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									Frequently Asked Questions at The Ashcombe School, a Specialist Language College since 1998.

Whole-school questions Why did you choose to go for Language College status? Fits in with the ethos of the school (international activity) - position of the school – ease of travel to the continent – high performance of language department (already 2 lang. for all KS3) – existing management expertise in that area. Isn’t it seen as selective by the community? No – there is no selection. All events stress the fact that we are still an LEA maintained comprehensive. We deliberately seek to share good practice / ideas and involve local schools. Is there resentment from local schools? Proud of Partnership with local schools who benefit from LC status – Network group meets about once a half term to discuss developments and deployment of £50K (approx. one third of the total) per year allocated to partnership. All local primaries, other secondary school, Special school involved. Support has included colour printers, digital cameras, video cameras, software & hardware, outreach support teachers, FL Assistants, INSET costs, technical help. This partnership has formed the basis of further positive cooperative ventures outside MFL e.g. Pupil support services. Does it put the pupils off coming? (‘Not more languages!!’) No. Curriculum unchanged from previous situation. Children love the technology. Year 5 &6 visits and open evening – v popular activity. Increased number of SEN pupils since status accorded, all of who do 2 MFL at KS3. Aren’t the other departments resentful? No. No change to curriculum structure. Win-win situation. All gain from increased resources – infrastructure in place for expanding facilities – natural context for existing schemes of work Well-prepared – all HODs signed to approve pursuing the status. Curriculum Questions How have you changed the curriculum to accommodate language college requirements? Not at all in terms of main curriculum structure. No enforced extended day or changed lesson length. Still a broad and balanced curriculum. KS3: School already offered 2 languages to all y7-9. 4x70 minute sessions per day – 20 sessions per week – of which 3 are for Modern Languages, divided between French and German. (Normally one week French, one week German). Spanish offered as extra in Y8 during a single maths lesson + lunchtime session &Y9 in twilight session. Opportunities for Chinese. KS4: Currently all do at least one full GCSE French or German; approx. half from upper sets do 2 MFL (one full + one short GCSE in the time of a full GCSE allocation OR two full in the time of 1.5 GCSE time allocation); it is possible for some to do three or even 4 if desired! All experience Chinese and Italian during International Business week. Other languages offered on or off timetable according to option choices (currently Chinese, Italian and Spanish available at KS4). KS5: AS & A level in French/German/Spanish. Entitlement course (compulsory for all 6th form) includes study of MFL in modules – Mandarin Chinese, Italian and Spanish available. Follow up Chinese with Shanghai summer course & advanced course U6. Do you offer any vocational language courses? Have you considered accreditation other than GCSE? Principle that GCSE courses can be made accessible, and all grades are valued if set within understood 'value-added' targeting context. (Typically 99% gain at least 1 A*-G across whole school; in MFLmost gain A*-E). Pupils motivated in language learning with GCSE framework – no need to diversify accreditation. For purposes of motivation, may as well gain GCSE. The non-GCSE courses (sixth form entitlement sessions, Chinese at KS4) are not accredited by external bodies. We are looking into the




possibilities of doing so (e.g. proposing a pilot for the Languages Ladder). GNVQ only in KS5 as Business Studies; course run to ensure that all pupils have option of staying in 6th form. Good links with FE institutions who can provide well-resourced GNVQ in other areas. No need for competitive policy on recruitment.

