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School changed policy and didn’t inform parents intake yr7 - languages

(49 Posts)
Mummyoflittledragon Fri 06-Sep-19 09:11:11

Dd is dual French / British. She understands everything in French, has been reluctant to speak but improving. She has just gone into year 7 in a very large secondary offering 3 language options.

All parents were told all children would do french first then offered a second language at a later stage. The policy changed sometime after the close of applications for secondary last year but no one informed the parents of yr7 intake. As a result I didn’t discuss dd as a separate case with the school, just filled in the relevant information on the admissions form.

Dd was given french. All good or so I thought. Except I subsequently found out from parents some children were doing just Spanish, others Spanish and German, French and Spanish etc. I therefore queried this with the school and they told me language teaching had been cut and now children in the top set of English have 2 languages, all the rest one. This won’t change but because dd is an exceptional case the school is will offer dd 3 possibilities. Stick with french, change to just German or both Spanish and German. If she does either of the latter 2 I will have to teach her or get a tutor - either is possible.

For legal reasons (school is full) dd cannot change to another “stream” and will have to stay in this stream for yrs 7/8/9. So it’s a big decision. There are 3 streams and it is just bad luck she’s been put in the stream where french can’t be combined - I assume the other 2 can but am seeking clarification and left a message for the curriculum head.

I don’t want to go in all guns blazing but I’m mightily pissed off that the school didn’t just bang off an email to the feeder schools at the time of the policy change to ensure the children, who fall outside the norm would be catered for.

My feeling is that if she does both Spanish and German that will be heavy going and the school obviously agree. However she can drop Spanish at any time if it’s too heavy going and centre on German. The benefit of doing both however would be she can potentially change streams to french plus either / or if a child leaves and a space comes available. But idk at this stage if this could happen and I know dd wouldn’t want to change forms if that was the only well to make it work. She was very reluctant to go to this school (she didn’t get into her preferred school) and I don’t want to rock the boat with her.

Any advice for the way forward?

OP’s posts: |
RedskyLastNight Fri 06-Sep-19 09:38:32

At DC's school, students are offered French or Spanish in KS3. Children who are bilingual in one of these always study the "other" language and pick up the language they are already fluent in, in KS4 so they can study it for GCSE.

I'm not sure why your DD couldn't just study German in KS3 (or Spanish/German if she thinks she can cope with this) and then pick up French in KS4 as well or instead of? I realise you say she is reluctant to speak but could whichever parent is French just not start including some light French conversation at home - she may well not need any formal teaching to get her up to the end of KS3 level.

With regards to the change of policy, schools change things like this all the time, and they are generally presented as a fait accompli. I'm not sure how knowing in advance would have helped you? It seems like the school have presented reasonable options.

Comefromaway Fri 06-Sep-19 09:45:02

The problem you may have is that later down the line some universities/colleges are reluctant to accept a language qualification where it is the mother tongue of the child or a parent.

I'd also be very wary of a school that is adamant a child cannot change stream and where the opportunities offered are based more on lottery than what is best for the child.

LatteLove Fri 06-Sep-19 09:51:44

I’d just stick with French. Does she want to do German and/or Spanish anyway? Not much of an option provided by the school if you have to teach it

bookmum08 Fri 06-Sep-19 10:00:34

Is the school specialism languages? If so then you could make a case you were miss sold the school. But she is doing french which you want her to do. I don't see the problem of just doing one language at this stage.

daisypond Fri 06-Sep-19 10:07:25

In my DD’s school there was a child who was fluent in French, but the stream was middle stream and they learnt French. Child had to put up with it. Another friend’s child was fluent in Spanish and was in the top stream, and that year Spanish was assigned to the top stream. Had to put up with it. Second languages appeared in later years, so they could choose those if they wanted. Which language was taught first for each stream varied from year to year.

Mummyoflittledragon Fri 06-Sep-19 10:44:30

Thanks for all the replies. I’ve now spoken to the deputy head responsible for the curriculum at the school. This person has said if dd were to do french and another language she’d have to change form classes so waiting until yr8 would be a bad option. Dd has settled really and I’m reluctant to do that as she didn’t want to go to the school in the beginning - she started last week btw. A happy child learns more etc so don’t want to rock the boat.

I’m really interested to learn a university would be reluctant to take a child with mother tongue foreign language so it sounds as though it has been totally the right choice to query this and want her to do another language.

Dd does want want to learn Spanish actually so I may get her to do German and Spanish and see how it goes. She can always drop Spanish and continue to speak french. I am speaking french to her now and she’s accepting it - bribery and corruption so I’m feeling a bit happier with the situation.

My friend whose ds goes there says it specialises in languages but it appear they’ve had cuts - uk wide as we know. They’re outstanding and I wanted dd to go there not another school because she would only have had french there.

Thanks everyone.

OP’s posts: |
RedskyLastNight Fri 06-Sep-19 10:48:27

really interested to learn a university would be reluctant to take a child with mother tongue foreign language

I think this is just a reference to the fact that a DC getting a GCSE in a language that they are bilingual in might be considered to be "easier" for them. I've never heard of universities having an issue with it (clearly some DC might go and study a degree in their language!).

Comefromaway Fri 06-Sep-19 10:49:06

It isn't all universities and is more relevant at A level (but of course you can't really do an A level in an mfl unless you have the GCSE.

daisypond Fri 06-Sep-19 10:54:03

I don’t see how a university would know if a child is already bilingual in a language they took for GCSE. Or A level. Plenty of students take degrees in a language they already have as their mother tongue. It was quite common even when I was at university back in the dark ages.

HMArsey Fri 06-Sep-19 10:54:11

How does a university know whether the language is the native language of a student?

daisypond Fri 06-Sep-19 10:57:10

For example, I know a couple of people who have degrees in Czech from top - very top - universities. Both have one parent who is Czech and both could speak Czech.

