September has seen the implementation of a third version of the national curriculum for modern foreign languages. Key changes include:
* greater emphasis on grammatical knowledge
* highlighting the importance of language skills and learning about language, playing down the importance of content
* increased emphasis on the use of ICT.
There are also changes to the level descriptions to bring key stage 3 expectations into line with other subjects. This should make it easier to attain the middle level range by the end of key stage, for example by reducing the "tenses requirement" at level 5 from three to two. But the level descriptions have also become rather more hard-nosed about grammar, which will make them just as taxing as before for many pupils.
As with the previous two national curriculum documents, non-statutory materials have been produced to help teachers deliver the requirements. These take the form of a Qualifica-tions and Curriculum Authority scheme of work for KS3. There are separate QCA schemes of work for French, German and Spanish teachers. A scheme consists of 18 units of work across the three years of KS3, providing an example of how to approach long and medium-term planning. It also gives suggestions for classroom activities, putting practical flesh on the theoretical bones. Most schools' schemes of work are topic based. The QCA ones do refer to topics but these are subsidiary to the more important development of linguistic competence and progression. They try to show how language skills and structures learned in one context can be applied to others.
The French scheme of work has already been sent to schools. The German and Spanish schemes are due to be published this term. The French scheme is also available on the web at www.standards.dfee.gov.ukschemescurriculum and can be adapted to suit individul needs. It is unlikely any school will adopt it as it stands, particularly because it was not written to match any existing coursebooks, but there are several possible approaches, including:
* Adopt the QCA scheme of work in its entirety, or adopt whole units or parts of units.
* Rewrite your scheme of work using the QCA format.
* Ignore the QCA scheme but update your own in line with the new curriculum.
Further refinements within this approach could include:
* Keep the format of your existing scheme of work, especially if it has OFSTED approval, but include the principles of the QCA scheme of work.
* Apply aspects of the structure of the QCA scheme, for instance, stating expectations.
* Adopt some units in their entirety or in part, and blend them into your existing scheme - useful if there is an aspect of grammar currently neglected.
* Adopt ideas found in one unit and apply them to other units or topics. Poach from the German and Spanish schemes once they are published.
* Purchase a different published course, but check to what extent it uses QCA principles.
* Use the teacher's guide as a check on your coverage of the key skills of literacy and ICT in relation to modern foreign languages, which your scheme of work may not mention.
The QCA scheme of work does not seek to provide individual lesson plans or impose any particular teaching style. It is also publishing a KS2 example of a scheme for French. There is no statutory requirement to use them and QCA is keen that the schemes should be considered as examples rather than the recommended model. Time will tell to what extent this new approach to planning contributes to raising achievement.
David Crossland and Phil Horsfall are PGCE tutors at the University of York and were involved in drafting sections of the French and German QCA schemes of work. They are authors of a new French course, 'ACTIF!' (Language Centre Publications)