Language Department questions Doesn’t the Language dept feel under pressure? Already a high-performing dept prior to status. Positive attitude to facilities – pressure anticipated by planning for more staff non-contact time to pursue training and familiarisation (all new staff have additional weekly non-contact time built in to their timetable and first lessons are taken by experienced staff)– managers have additional non-contact time – there is an additional responsibility point in the the department – somebody helps with organising trips & exchanges - appointment of technical staff and secretary (full-time equivalent secretary for Language College tasks) – most money into technical facilities to enhance language learning (not building / fabric) – additional resources and INSET at request of staff (new course books, data projector in each room, laptops, software, subscriptions) Members of the dept find it easy to gain promotion using Aschcombe experience and training opportunities. What is the role of the Head of Department and other managers in the department? They have the same accountability as other managers in the school, but they liaise with staff who have responsibilities for ensuring that language college targets are met and they have additional opportunities and resources for developing projects and professional development. Examples: Senior Deputy Head takes strategic overview of the LC development plan including overseeing finance and staffing; Deputy Head i/c community links oversees organisation of visits and exchanges and business links; Assistant Head Curriculum oversees effective and efficient use of ICT and national & international representation; Assistant Head Pastoral oversees visits from primaries; Outreach teacher provides training and support for primary schools. There is no separate ‘Language College Director’; accountabilities have been divided between existing managers who have additional non-contact time to carry out these accountabilities. What ICT facilities do you have? We have two multimedia rooms dedicated to language teaching (34 computers in each room, each with soundcard, headset, high-speed connection to CD ROMs, videos and Internet, no e-mail accounts, no data projector); each classroom has a ceiling-mounted data projector, pull-down white screen, OHP, cassette recorder; and each teacher has a laptop. No interactive whiteboards: not financially viable for each classroom, and equal access to all facilities for all teachers and puils is an important principle throughout the school. When the price comes down and we can afford one for everyone, we may purchase them. Cutrrently we find that data projector + laptop already offers significant benefit to the language classroom. Class sets of individual cassette recorders available. How much time do the pupils spend in the multimedia rooms? The two rooms offer 80 sessions per fortnight. There are 56 language classes. All have at least one session per fortnight. Priority goes to Y11, Y9 and less able for 2 sessions per week. Timetable is changed at exam time to ensure continued maximum usage. Do all the language staff really use it? What about the technophobes?! This is not an issue. ICT is a curriculum entitlement for all; staff and pupils are automatically timetabled into ICT rooms. All staff relatively highly ICT literate – many years’ INSET days on ICT! Time given for extra training needed for MFL teachers. ‘Lead’ ICT teachers designated (managers – SMT and MFL). Room timetabled for 100% use. Any doubts dispersed when you see the results for pupils: both pleasure (soft targets) and progress (hard targets!) ' That was cooool!' (quotation from Y8 set 4 boy!). Selection process ensures new staff are keen to use ICT. Excellent means of sharing resources.


Which course book do you use? Currently, French KS3= Camarades KS4 = Métro; German: Logo; Spanish: Caminos. Criteria: layout and course structure, esp. for lower attainers; differentiated text book as soon as possible to allow for setting (starts Year 8) How does ICT fit into the process of language learning? See the sheet 'How technology enhances language learning'. Key elements: superb for presentation and practice of listening and speaking – vital skills which are more difficult to approach individually in a classroom (choral repetition & pairwork OK in classroom, but not as good as this!); ICT allows pupil independent control of learning – able to spend as long as necessary on each stage (e.g. some need longer of repetition stage than others), can 'fail in private' and rectify on their own. And they really want to improve on their own performance in the independent test/tasks which form part of every good ICT program. TIP: Deliberately exploit new T&L methods allowed by flexible M/M room; avoid trap of seeking ways of teaching/assessing which replicate classroom practice (e.g. recording self on tape; requiring pairwork for 'authentic info gap' activities); teacher takes on new 'enabling' role; focus on flexible teaching and learning process rather than on adhering to a rigid scheme of work and associated assessment. FURTHER TIP: no need for interactive whiteboard or central console as activities are deliberately not teacher-centred, not whole-class. Main idea = maximum individual pupil engagement in task. How does ICT fit into the scheme of work? What if you’re timetabled for use of the room when you’re not ready for it? Dept encouraged to be flexible – this is possible within NC language orders where specific content is not prescribed – key aim = enjoyment of language learning and we know ICT supports this. Resources available / can be exploited for all stages of learning (presentation and production). Wherever possible, commercially-available, non-Internet resources used, and supplemented by resources authored by staff (e.g. TaskMagic). ICT resource ‘column’ in each scheme of work. SoW – indicating resources for units of work. Revision of previous topics always valid. Developing homework activities to follow on and vocab sheets to reinforce extra language presented and practised beyond course book. Do teachers really use the target language? It is possible! Pupils given explicit training in this – signs around the room give prompts – staff given ICT word lists. Recommend ‘Say IT in French etc’ – BECTa materials. What does the teacher do while the pupils are working individually on computers? Real strength of the resource – allows real independent learning – meanwhile teacher can work individually with pupils, do group work, extension / support work. Ideal time for FLA to support the class – assistant can be used all the time e.g. extracting individuals / groups for role play or conversation. TIP: video the assistants presenting topics to build up a library of authentic listening comprehension work – used on video-on-demand (see our site for large video bank created). FURTHER TIP: very good for cover lesson – pupils really do make progress! How do you monitor what the pupils are doing? Multimedia log – each pupil has own folder kept in m/m room – overview sheet at top of folder for ongoing log - card for each CD ROM includes attainment & evaluation for interest, ease and progress made. Teachers move around – see what is on the screen – hear what the pupils say. Easier than usual classroom! NB deliberate decision not to monitor electronically – more flexible for teacher access to records if on hard copy. This could change when use of CSE software more fully developed (use of pupil individual 'project areas'). Deliberately not controlled by teacher from central console – prefer to have teacher freedom to interact 1:1 with pupils face to face, or do group work while rest of class engaged in individual work.


