Plenty of plus points
Last October, casting around for a course that would occupy my non-GCSE year 10 group in their now compulsory French lessons, I plumped for the NEAB Certificate of Achievement. Six weeks later I gave up the struggle of looking for up-to-date materials that met the board's criteria and took a different route. The new Collins course, French Plus, would have solved my problems.
In a compact, one-book course backed up with tapes, copymasters and flash cards is everything needed to prepare for the NEAB certificate. French Plus is divided into 12 modules - Salut, au cafe, au coll ge, ma ville, le bon chemin, temps libre, le temps, au travail, les vetements, chez moi, on fait des courses and au telephone. Each unit contains a range of objectives, set out clearly on the first page. All four attainment targets (listening, speaking, reading, writing) are covered, but appropriately for students who will not achieve beyond level 3, the activities are weighted towards listening. The copymasters provide built-in assessment geared to the requirements of the exam.
The authors work in special education and this shows in the straightforward, unambiguous instructions and well-planned, realistic tasks. Although the course covers familiar territory, the attractive presentation should lead pupils to feel - at least for a while - they are embarking on something new.
Most of the activities would have to be teacher-led because all instructions are in French. But once these have been explained, pupils should have no problem understanding what to do. The course is further validated by having Kate Corney as its series editor. She has been closely involved with the NEAB Certificate of Achievement.
The Teacher's Book is particularly useful in showing how children who perform well on the course can upgrade their know-ledge to GCSE level. In theory pupils can transfer from the certificate to a short or full GCSE course, but in practice this may depend on how French is time-tabled. I would not find the flash cards useful at key stage 4, but if this is your way of teaching vocabulary they are well produced.
There are drawbacks, possibly reflecting the shortcomings of the exam. Motivation at key stage 4 among pupils who are not studying for GGSE is a problem, and although the blurb claims French Plus is designed with young adults in mind, in practice the activities and content are not very different from those pupils have encountered in years 7, 8 and 9.
The presentation and photographs make up for this to some extent, but we all know the "Miss, we've done animals" syndrome. One can only hope the carrot of an examination certificate will stir the unmotivated.
Although French Plus is tailor-made for anyone wishing to follow the NEAB syllabus, it could be used with any non-GCSE group at this level, and would be particularly useful in special education. It is highly accessible and precise in its aims. And it largely achieves them.