What the resource is:
This resource is an Ofsted report published in April 2009 which gives the results of a survey of colleges offering English and modern foreign language courses at AS and A level. The survey investigated factors which enable post-16 learners in these subjects to make good progress
Ofsted visited 18 colleges across England, whose most recent inspection had returned judgements of good or outstanding in English and modern foreign languages. They report here on perceived ‘good practice' observed in these colleges and give recommendations for further improvement.
The aims of the resource:
- To identify good practice in English and modern foreign languages in post-16 colleges graded as good or outstanding by Ofsted;
- To suggest improvements for practice in these colleges;
- To disseminate both the good practice observed and the recommendations given to other post-16 colleges to improve practice across the sector.
Key findings or focus:
Overall standards in English and modern foreign languages at AS and A level in the colleges surveyed were found to be good.
Factors contributing to raising standards for learners were considered to be:
- High teacher expectation;
- Methodical development of the four skills (Listening, Reading, Speaking, Writing) in modern foreign languages;
- Development of good communication skills in both English and modern foreign languages;
- Development of active skills and a range of activities provided;
- Study visits in this country and abroad;
- Extensive use of resources including such things as intranets and Virtual Learning Environments(VLEs);
- Feedback to students linked to assessment criteria and targets;
- Support for students through personalised learning and provision of differentiated outcomes;
- Good curriculum management involving autonomy for individual staff and successful teamwork, including optimising use of language assistants.
Recommendations for improvement are given in the report as actions for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, and colleges. The specific recipients of the recommendations are given in brackets:
- Increases in internationally recognised qualifications for modern foreign languages; help to overcome staff shortages for some modern foreign languages; development of work-based qualifications in modern foreign languages (DIUS and DCSF);
- Work with local authorities, schools and guidance services to support the transition from GCSE to advanced level study of languages (DCSF)
- Dissemination and sharing of good practice from both English and modern foreign languages providers (Learning and Skills Improvement Service);
- Improvement strategies for colleges include: increasing challenge by improving learning targets; increasing sharing of good practice across colleges; improving the use of questioning to assess learning and management of group work; improving the use of VLEs; encouraging the evaluation of internet sites by students.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
The colleges chosen for the survey had been inspected recently by Ofsted and had been judged as successful according to their criteria. The original judgements, reinforced by the visits, suggest a rigorous in-depth investigation into the successful provision of English and modern foreign languages to post-16 students. The geographical diversity of the colleges contributes to the credibility of the findings as it ensures that the findings were not localised to a specific area or college. The report concerns sector subject area 12: languages, literature and culture, with specific reference to English and modern foreign languages. The links between English and modern foreign languages could have been better indicated in the report and it would have been helpful to present the findings for each subject area discreetly rather than mixed together, or to have linked them together more in the discussion.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
Secondary ITE tutors concerned with English and modern foreign languages will find the resource useful. There are references to the difficulties of transition from GCSE to AS and A courses which are important for all teachers to be aware of and work actively to improve. Case study examples from some of the colleges involved suggest improvements to practice; these are interesting and relevant and could be adapted for use before the age of 16. These could be presented to students before and after teaching practice to encourage critical engagement with Ofsted recommendations. Students should be encouraged to make comparisons and evaluate the success or otherwise of suggested strategies. They can also be used as launching pads for creative ideas of their own. There is some scope to use the resource to consider links between subjects. The linking of English with modern foreign languages, although somewhat confusing in its presentation here, has value in that it encourages a broader view of a single subject's place within a whole curriculum.
The relevance to ITE students :
The resource presents a comprehensive and accessible starting place for critical engagement with the concept of ‘good practice'. Student teachers will mainly find the resource valuable in the following sections:
- 1. The wealth of examples of suggested ‘good' practice, highlighted in the text
- 2. The recommendations for improvement to practice
- 3. The excellent website links at the end of the document
There are also important statements made about the variety of linguistic backgrounds of potential post-16 students which stress the social diversity of colleges. The main text of the report comments on the importance of constructive study visits and enrichment possibilities. It stresses the importance of communication skills, the development of what it calls the ‘confident voice', and the need for criticality; also the need for links to GCSE, effective assessment and support for learners.