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To teach or not to teach (French)

(24 Posts)
PommelandCantle Mon 04-Apr-16 17:47:41


I am coming to the end of my degree with the OU - BA Hons Humanities - I've done French and history. I have been contemplating for a long time going into teaching french but what with all the changes etc and some of the things I've read here, I am not sure I am cut out for it.

Can anyone give me any advice / tell me about their personal experiences? Could I ring up local secondary school and ask to go and chat to a teacher and observe a lesson/volunteer to assist in a few lessons to get a feel for it? I realise that said teacher might have more than enough on their plate without adding me into the mix.


kaitlinktm Mon 04-Apr-16 21:59:41

I notice that you only mention the one language - is there any chance you could learn another - even to a not very high level?

One of the biggest drawbacks i found throughout my career - (teacher of French in secondary (1982-2014) - was the fact that I only had one foreign language. This wasn't too bad at first but in the final few years became more and more of a problem and was one of the reasons for my voluntary redundancy in 2014.

There were other obvious problems too which all teachers of non-core subjects face although that might improve with the new GCSEs, I don't know (am in primary now). Have you thought of training for primary specialising in French? I find primary more congenial in terms of behaviour etc although the workload for both is heavy.

You could always write to a secondary school - yes they are busy but they might just let you go in and help (not sure about CRB checks - maybe they won't apply if you are not going to be alone with pupils). Perhaps they will have more time after the exam season is finished.

PommelandCantle Mon 04-Apr-16 22:28:02

Thanks for reply. Prob no to learning another language - not as part of a degree anyway. I guess I could do aGCSE or something. I am DRB checked as I volunteer in my DC's primary.

I understood French to be a subject with a shortage of specialist teachers so am taken aback that only having one language is a problem.

kaitlinktm Mon 04-Apr-16 22:35:54

It may depend on your area Pommel. Certainly they wanted someone who could do at least French and Spanish and preferably with some German too where I was and although I have always managed to find a job, it was always made clear that it would have been better if I had been able to offer more languages and that I was a bally nuisance when timetabling. wink

My friend who lives in the south (I am in the North West) tells me that there are better opportunities there though.

In primaries it's different because they want them to do the same language for 4 years to show progress.

PommelandCantle Mon 04-Apr-16 23:09:47

I am in east midlands. I was teaching french at DC primary as a volunteer but it was made very clear to me that it was an unimportant subject and they didnt have much time to waste on it. Children were always taken out to do other things occasionally class wasnt even there as they were doing something else etc. I packed it in as did not see why I should waste my time. That was in this academic year as well. My DC havent done any french since. It didnt inspire me that language in a primary was the way to go. Do you have language TA's at secondary - perhaps that would be a better way to go?

cannotlogin Mon 04-Apr-16 23:23:12

Ring round a few schools - much will depend on the head of department. I volunteered for a year before taking the plunge - it was really helpful and I made useful contacts in the area. It is also an additional reference for your first job.

I personally am always happy to be observed - it's nice to have someone to eye roll with at the more amusing moments. My colleague hates it. Just keep asking you'll find some where!!!

cannotlogin Mon 04-Apr-16 23:25:32

Oh, forgot. Google SKE course Spanish or German. If you have a place on a PGCE, the Government will pay for you to learn a second language.

PommelandCantle Tue 05-Apr-16 09:37:47

Thanks cannot

Is the attitude of unimportant subject prevalent in senior schools? From students and staff as I come across it so often. How many hours a week do each year have approx?

I have not looked at PGCE yet as I am really undecided on it.

cannotlogin Tue 05-Apr-16 18:25:46

Depends on the school. We have a reasonable profile and are supported by SLT generally. I have heard hair-curling stories in a local focus group I attend. MFL is part of what's needed for the EBac so that helps. I also do primary (quite common as outreach/transition work) and have never had an issue. Non-specialists find it hard which is probably why you had the experience you did. The literacy value is often under-rated and if not careful, nothing other than words are taught. I find younger children very accepting of things like feminine and masculine whereas 14 year olds will spend hours trying to understand why tables should be feminine!!! Primary is very rewarding in my experience.

fussychica Tue 05-Apr-16 18:35:17

DS secured an NQT post at Feb half term. He is fluent in Spanish and has a decent level of French. His PGCE is French with Spanish though due to his Spanish fluency the placements have been more Spanish with French. Nearly all the MFL courses and a large proportion of vacancies are keen on or require an additional language and the ability to offer a third, like German, is a real bonus. Saying that his univesity still offer a few French only places which always fill quickly. He volunteered at a couple of schools before making his application. A minimum of 2 weeks in a uk secondary school was required and DBS checks were done.

The importance of languages has varied at the schools he has attended and you can sometimes tell it's status by the size of the department compared to the number of staff overall. One of the reasons he specifically picked his new job is the apparent status of MFL and the size of the team delivering it within the school.

Lalaloopy2016 Tue 05-Apr-16 18:49:10

Have a look at job vacancies in your area. I agree that another language would be useful.

For what it's worth, MFL has all but died a death in some schools in Wales. We stopped running French to GCSE level in my school as too few pupils opted for it and it wasn't viable any more. The French teacher found his timetable filled with odd subjects not in his specialist area.

