From September 2004, modern foreign languages (MFL) will no longer be a compulsory national curriculum subject, but will become one of the "entitlement areas" that all schools must offer within their key stage 4 curriculum. Schools will have to provide the opportunity for students to take a course in all four entitlement areas (design and technology, the arts, the humanities and MFL) if they wish to. The new requirements are not intended to discourage students from studying languages, but to provide greater flexibility and choice.
One of the Government's key aims for the 14-19 phase is that students should have greater freedom to choose programmes of study that better meet their needs and strengths. Although schools can continue to include a foreign language as a compulsory subject in their KS4 curriculum, many are expected to make MFL optional. All maintained schools will be required to offer at least one MFLcourse to all KS4 students.
The QCA is playing its part by accrediting high-quality qualifications, providing information about the range of approved qualifications, and publishing guidance for schools and teachers. Full information about the KS4 entitlement areas can be found on QCA's 14-19 learning website (www.qca.org.uk14-19). For details of all qualifications accredited by QCA go to www.openquals.org.uk.
The DfES has launched a dedicated website (www.dfes.gov.uklanguages) where teachers can access information and ideas to supplement what they include in school option booklets or make available at consultation meetings for Year 9 pupils and their parents. CILT, the National Centre for Languages, also provides information through its website (www.cilt.org.uk). CILT is also developing a range of "Languages Work" materials in different media, to promote greater awareness of the value of languages in working life.
These will be available from September.
Schools need to be aware that there are many foreign language options that they may offer in KS4. GCSE will continue to be the most popular qualification, but it is not the only possibility. Other options, at different levels of difficulty, focus on different skills and topic areas.
Some are general-purpose qualifications, others are more specifically work-related. Many students also welcome the opportunity to study a community language.
Ryton Comprehensive School in Gateshead is one school which already offers a variety of courses and languages in KS4, covering all abilities and interests. As a specialist language college, it requires nearly all students to study two foreign languages. Most study one of these to GCSE; they can choose from a range of courses for a second language: GCSE French, German, Spanish or Japanese, beginners' Italian, or a business language qualification, and there is an entry-level course in French. They can also follow a GCSE course delivered in twilight sessions.
Andy Giles, assistant headteacher, explains: "The modern languages provision is based on three considerations: what students will find interesting, what they are capable of achieving, and what might be of use to them later in life. Being a specialist language college, Ryton School is different from most, but through our varied course provision we show what is possible."
Schools and colleges are also being encouraged to work together in new partnerships to give students more choice, for example by making a particular language available at another institution.
Another possibility is e-learning, which would be particularly helpful for minority languages where a teacher might not be available locally.
The QCA will soon be publishing a guidance booklet about MFL in KS4.
Chris Maynard, QCA consultant for MFL
Options at KS4
* One or more languages to GCSE, eg French andor German
* A choice of two courses in the same language, eg GCSE and a vocationally related qualification (VRQ)
* Two courses in different languages, eg GCSE French or Spanish andor NVQ units in French
* A continuation course andor a beginners' course, eg GCSE French and a Level 1 Spanish course (GCSE Foundation or VRQ) Vocationally related options QCA and DfES guidance will indicate a range of approved non-GCSEGCE options. General features are:
* Awarded at a level not a grade, mostly pass or fail
* All have an element of external assessment
* Some cover specific skills only
* Some are generic qualifications offered in a range of languages; some are language-specific
See also: www.cilt.org.uk qualificationsexamsalternexams.htm