Mummyoflittledragon Fri 06-Sep-19 11:10:39

Dd is a dual national. I imagine she may potentially need to inform the university idk otherwise. That’s all such a long way off!

OP’s posts: |
openday Fri 06-Sep-19 11:11:45

University modern languages tutor here. We definitely don't discriminate against applicants who are already fluent in the language they want to study. For one thing, there are many different degrees of fluency (some applicants speak fluently but do not have polished written language or an in-depth knowledge of grammar). Secondly, studying modern languages is about much more than just linguistic fluency; it's about learning literature, politics, and culture, and also about honing skills of interpretation, writing, and argumentation. No one would tell a native English speaker not to study English at university!

This has always been the case over the many years I've been teaching ML at university, but it will be even more the case now, when interest in modern foreign languages is declining and universities are scrambling for applicants.

Often it is because of a family link to a foreign culture that a student chooses to study that language at university in the first place. If we tried to rule out everyone who had some first-hand knowledge of the language they wanted to study, we would be losing a lot of applicants!

Passion for the subject is the most important thing, along with academic potential. Again, not everyone who can speak English fluently would make a good candidate for studying English at university.

Rainbowhairdontcare Fri 06-Sep-19 11:17:32

I'm a Spanish speaker and my DD who is in Y4 sounds a lot like yours. I would stick to just French. My DD isn't that great with languages so I know she'd struggle with two, even if French and Spanish are similar (fluent in both) that's not the experience for everyone.

Camomila Fri 06-Sep-19 11:23:56

It might be on the UCAS form sonewhere?
From a few unis my offer was BBB excluding Italian (the only subject I got an A in at Alevel)

GetUpAgain Fri 06-Sep-19 11:27:31

I'd say try doing German and Spanish and see how it goes. Seeing as she is French it doesn't seem as important to me to have a qualification in that. Like - she has that ability in the bag regardless so she might as well benefit from learning something else at school?

daisypond Fri 06-Sep-19 11:29:50

A friend of mine who studied French at a top university was quite put out that quite a few of her fellow students had French as a mother tongue and had studied it at A level too.

Mummyoflittledragon Fri 06-Sep-19 11:35:33

Thanks for the information. Yes that makes sense. I studied French as part of my degree actually in the dark ages - yes, I see what you mean. Terrible that the desire for courses in modern languages is waning.

Do you mean you have mother tongue Italian and it was excluded from the offers? If it was - omg! I do not consider dd to be mother tongue french as she never lived there.

I can do it to gcse with dd on the side actually. My friend is doing/did the same with both her ds’s at the school.

OP’s posts: |
Mummyoflittledragon Fri 06-Sep-19 11:36:53

That would be my feeling too. I’d have thought it better to study in France in that case. But perhaps their level wasn’t high enough.

OP’s posts: |
daisypond Fri 06-Sep-19 11:56:49

But I suppose the thinking is that you are more likely to get a good degree if you study your own language in the UK - go to a top university in this country and aim for a first? It’s different to studying English, because that is the study of literature. You don’t spend hours honing your listening skills on recordings of a variety of English speakers, etc.

Okki Fri 06-Sep-19 12:05:15

You're really lucky to have that option. My DD is French/English. Her school only does French but she's doing GCSE French in Yr8. Her French teacher is a French national and is tutoring her privately as well. She'd love to do Spanish smileWhen does your DD's school do their options? Would that affect your choice taking her age into account? My DD is doing her gcse in YR8 because of options.

clary Fri 06-Sep-19 12:05:36

Even for me, back in the dark ages, lots of my uni peers were mither tongue speakers of MFL.

It's even more pronounced now, partly because our society is more multicultural, and partly because fewer students take MFL to A level, and obviously lots that do speak it as mother tongue, so that only increases the proportion.

It's getting harder, for that reason, for non-mother-tongue students to get a top grade at A level and of course that just makes it all worse. sad still, I have never heard of anyone being disadvantaged at uni through being a native speaker or close to it. Make the most of your advantages!

OP if I were you, I would go for German and Spanish and then teach French at home, being prepared to drop Spanish if need be. I think German is different so better to learn alongside French.

Marinetta Fri 06-Sep-19 12:14:14

Can you not try with Spanish and German and see how she gets on? If you want her to have the benefit of speaking various languages it's best that she gets as much exposure as possible now. French, German and Spanish GCSEs were compulsory for me and a lot of my peers at secondary school. At the time we weren't happy about having 3 languages forced on us but I definitely wouldn't say that it was too much. Have you talked to your daughter about what she wants to do and which languages she would like to learn? If you push her to do the optiion that you want you may find that she just doesn't want to be there, doesn't pay attention and doesn't bother even trying to learn. I speak from personal experience here, although I loved German and Spanish I hated French with a passion and didn't even make any effort to prepare for exams I managed to scrape by but I really resented the fact that it had been forced on me and just didn't have the motivation to learn.
It may also be worth enquiring at the school if they would be willing to enter your daughter in to French GCSE exam if she doesn't take the subject at school but was privately tutored at home. My secondary school offered this option for speakers of other languages. They recieved no lessons from the school but the school was happy to enter them in to the exam so they could get an extra qualification.

berlinbabylon Fri 06-Sep-19 12:38:40

DS's school was similar, I wanted him to learn German (not a native speaker but studied there and we go there frequently) and of course in his year group the "choice" was between French and Spanish (actually an allocation not a choice but he got Spanish, which he wanted). Then the school said they wouldn't offer a second language so you were stuck with the language you were allocated in year 7 for GCSE.

He is doing Spanish A level and I am glad he is carrying on with a language but I think it's a shame that his choices were so restricted.

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