While AS candidates could choose between a film or an item of literature, in A level, candidates would have to cover one of each. A Level candidates would also have to master research techniques and marshalling of sources.
What are the solutions?
One answer will be familiar to most: "Little and Often." Karine gave examples of using laminated texts for translation exercises and use of the online FREE resource "Padlet" ( for e.g. weekly press reviews in class; and of viewing film to analyse action/technique and work out reasons for the director's choice (pair work). She advocated getting students to look at the "Bigger Picture," asking themselves what they know about a topic.
All Karine's examples were for French and non-Board-specific.

Mostly younger participants then headed off to
Job Application Clinic for Students. 'What are schools looking for?' with Vice Chair Nick Mair, Director of Languages, Dulwich College, ISMLA.
A small band of Branch stalwarts stayed for the Branch AGM.

The whole event was a splendid example of teamwork.