Has the technology increased results? How do you know? Results increased in first year – GCSE 63% - 83% A-C. Increased take-up at A level. Increased double linguists (esp. boys). Sixth form choice to do extra language increased e.g. Mandarin Chinese 10 week course. Notoriously difficult to subscribe improved results to one element of teaching, but external assessor and OFSTED inspector endorsed out belief that the ICT has a tangible result. Which CDs do you recommend? List published on web-site. Main ones: Essentials (Vektor) – Talk French, World Talk (Eurotalk). Who is Oscar Lake? Interactive activities for French and German. En Route. Unterwegs. French Foundations; German Foundations. Auralog. What other software do you use? Microsoft versions available in other languages (encourages use of target language e.g. fenêtre!); new version of Fun With Texts about to be installed ; TaskMagic extremely popular. Variety of software for teacher presentations and games. Do you contribute to ICT curriculum? We concentrate particularly on language learning and avoid pupils wasting valuable time on producing attractive documents using PowerPoint / Word Art etc (these skills are practised in other subjects. We treasure the limited time pupils have access to language resources!). We are about to pilot an adapted ICT 8.2 module in which pupils will learn how to design and create a website with MFL content. How do you use Internet? Our site has links to sites relevant to topics studied on school website for pupil use. (TIP: as soon as links are found, put on to your own site as a link so that pupils do not have to type it in themselves and can be guided.). Recommend staff use tried and tested sites which are well maintained (e.g. Linguascope, Equipe, Zut). Internet especially used by 6th form for widening vocab. and keeping up-to-date. Important to define sites pupils should use – avoid getting lost and wasting valuable learning time! Danger of overreliance on Internet when access and connectivity can be unreliable and exercises are largely passive and do not exploit the full potential of ICT (listening). Never depend on access to Internet when planning lesson. How do you make sure pupils don’t abuse the Internet access? Whole-school, strict rules laid down. Clear contract with parents. Sanctions enforced if necessary. CSE system allows effective tracking of access. How do you use E-mail / Video-conferencing? Contacts set up with schools with appropriate technology abroad – not easy! Mixture of technical problems and issue of synchronicity and supervision; maintaining confidence of those overseas. Prompt sheet designed for essential vocabulary and phrases for quick messages. 'First Class' discussion forum software installed and CSE Webspace explorer being trialled– idea of people contributing to project – slowly fill in – send to each other for corrections – easier to handle than e-mail, and in teacher control. Video-conferencing a complex story, fragile, expensive technology. We have decided to drop this as a priority, although used for ‘special occasions’. Current national emphasis on communicative use of ICT praiseworthy, but danger of not making most efficient use of ICT, and concentrating on perceived motivation rather than linguistic progress. How do you use Video-on-demand? Digitise TV, satellite foreign news, film, assistants, pupils, teachers for required presentation & practice of language. Use with standard templates for collecting language and reporting understanding. More interesting when it's someone you know on film (pupils, assistants). Good means of watching finished product of a classroom-based activity of producing a video (e.g. watch class and fill in grid to show understanding / conduct survey).


