Languages in excellent main colleges

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Girls sitting at desks in a classroom

Michael Wardle HMI, Ofsted’s topic lead for languages, discusses our language topic inspections.

Languages are a vital a part of a broad, balanced curriculum. Not solely do they supply a chance to speak extra successfully with others, in addition they assist youngsters to know what it’s to be a world citizen. This consists of the significance of tolerance and understanding, which is essential information in right this moment’s world.

Major colleges have had a obligation to show languages since 2014. The primary cohort of pupils that ought to have studied languages all through key stage 2 moved to secondary faculty in September 2018.

Between October 2019 and March 2020, we carried out 24 languages topic inspections in main colleges. We wished to establish good observe and powerful curriculum administration within the topic. We chosen the faculties at random from colleges that we graded as excellent at their final inspection.

Though we selected these colleges at random, it was nice to see such a spread of languages being taught. As anticipated, inspectors visited many French and Spanish classes, although the pattern additionally included German, Mandarin and Fashionable Hebrew. We additionally noticed some colleges providing Latin – the important thing stage 2 nationwide curriculum consists of historic languages.

Variation in high quality

Regardless of the spectacular array of languages on supply, we discovered plenty of variation within the high quality of the curriculum in languages. There have been some glorious examples. In some colleges, curriculum leaders had thought fastidiously in regards to the phonics of the language being studied, specializing in how youngsters pronounce sounds and the way these are represented in writing. Over time, pupils developed their potential to control easy language step-by-step, doing work that steadily elevated in complexity of easy grammatical ideas. When studying new phrases, pupils had been inspired to give attention to a variety of generally used phrases, which included verbs in addition to lists of nouns linked to a subject. Within the colleges educating languages very well, pupils had been clearly having a superb time studying to speak in a unique language and studying about totally different cultures. This was nice to see.

Nonetheless, provided that many pupils ought to have been leaving 12 months 6 with 4 years’ value of language research, it was disappointing to see what number of colleges had been barely out of the beginning block with their curriculum.

In some instances, this was as a result of adjustments in staffing when colleges misplaced their language specialist. In others, it was as a result of leaders had been targeted on different areas of the curriculum. Generally, there was only a easy lack of awareness. Regardless of the purpose, the consequence was that a number of colleges had been solely scratching the floor when it got here to matching the scope of the nationwide curriculum. In these colleges, pupils had been solely ready to reply to a number of pre-rehearsed question-and-answer exchanges, and supply a number of nouns, colors or numbers when requested.

Totally different fashions

We typically discovered considered one of three fashions working in main colleges:

  • a specialist instructor is introduced into faculty to show languages
  • a instructor at school takes duty for its organisation and supply
  • a local speaker member of workers is requested to guide the topic

All three of those fashions can work. In instances the place a specialist instructor visits the college, class academics practised what has been taught through the week in between languages classes. In colleges the place a instructor at school was chargeable for organisation and supply of the languages curriculum, they often used purchased packages, recorded sound recordsdata and organised good subject-specific steady skilled growth; upskilling and supporting workers was seen as important. In these conditions the place native audio system lead the topic, they acquired coaching linked to understanding and educating their native language, which was pivotal.

In some colleges, there was a misunderstanding of the best way to make progress in languages, step-by-step. Somewhat than specializing in the constructing blocks of a language (phonics, grammar and vocabulary), some colleges had been merely growing pupils’ inventory of phrases, by way of totally different subjects. There was little in the way in which of linguistic development. Generally, colleges had a construction linked to creating listening, talking, studying and writing. Generally, there was a perception in not partaking in written types of the language in any respect.

It was attention-grabbing to see that some languages had been perceived to lend themselves to a extra structured strategy (Mandarin, Hebrew and Latin) as a result of inherent options of these languages and their scripts. Right here, in these examples, curriculum plans had been typically extra structured and exact. Every small step for pupils was mapped out, as a result of difficulties of the language. Certainly, though pupils had realized much less vocabulary and fewer buildings, they had been anticipated to ‘do extra with much less’. Probably, the educating of languages extra generally seen in lecture rooms may study from this.

Picture of primary school pupils sat in class, with the teacher at the front of the class, using the board


Our inspectors discovered that evaluation tended to be very restricted in languages. As well as, the transition from main to secondary was underdeveloped. The federal government’s ambition is that 90% of pupils research the suite of topics that make up the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) by 2025 (sitting examinations in 2027), which incorporates an historic or trendy language. That can embody pupils within the present 12 months 5 and under. Whereas we noticed some glorious work in our inspections, there wasn’t a lot proof of a joined-up strategy between key stage 2 and three. Generally, there was very restricted communication between main and secondary colleges, and little sharing or shaping of grammar, phonics and vocabulary between settings. Clearly, extra give attention to development throughout the important thing phases would doubtless assist the EBacc ambition.


These inspections had been carried out underneath part 8 of the Training Act 2005 and in accordance with Ofsted’s revealed procedures for a no formal designation inspection of faculties. The inspections had been carried out to allow Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector to raised perceive the standard of training in particular topics offered by excellent main colleges. Twenty-four languages inspections had been carried out between November 2019 and March 2020.

As these inspections solely appeared into one topic, inspectors weren’t anticipated to judge or infer the standard of training within the faculty. It is because the training inspection framework methodology requires a minimal of three topics to be reviewed as a way to draw out systemic options. This was not the aim of those inspections.

Colleges inspected

The complete element of the findings of every inspection are revealed on every faculty’s internet web page on Ofsted’s experiences web site.

Ashton-on-Ribble St Andrew’s Church of England Major Faculty, Lancashire

Barnes Major Faculty, Richmond upon Thames

Bishop Gilpin Church of England Major Faculty, Merton

Blackpool St Nicholas Church of England Major Faculty, Blackpool

Coombe Hill Junior Faculty, Kingston upon Thames

Escrick Church of England Voluntary Managed Major Faculty, North Yorkshire

Greenfield Major Faculty, Dudley

Hounslow Heath Junior Faculty, Hounslow

King David Major Faculty, Manchester

Ladybrook Major Faculty, Stockport

Larmenier and Sacred Coronary heart Catholic Major Faculty, Hammersmith and Fulham

Longparish Church of England Major Faculty, Hampshire

Manor Major Faculty, Wolverhampton

Orrell Lamberhead Inexperienced Academy, Wigan

Our Girl and St Hubert’s Catholic Major Faculty, Sandwell

Sacred Coronary heart Catholic Major Faculty, Hillingdon

Sacred Coronary heart Roman Catholic Major Faculty, Manchester

St Cuthbert’s Roman Catholic Major Faculty, Newcastle upon Tyne

St Mary and St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Major Faculty, Gateshead

St Peter and St Paul Catholic Major Faculty, Telford and Wrekin

St Peter’s Eaton Sq. Church of England Major Faculty, Westminster

The Batt Church of England Voluntary Aided Major Faculty, Oxfordshire
Varna Group Major Faculty, Manchester

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