Working with schools: some ideas on cooperation (part 1)

The implementation of the new GCSE and A-Level specifications (with the first exams in 2018) offers a great opportunity to step up collaboration between universities and schools, with new materials needed and a greater focus on ‘culture’ and genuine manipulation of language. Cooperation could take many shapes, but will depend on your priorities:

  • Who is your main target? Do you want to just focus on Key Stage 5 (A-Level), which is an easier bridge to cross? Or would you also like to develop resources for Key Stages 3 and 4 (ages 11-16), which are in dire need of interesting activities, especially on ‘cultural’ topics? Would you consider working with Key Stage 2, where languages are now compulsory but very few teachers are language specialists, and resources are scarce?
  • What format would you want the collaboration to take (one-off workshop, co-creation of schemes of work and resources, series of interventions)? How do you intend on disseminating your activities and what impact do you want to have?

The following are some of the ways you could use your expertise to support teaching and learning in secondary schools and sixth form colleges:

  1. You could work directly with some schools to develop materials that they need, and then make these available on the blog. This is time-consuming but ensures the material will actually be used and integrated within schemes of work for the next few years, and the next few months are perfect timing for this as schools will be preparing for the new specifications.
  2. You create workshops to offer to local schools or you could collaborate with cultural institutions such as the British Film Institute or the Institut Français to develop film (or literature) study days for students or teacher. This could be either exam-focused (e.g. preparation for translation or further work on the novel being studied for A-Level) or activities aimed at promoting French and the study of French-speaking countries in general, which would be especially relevant for Key Stage 2 (primary school) and Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14).
  3.  You could use PGCE students from your institutions to test out and disseminate tasks you have designed (such as culture-based starter activities, or short tasks based on films or ‘authentic material’). This would mean you can reach a large number of schools over a longer period of time, but not all PGCE students are given autonomy in their lesson planning, and many do not get to teach Key Stage 4 (GCSE) or Key Stage 5 (A-Level).

The resources created could then be further disseminated across the schools in your local area – although many schools have become academies there is still some levels of collaboration through the local authorities or alternative arrangements – as well as through TES (the main free teaching resources sharing website) and the ASMCF blog.


Camille Jacob, University of Portsmouth

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