Class act 1: Modern Languages

Modern languages may be proving the most difficult curricular nut to crack, but Leith Academy is having a go and it is certainly not using a sledgehammer.

"In terms of the 5-14 programme, I felt modern languages were just added on and therefore not strong enough to survivewithout considerable reinforcement, " says Dave Peat, principal teacher of modernlanguages at Leith. The school has a three-pronged strategy to improve matters. "First, we are experimenting with differentiated homework booklets in the first and second years," Mr Peat explains.

"They are arranged according to pupils' abilities but, importantly, they are not fixed: pupils can move from one level to another. We have also established strong primary-secondary links in our local cluster (of schools), which involves secondary language specialists working with colleagues in the primary schools to compensate in particular for the lack of German in two of our four primaries.

"The third element is a 'tutor-tutee' scheme, devised by Eliane Whitelaw, our senior teacher. This involves dividing pupils into three bands, some of them in ability groups and some with partners but always including a strong and a weaker youngster."

While these moves grew out of theimmediate concerns of modern languages, they also fitted in with wider priorities. The homework booklets followed from the school's development plan which was to focus on homework. And the tutor-tutee scheme was another device to manage a mixed-ability class of 30, some of whom have learning difficulties, Mr Peat says.

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