At St Mary’s Catholic School we pride ourselves on providing an exemplary curriculum for all students, including our students with special educational needs.  Our Year 7 to Year 13 curriculum is ambitious, broad and balanced, allowing all students to know more and remember more in lessons, and to achieve exceptional progress.  Our curriculum is planned to stretch and challenge all learners, with highly effective scaffolding in place to ensure our students with SEND and other additional needs also achieve highly.  Our curriculum meets and exceeds all national curriculum requirements.  Due to the numerous strengths and sustained success and impact of our curriculum year on year, St Mary’s supports many other schools within the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust and more widely to share this exemplary practice.

The MFL curriculum is exemplary because:

  • We exceed national curriculum requirements as all students in year 7 and 8 and many students in year 9 study two languages. We have higher than average numbers of students opting for GCSE languages and have a number of dual linguists in our GCSE cohort.
  • We provide students with opportunities to experience French and Spanish-speaking culture for themselves through their work with our foreign language assistants and as part of our various educational trips abroad and local visits. We encourage all students to engage in our provision of extra-curricular activities, including weekly language club so that they can develop their cultural awareness even if they have not yet visited France or Spain.
  • Teaching in the department is very effective as we have a team of highly skilled specialists who have all spent time living abroad in French/Spanish-speaking countries and who are passionate about their subject.
  • We have a focus on effective teaching and learning and we use current research and developments in MFL teaching to inform our practice. We also have members of staff in the department who work on the teaching and learning team and through our regular sharing of good practice we teach our curriculum using a broad variety of engaging strategies which enable students to learn effectively and retain and develop their knowledge of French and Spanish.

The MFL  curriculum is ambitious, broad and balanced:

  • As a department, our aim is to develop a life-long love of language learning in our students, to build their cultural awareness and to ensure that every student is able to reach their full potential.  We want all of our learners to feel valued and to gain enjoyment from language learning in order that they have the confidence to continue learning and using their languages once they have left us.
  • Our approach sees students developing the four key skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing through the study of the three pillars of vocabulary, grammar and phonics.
  • Grammar and phonics are taught explicitly from year 7 onwards via a broad variety of topics. They are then revisited systematically to ensure that students are continually reviewing prior knowledge and using it to support acquisition of new knowledge.  
  • Across all Key Stages, students revisit essential grammar, including verb tenses and cover them in more detail as they progress through KS3/4 and 5.This ensures that as they progress, students gain the grammar knowledge required to communicate in more detail producing longer written and spoken responses
  • Students revisit all KS3 topics in KS4, deepening their knowledge of vocabulary and structures, using this to further develop their skills (R,W,S,L)
  • Timing of topics is carefully planned at KS4 and 5 in order to build students’ confidence, beginning with the most familiar topics or those of most personal interest to students before progressing to the more challenging topics of worldwide importance (social issues/environment/politics) 
  • We develop students’ cultural awareness by using authentic materials to support our lessons, where appropriate. We also ensure that, where possible, lessons are rooted in the culture of the countries where French and Spanish are spoken, for example through our teaching of the Mexican celebration of Día de los muertos in year 7 Spanish and via our module on Sénégal in year 9 French.
  • All students are taught the same topics and grammar content, which is adapted as appropriate to suit all learners’ individual needs with opportunities for support and or challenge built into lessons. For example, for some students it will be appropriate to study full verb paradigms for each verb and tense that we teach, other students may focus on a few of the subject forms of a verb.
  • There is an excellent inclusive climate for learning in MFL, where all students are valued and treated with respect and provided with equal opportunities regardless of their background.

The MFL curriculum has effective scaffolding to support our SEND students/other students with additional needs:

  •  We have developed our curriculum so that students continually build on prior knowledge in order to understand written and spoken language on an increasing variety of topics and themes and are able to communicate themselves in written and spoken form on a variety of topics and themes with increasing accuracy, complexity of language, independence and creativity.
  • SEND students follow the same curriculum as all other students across all Key Stages and we have high expectations and aspirations for all of our learners regardless of background.
  • Vocabulary lists will be adapted for SEND students so they are able to focus on the most essential vocab and when grammar is taught, SEND students will focus on verb forms in the first person singular and plural if they find full verb forms challenging and difficult to access.
  • All MFL lessons are planned with support and challenge activities to be used as appropriate for the students in any given class but teachers will make further adaptations to suit the individual needs of the students in their classes.
  • All teachers have access to a range of strategies to apply in lessons to support students on an individual basis, these strategies have been researched, trialled and recommended by staff in the department via our routine sharing of good practice.
  • As SEND is such a broad spectrum, some students who require additional support can display a flair for languages (some students with ASD for whom languages is a particular interest) and will require additional challenge, this is established early and catered for by their teachers. 
  • All students have a mini SOW stuck into their books and these are used regularly so students remember what they have studied previously and know how what they’re studying fits into their future learning
  • We use a variety of strategies, including regular retrieval tasks and low stakes quizzes to support students to remember what they have studied previously and continually build upon this knowledge.
  • We also use of a range of strategies to help students memorise vocabulary or verb forms. Eg. Word association, songs, chanting
  • All students have access to a module book for all courses to complement and support their learning

The MFL curriculum is worthy of sharing more widely with other schools because:

  • Our students really enjoy their language lessons and achieve highly in languages both at GCSE and A Level
  • We have a higher than average number of students studying GCSE and good numbers of students continue their study to A Level
  • The students who study A Level French and Spanish with us more often than not go on to university to continue their study of languages. Recently students have gone on to study a variety of languages degrees including; Law with French, Translation, Linguistics, Business with Spanish as well as joint honours French and Spanish degrees, often at Russell Group universities, including Cambridge and Oxford.
  • We have recently worked with two local primary schools to support them with their delivery of the KS2 MFL curriculum.
  • In recent years we have hosted staff from primary and secondary schools who have requested to visit us and observe our practice
  • We are currently working with two local secondary schools to share ideas and practice on the delivery of an exemplary MFL curriculum
  • Unlike many other state schools, we have a French exchange programme, which provides students with the opportunity to spend a week living with a French family and immersing themselves in French culture.