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Foundations of success

In most schools, pupils at key stage 3 are learning a language for the first time, and many pupils are able to learn two. Success or a sense of failure at this stage affects all the learning that follows.

It is not only about broadening horizons, positive learning experiences and motivation, important though these are. The key aim at this stage is to establish a firm foundation of knowledge, skills and understanding on which to base future learning.

This is why the revised national curriculum programme of study for modern languages puts more emphasis on acquiring know-ledge and developing skills.

The areas of experience from the old national curriculum have been pruned back to a minimum in the revised one. Pupils still need to learn a language in different contexts, but progression should be measured in terms of what they know and what they can do, not the number of topics they have covered.

To help teachers to deliver the revised curriculum effectively, the QCA is developing schemes of work for key stage 3. These are non-statutory schemes and are designed to offer help and guidance to teachers of French, German and Spanish.

They show how the revised national curriculum can be translated into long-term and medium-term plans, from which teachers can then develop detailed lesson plans.

The structure of the schemes is similar to existing QCA schemes of work.

Each of the 18 units in each language will have a summary with key information about the unit such as the new language content to be cvered, the contexts for learning, and how that unit relates to others. What pupils should be able to do by the end of the unit is clearly stated, and there are tips for how pupils might extend their learning out of school.

Each unit has clearly defined learning objectives, suggested teaching activities and examples of learning outcomes. There are many helpful pieces of advice written by experienced advisers, including suggestions on how to integrate activities using information and communications technology. Throughout the units, the emphasis is on building up pupils' knowledge of the language and their linguistic skills, and reinforcing these as they progress.

These schemes of work are not coursebooks, however, so there are no resources to accompany them. Teachers will probably want to use them selectively at first, or as a reference point when reviewing their existing departmental scheme of work.

The QCA schemes will also be available electronically, so teachers can customise them to best meet their pupils' needs.

The scheme for French will be published on the Department for Education and Employment website ( in April, and the printed copies will be distributed to schools in May.

The companion German and Spanish schemes will become available early in the summer.

Christopher Maynard isprincipal subject officer,modern foreign languages, for the Qualifications andCurriculum Authority, 29 Bolton Street, London W1Y 7PDTel: 020 7509

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