Are pupils disadvantaged who do not have ICT at home? Most seem comfortable- increased exposure from feeder schools and other subjects – lunchtime and after school sessions available. We send list of CDs home to parents – can buy copies. Currently investigating loaning hardware for pupils on long-term absence. Resource questions Do other departments use the facilities? No. These ICT multimedia rooms are for the sole use of the MFL department. Plenty of other ICT suites around rest of school. Emphasis of LC aim is to enhance the teaching of languages. However, others have benefited from the infrastructure (e.g. hard disk space, CD ROM server, sound cards, connection speed). Does the community use the facilities? Are they used outside lesson time? Invitations given – this is encouraged. Termly after-school sessions for primary school pupils + their parents; evening class; other schools have used in the past (local private school & secondary school) – parent evenings – limited interest from some local businesses. Rooms are open for lunchtime and after school sessions. Used by SEN for Wordshark and Numbershark. With so many using the rooms, how does it stay fresh-looking? (sounds like a soap advert!) V. strict procedures. House rules – script for teachers – sanctions for misuse – seating plans to allow checks. Technical staff alert managers of problems. Doesn’t monitoring damage disrupt the lesson? Strict procedures for maintaining room – faults recorded so people know. Seating plans. Pupils display red card on computer if problem – teacher records on yellow post-it in own time. Sheet filled in at start and end of lesson. Main faults displayed. How did you decide on the room layout? Consider safety, light, supervision. Went for piers (6 each side) perpendicular to windows. How did you make decisions about the hardware? Questions on hardware are best answered on an individual basis. General information on the computers and infrastructure we use are detailed on the yellow hand out entitled 'Multimedia ICT rooms'. Our strong recommendation is to ensure that the computers are capable of running the software as well as possible to avoid teacher and pupil frustration! Our main supplier is CSE (Gordon Derham) Tel: 01993 708775


What are your current school objectives for the Language College? In our Phase 2 plan (ends 2004), the following obejctives were listed: 1 TEACHING: All teachers plan and use ICT to best effect in language learning through (a) their own knowledge and understanding (K&U) of 'cutting edge' ICT and its applications to language learning (b) ability to create in-house resources for ICT (e.g. CD ROMs, interactive Internet sites) (c) quality planning documents to which all teachers contribute (d) effective collaborative professional reflection on practice incl. effective assessment of the impact of ICT on learning 2 LEARNING: Pupils of all abilities are involved in their own language learning, and understand how ICT can enhance their standards. 3 STANDARDS OF ACHIEVEMENT: The benefits of increased quality of teaching and learning, and access to ICT, are reflected in improved standards in MFL examinations at KS3, KS4 and Sixth Form. 4 DIVERSIFICATION & ACCREDITATION OF LANGUAGES: All pupils have the opportunity to study and gain accreditation for several languages between Y7 and U6. 5 PROMOTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION: Provide an annual ‘International Activities Week’ for all pupils to experience an international dimension to extra-curricular activities. 6 PROMOTION OF COLLABORATION BETWEEN MFL & OTHER SUBJECT AREAS: Provide activities in other subject areas which require the use of the target language 7 CONTACT WITH OTHER COUNTRIES: Provide activities in several subject areas which give pupils the opportunity to use technology to enrich their curriculum and international experience. 8 CAREERS & WORK EXPERIENCE: Provide information and experience of work with an international dimension. 9 COURSES & INTEREST – KS3 Increase the stay-on rate of pupils choosing to study Spanish at KS3 10 COURSES & INTEREST – KS4 10a Increase numbers following GCSE courses in 2 languages 10b Pupils have accreditation for the Italian and Chinese learning they undertake 10c Pupils choose to continue Spanish at KS4 11 COURSES & INTEREST – Sixth form 11a All take up a new language for which they receive accreditation 11b Numbers are increased for AL languages in German and French 11c Some students choose to continue Spanish into the sixth form. 12 COURSES & INTEREST: Higher Ed. Increased numbers of students choose to continue language study in Higher Education.

This sheet and other info shortly to be published on our website:


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