Aim: To explore the extent to which working in collaboration with the Student Support department can aid the progress of students who started KS3 with NC Level 4 in English.

Background: Starting points from KS2 are low, with over half not meeting expected levels in English, and many pupils are SEND or have identified needs. Growing numbers of KS3 students were being withdrawn from MFL lessons to attend literacy catch-up sessions, and the lack of joined-up planning meant that they were missing out on core learning.


Year 1 — Investigating:

Working with primary-trained literacy specialist teachers, strategies were identified for developing literacy skills in level-4 learners. A core team of the best MFL staff were attached to bottom sets in Year 7 and team taught lessons to trial ideas. French classes benefitted from an SEN specialist teaching one discreet lesson of literacy skills in MFL lessons each week. Links were developed between MFL staff and the SEN and English departments and the Teaching Assistants to encourage positive attitudes to MFL learning.

Year 2 — Trialing:

Schemes of work which highlighted core learning were developed, so that attending support sessions did not slow progress. A core group of students were tracked for progress and interviewed every half term to track the effects on motivation. One of the MFL department was assigned to teach KS3 English, and shared this experience with the department to further the understanding of developing literacy skills.

Year 3 — Embedding and disseminating:

Knowledge gained from the previous years was embedded to enhance the KS3 curriculum and resources created to support literacy development through MFL. Other staff in the department were trained on supporting level 4 learners as well as to encourage the trialing of strategies in other curriculum areas.

Evidence: Student tracking and interviews, take up of Languages at GCSE, staff feedback.

Impact: Progress for students in terms of their reading and writing assessments proved very positive in the first year with 100% of students making expected or better progress by the end of the year. The attitudinal surveys showed positivity rose on all indicators. Improved relationships with Student Support staff meant that staff felt more in control of students being removed and there were some good examples of where collaboration, such as the literacy lessons, were helping students to make the link between MFL and literacy. By the second year take up of Languages improved greatly, with 100% of the German cohort opting to study an MFL subject at GCSE. Feedback from the CPD sessions for other departments was very positive, with many staff reporting that they would try similar things with their low-level learners and some being inspired to start their own class-based research.

Reflections: The project has been a great learning experience for us as a team. We have learnt that prioritising lower ability learners at KS3 is a worthwhile exercise, and we have all enhanced our understanding of how we can best meet the needs of level 4 learners. We have improved our understanding of how our subject fits into the wider curriculum for learners and adapted our rationale for teaching languages to lower-ability learners. A key success for us was the opportunity to share our findings with other departments through CPD sessions. This helped us to establish further links that we can build on in the future with other departments.

Contact: Lindsay Tibbs, Head of Department,