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Poor french teaching at KS2, WWYD?

(65 Posts)
gallicgirl Sat 16-Feb-19 16:54:32

My DD is in Y3 and started learning French this year in line with KS2 national curriculum. School is usually very good but they really don't seem bothered about learning MFL and I feel the teaching is just ticking a box.

They use a well established program with a virtual teacher and I can understand why this has been chosen rather than paying for a dedicated French teacher. The demographic of the school wouldn't see parents pushing for good MFL teaching, they're more concerned with improving literacy and numeracy and few parents speak a second language.

However, I studied French to degree level and could teach DD myself if I really had to. She wouldn't be particularly keen on it and I feel it's more fun to learn with classmates.

So the question is, do I have a word with the teacher, not in an accusatory way, but in an attempt to find out why DD isn't learning much?

Do I skip the teacher and make a query of SLT?

Or should I just grit my teeth and teach her myself?

As an added complication, I'm a parent governor so I'm a bit narked that the school aren't performing at their best here.

Oakmaiden Sat 16-Feb-19 16:56:49

I wouldn't expect them to be learning more than a few words and phrases at that age.

gallicgirl Sat 16-Feb-19 17:02:51

She's barely learning that! Seems to have a lesson every 2 weeks and can just about manage to say "My name is...." "What's your name?"

I've taught English as a foreign language so I know kids are perfectly capable of learning a language at this age.

colditz Sat 16-Feb-19 17:10:59

She's probably not learning much because the teacher doesn't actually know that language.

ourkidmolly Sat 16-Feb-19 17:14:58

Just forget it is my advice. If the school has problems with Maths and English, no one is going to be hot on mfl.

YourSarcasmIsDripping Sat 16-Feb-19 17:14:58

How much time is there put aside for the french lesson? In a lot of school they only have 30 mins, snuck in somewhere and it's often the first to skip if other events/subjects are lacking.

What's the school culture regarding MFL? If it's not a focus and take it or leave it, then that can trickle down into teaching.

As a third point , it is hard for a teacher that doesn't actually know the language to teach it. Especially fluency and practice. I'm a TA and quite confident in french so I manage to squeeze in bits and pieces during other activities, for example doing the register in French when we were learning greeting or playing Simon says during playtime.Exposure to the language helps a lot more than 30 mins every two weeks or whatever.

gallicgirl Sat 16-Feb-19 17:15:26

Yeah, but I can't do anything about that and most primary schools must be in the same situation. That's why they have the virtual teacher program.

PurpleDaisies Sat 16-Feb-19 17:17:26

That’s normal for primary languages.

gallicgirl Sat 16-Feb-19 17:22:55

I suspect everything Sarcasm says by the sounds of it. I think it really is an after thought.

There's not problems with maths and English- just the usually focus on statistics. The school has improved rapidly and the SLT are keen to maintain that progress.

Looks like forgetting it and teaching myself is going to be the way forward but it's really frustrating.

BringOnTheScience Sat 16-Feb-19 18:25:39

Don't worry about it. Every secondary school starts MFL from scratch in y7.

gallicgirl Sat 16-Feb-19 18:33:33

They probably have to if the focus in primary is anything to go by!

Geez, I was hoping the attitude to languages in this country might have improved since I was at school.

DrMadelineMaxwell Sat 16-Feb-19 18:38:01

I'm in Wales so have to teach Welsh as a 2nd language, as do all the staff. To do a good job one lesson a week isn't enough. My class have daily c'mon Cymraeg sessions as well as 2 or 3 lessons. And as well as that we use it incidentally in class and in other lessons all the time.

Utrecht Sat 16-Feb-19 18:43:00

MFL in my DDs' primary school seems to be a basic bought-in programme delivered by an LSA, during the teacher's PPA time. DD2 says she once corrected the spelling of 'oui' and the teacher laughed and insisted it couldn't be spelt that way. So if you can teach her, you're probably better off doing it.

PenguinPandas Sat 16-Feb-19 18:46:27

It was pretty non-existent at my kids primary. DS said every time the teacher would say we haven't got time for that and DDs teacher would just shove a piece of paper in front of them saying I don't speak French.

One teacher made an effort but was the only one who did. Think the teachers themselves often don't have great languages knowledge and there's 101 other things to do. I would just teach yourself and if you want to make a suggestion of how they can teach it maybe approach SLT but not in a critical way.

Cyberworrier Sat 16-Feb-19 18:51:25

The primaries I have worked in generally put languages low on priority list apart from one prep school with a dedicated French teacher. I’m sure some state primaries do languages well though of course, just not the cash strapped inner city ones I’ve trained and taught in. As you say, literacy and numeracy is the priority. I really wouldn’t say anything to the teacher in a critical way. Perhaps you could ask her about the schools policy about languages? I was teaching French weekly but was told to stop as needed to cram other things in.
Honestly if you have a degree in French I would say enjoy teaching her French at home, watching French films and reading bilingual books maybe, or do it as an out of school club?

