Over the last year I think I have written to Ofsted three times, to ask them what they are looking for when they inspect Key Stage 2 Languages. The only information I had was from 2014, prior to Languages becoming statutory at Key Stage 2. I didn't receive a reply to any of these emails. Then in December Ofsted carried out a survey of Languages provision in Key Stage 2. Since the survey closed at the beginning of January, we have been waiting for some news. Finally, yesterday, March 8th 2016, it arrived. Julie Yarwood, the new Languages subject lead for Ofsted, appears in two brief videos, outlining expectations for language learning in Key Stages 2 and 3.
I have embedded the videos below and also provided a transcription, which I'm sure will be useful to some:
The teaching of a foreign language in primary schools forms part of the National Curriculum for Key Stage 2 in maintained primary schools. However, Ofsted does not have a view on which foreign language should be taught. It can be any ancient or modern language. It does not have a view on how it should be taught or the amount of time that's allocated to learning the foreign language. What Ofsted does do, in visiting the school and in evaluating the provision, is it looks at the effectiveness of the provision, on making sure that children are able to progress in the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing in a foreign language.
So how do we assess this? Well, we look at children's work, we look at work in books, we observe lessons, we look at work that's displayed on walls, we talk to the pupils and we talk to teachers. We look for evidence that pupils are given increasing opportunities to develop their language skills and are able to develop accurate pronunciation, able to develop simple sentences, moving into joining those sentences together. Are they encouraged to use resources to support their language learning, such as dictionaries? Do they access resources, books and written material appropriate to their age which helps to develop their learning skills and their progression in the language that they're studying?
There is an expectation in the National Curriculum that pupils should focus on one foreign language and this forms part of what we look at. How well are pupils able to develop their skills in the foreign language that they're studying, and how well placed are they to move on to further study at Key Stage 3 and beyond? How well are their skills developed, the early language learning skills, to be able to equip them with the necessary linguistic skills for their future study?
Colleagues in school often ask "How does Ofsted evaluate the provision for Modern Languages in schools?" And in answering this question the first thing to point out is that Ofsted does not have a particular view on what Modern Languages lessons should look like in a school, how much time is allocated to learning a foreign language, which language is studied and how that's assessed. What we do is we look at the effectiveness of the provision in terms of the impact on learning for the pupils. The decisions about languages, whether the target language is used by the teacher and things like that, they're decisions for the individual schools.
So how do we actually evaluate how effective the provision is for a modern language? Well we look at pupils' progress from their starting points, and we look at the progress in the four skills of listening, speaking, ,reading and writing, and we look to see whether pupils are able to develop their skills effectively and develop spontaneity in their responses. Are they able to increasingly use accurate pronunciation, accurate written language? Can they say what they want to say, and give their opinions? Are they able to use resources such as dictionaries to support their work and do they have an increasingly good grasp of grammar to help them not only in their work at Key Stage 3 but also to prepare them for Key Stage 4 and beyond, to be able to build their own sentences, their own opinions, their own paragraphs?
Now in moving pupils from their starting points, it's particularly important in the secondary school not only to consider the progress within the school but also to be cognisant of any progress the children may have made when they joined the school, in their language learning at primary school. So we look at progress over time and we evaluate that progress by talking to the students, by talking to staff, by looking at the work, work in books and of course by observing in lessons.
There is no clarification on the "substantial progress" that Ofsted might be looking for, but we are pleased with the explicit mention of secondary colleagues needing to take into account children's Key Stage 2 experience.
I also tweeted Ofsted to ask when we might see the results of their survey:
During further discussions on the Languages in Primary Schools Facebook group today, colleagues have reported that questions about enjoyment of language learning have been included in Ofsted pupil questionnaires.
Things are on the up.