There are heavy demands on curriculum time and some subjects get squeezed out. I know schools who only offer languages as short courses or for a defined number of hours within other courses. I'm not sure what the future of Mfl is in England but I think you should find out before you decide.

clary Tue 05-Apr-16 21:27:50

I teach MFL and I agree that it is helpful to offer a second language. At my school students study French or German. All our MFL staff teach both.

I have seen jobs for a teacher of just one language but they usually ask for a second one at least to KS3 level.

As far as the subject goes, yes it is not a core subject but because of promotion of the Ebacc, MFL is becoming more popular. We advise it at our school as an option but don't insist - but current year 10 has double the numbers of yr 11 opting for MFL.

My DCs' school has told 85% of yr 9 they have to do MFL; by yr 7 it will be 100%, so yes, there will be a need for more MFL teachers. DD is in yr 10 and there are only 16 in her French class!!!shock Next year this will be more like 80 - someone's got to teach them!

PommelandCantle Wed 06-Apr-16 11:30:21

Thanks all. You've given me a lot to think about.

ceebie Wed 06-Apr-16 12:38:42

Definitely arrange some class observations. I'm applying for a PGCE now and I've done 4 days of observations - 2 in one school, 2 in another. I arranged them direct with the school but I think you can also arrange them though the School Experience Program - have a look at the Department for education's Get into Teaching website. I needed a minimum of 2 days of class observations for the School Direct program I have applied to, but I am likely to need to arrange 6 more days for the university PGCE course.

ceebie Wed 06-Apr-16 12:40:35

Also if you arrange class observations it will give you a great opportunity to talk to staff in local schools about what the subject demand is like in your area.

PommelandCantle Thu 07-Apr-16 20:50:33

thanks ceebie

MrsGuyOfGisbo Mon 11-Apr-16 09:01:48

I would go further than others, and say that unless you can get a job in an indie, you will definitely need to be prepared to teach Spanish as well.
I retrained as a French teacher, but to get onto the course I had to learn enough Spanish to be able to teach it ( in about 2 months!) - the course I did required two languages (out of French, German and Spanish) even tho' it was a rubbish uni and they didn't test me - the better ones (IoE and the like) will probably insist on interviewing you in both languages.
My placements were predominately in Spanish classes. (My friends who had German struggled to get placements).
French is dying out in schools because Spanish is much easier, and the kids generally prefer it, and their parent also subscribe to the idea that Spanish is easier.
French has also suffered because A level is harder to get a good grade, so kids are advised against it.
The older MFL teachers and HoDs generally are French specialists, but as they retire, Spanish is becoming more and more prevalent.
Look on TES for MFL jobs - in the state sector they are mostly Spanish or Spanish with French.
Having said that - if you are a linguist Spanish is very easy to pick up and teach.
And re part time - I was thinking could get part time in two schools covering just French, but timetabling means that part time no is rarely discrete days.

mercifulTehlu Sun 24-Apr-16 21:33:27

I've been an MFL teacher for 20 years (French and German ). I agree with previous posters that schools generally prefer you to have 2 languages (preferably French and Spanish). There's nothing particular about MFL as a subject to teach that should discourage you. It's more the fact that the whole teaching profession is a nightmare these days. I read a quote the other day that said going into teaching atm would be like running into a burning building while everyone else is running out...

Helbelle75 Sun 24-Apr-16 21:35:33

I currently only teach French as I'm at a very small school and thstbis all they offer. I do have German as well though, which I have needed in all of my previous schools - it has certainly helped me to get jobs.
I love teaching, but if I had my time again, I honestly don't know if I would choose to teach French. I love my subject, but live in a very rural part of England where languages aren't really valued.
Go and have a visit in school and see what you think.

Helbelle75 Sun 24-Apr-16 21:38:20

Oh and I agree with merciful about the state of the education system and its impact on our profession. I'm exhausted most of the time from working late to jjump through blooming hoops relating to data.

Stopmithering Sun 24-Apr-16 21:53:15

Google SCITT for your local area and you should find a list of teaching schools near you. They will run 'thinking of teaching' open days where you can go in and observe lessons, talk to students and staff etc.
I have been teaching MFL for over 20 years. It's interesting to read here views of MFL teachers. I would not count yourself out just because you only have one language. One of our most 'successful' young teachers only has French to offer. It's not stopped him.

mercifulTehlu Sun 24-Apr-16 22:06:48

Hellebelle - the only reason I'm not similarly exhausted is that I'm only doing cover work and private tutoring these days. Looking (with dread) for a permanent job though. Wish I were qualified to do something other than teach... I loved my first 10 years of teaching but I wouldn't go into teaching now for all the tea in China if I still had my choice of career.

Helbelle75 Sun 24-Apr-16 22:13:34

I did leave teaching for 8 years, and ran a language business which was quite successful, but to be a success I had to do a lot of travelling and I couldn't keep it up. Plus I needed a regular salary. The pity of it is I love my teaching and I'm good at it, but I can't keep up with the workload and have a life. I confess that life usually comes first and I feel permanently guilty about the list of work stuff I haven't yet done...

MrsGuyOfGisbo Mon 25-Apr-16 07:08:50

running into a burning building while everyone else is running out...

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