CatToddlerUprising Sat 16-Feb-19 18:53:28

This isn’t a dig or anything but if you are able to teach your DD a language, why wouldn’t you? Another language (even conversationally) is a fabulous skill- especially if a parent speaks it.

Slowknitter Sat 16-Feb-19 18:55:39

I was a Secondary MFL teacher for over 20 years, but only in recent years have been a peripatetic primary MFL teacher. National Curriculum guidelines for what needs to be taught at KS2 for MFL are very vague. Tbh I'm not sure Ofsted gives a monkey's about it as long as primaries are seen to be doing some. So if primaries aren't really judged on it, they don't make it a priority.

The primary schools where I teach are glad to have me because it means they don't have to do it themselves and it means they have a proper, regular, qualified teacher to cover their PPA time. I honestly don't think they care much what I actually cover.

I fear you'd be on a hiding to nothing if you complained. In any case, since secondary schools can't rely on all their Year 7 intake having even started the same language inn primary school, they have to start from scratch in year 7 anyway. There isn't much joined-up thinking between KS2 and 3 in MFL, sadly.

gallicgirl Sat 16-Feb-19 19:11:09

CatToddler...just time and effort really. It's years since I've taught and my French is a bit rusty. Good enough for a primary student though. I've had a chat with DD and we're going to have a crack at home and she's on board with trying different things out.

I certainly don't want to complain - I know the teachers have so much to fit in and it's hardly their fault if they don't have the language skills or have been told to focus on other things.

Slowknitter - thanks for your thoughts. I was wondering what happens at secondary school. Do they generally stream for MFL and move on those students with prior knowledge? I know some primary schools in the area have better MFL teaching so it's quite feasible that pupils would start YR7 with a range of abilities.

spanieleyes Sat 16-Feb-19 19:16:40

Pupils will start year 7 with a range of experiences, skills and languages. So secondary schools just start from scratch! A local secondary does french one year and german the next whereas one of the feeder schools teaches spanish! It's all a bit of a mess really!

Averysmallcasserole Sat 16-Feb-19 19:16:59

We were lucky in that we had a fluent French speaker at primary so my DS now in Y7 is finding French easy but loving it. I too speak it but rusty and a bit ashamed I’ve not done more but I love helping with homework
Year 7 will sort it out so don’t worry

Slowknitter Sat 16-Feb-19 19:19:48

Do they generally stream for MFL and move on those students with prior knowledge?

In my experience, no. It's annoying, but on the other hand, when I was at school (girls' grammar,) <old gimmer emoticon> I came from a state primary and was thrown in with prep school girls who'd been learning French since they were 6. It didn't take the able state primary kids long to overtake them.

I could go on at great length about what's wrong with MFL in UK schools, but ultimately I'm actually not convinced that worse-than-average MFL teaching in your child's primary will make any real difference to their achievement in the long term, particularly if they have a linguist parent.

Soontobe60 Sat 16-Feb-19 19:26:23

To employ a specialist MFL teacher would cost schools an additional £35k+ per year pro rata, so if they did 2 days to cover every class it would be £14k approx. That's a hell of a lot of money that schools just don't have. The majority of primary teachers did not do MFL at Uni.

gallicgirl Sat 16-Feb-19 19:32:18

Oh, I probably know all those arguments about MFL attitudes in the UK already. I studied French and German to degree level, studied in France and I've taught EFL. I was hopeful that the introduction of MFL at primary might have made a difference, but obviously not.

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I'd better get flexing those mental muscles!

Cyberworrier Sat 16-Feb-19 19:45:24

I hope you enjoy it! My mum always topped up my French learning at home and I learned so much from her (she studied MFL at uni and lived in a France). At my secondary lots of kids hadn’t studied French at their primaries much but we were still streamed and bright kids with little experience ended up in top set and did v well. I love languages and am also sad that it’s not a priority, but as PPs say, there simply isn’t money for it- or freedom for teachers with SATs focus. Same for art and music and history!
Have you heard of Muzzy? I think it’s an old bbc language programme I remember from childhood but it’s been updated with new animation!

spinabifidamom Sat 16-Feb-19 21:17:24

Seems pretty normal for primary school languages. My mom was my language teacher. I studied French as a child. My mom tried a range of approaches and methods. It’s sad that there’s no funding for it, art, history and music. These subjects are just as important as the core subjects for children.
I spent several years mastering French. Can you afford to hire a tutor or not? There are several tutoring companies out there. Take a look at the website. I teach DS and DD myself. We have a workbook for lessons and I look for resources online.
Can you teach DD at home? Your local library might also be able to help you.

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