St James's Approach to Foreign Languages
As a Catholic school, we are part of a multi-cultural society and a world where the ability to speak a foreign language is a highly valued skill. At St James’s, we strive to give all pupils the opportunity to learn another language and at the same time gain a better understanding of the diversity of our world.
In September 2014, foreign languages became a statutory subject in the primary curriculum. Our overall goal is to help all our pupils achieve the best they can in the context of the government's languages programme of study stating that:
"Teaching should focus on enabling pupils to make substantial progress in one language; teaching should provide an appropriate balance of spoken and written language and should lay the foundations for further foreign language teaching at key stage 3."
(Statutory guidance on National curriculum in England: languages programmes of study, September 2013.)
- Develop pupils’ confidence and independence in the four main language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and their understanding of grammar.
- Engage all pupils and motivate them to succeed in language learning.
- Foster curiosity for other languages and cultures.
- Facilitate the transition to KS3 and promote further language learning.
Our Focus on the French Language
French is the main language taught throughout the school to provide continuity through to KS3 (as most of our local secondary schools offer French).
Providing strong language foundations:
French is linked to the teaching of literacy, with a particular focus on phonics in KS1 and on spelling, grammar, and punctuation in KS2. Children develop linguistic competence, extend their knowledge of how language works and explore differences and similarities between French and English. We encourage our EAL pupils to compare and contrast languages learnt at school with the language they speak at home.
French follows the Mastery Approach:
- As adopted in Maths and English, Children are aware of the concepts covered during the year.
- The learning objectives are mapped out for progression and children assess their own progress according to microscopic steps.
Making language learning purposeful:
- French supports our Catholic ethos:
- staff and pupils say a familiar prayer in French and Makaton within the whole school environment.
- KS2 pupils sing a French carol in our Christmas Carol service in our local church. Y2 children sing a French carol in their Nativity play.
- Year 5 children write their own prayer in French for their Prayer Diary.
French is fully embedded in the life of the school:
- Year 5 children run a French café for the whole school on ‘Mardi Gras’ (Shrove Tuesday). Pancakes have to be ordered in French!
- Exploring a variety of approaches to teaching and learning: using songs, games, drama, storytelling, Makaton and a variety of authentic material to ensure all pupils are fully engaged:
- French is integrated into the curriculum and fosters cross-curricular links with various subjects such as Art, PE, Geography as well as whole school initiatives such as Take One Picture, etc.
- In the summer term, Year 5 pupils take part in a French Assembly.
- Celebrating the French Speaking World and other cultures:
- We have developed a strong link with a French speaking Catholic school in Québec City – L’Institut St. Joseph. During the Spring term, Y6 pupils write letters in French to their penpals and have opportunities to develop their intercultural understanding.
- Year 3 children take part in a French picnic in a local park led by Year 8 students from Waldegrave School.
- Year 4 children take part in a Mandarin Taster Morning led by staff and students from Gumley School.
In a recent learning walk, governors commented,
“The children’s confidence in French was astounding. It was inspiring to see and hear how much they have learnt at such a young age but more than the specifics of French, how confident they were to try in this language. They were listening, reading, writing, speaking.”
In our previous LA Inspection, inspectors reported that there was evidence of “high expectations and attainment” and there was “very good development through cross-curricular activities and drama”.
In French, most pupils in Year 6 pupils achieve Silver in the Lingua Junior Award (the languages assessment scheme developed by Richmond Borough). An increasing number of children are now reaching Gold.
We have developed close links with local secondary schools where Y7 teachers come to help assess pupils' progress in this popular language scheme. Parents regularly comment on the children’s positive attitude and progress when they start language learning in secondary school.
Many of our ex-pupils take on a language at GCSE level and beyond and have commented on the positive impact of their language learning in St. James’s:
See Freya’s Story: https://www.all-languages.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Freyas-story.pdf
Links have been established with other local schools in order to share best practice evident at St James’s and acknowledged in publications (Languages Today, Primary Update).
We host language clubs in Spanish and French.
Pupils from the GTC (George Tancred Centre for children with Autism) are included in French lessons.
Staff are developing their own language skills during our INSET. We have a strong link with St Mary’s University College. We host French trainee teachers for 4 weeks every year. This enriches greatly our French provision. We also support PGCE students (primary and secondary) with their FL subject knowledge and in sharing best practice.
St James’s school gained the Links Mark Award – a National Award for innovation in language teaching.
- involve EAL children and their parents in sharing awareness of their own language and culture across the school.
- raise the profile of French in the school and community. This year, we will introduce a French Storytelling Workshop in Year 2 run by Year 9 students from Waldegrave School.
How are Foreign Languages Assessed?
Each child has a ‘Concept Card’ in the front of their Foreign Language Book. The concepts covered relate exactly to the National Curriculum Objectives for each year group. When a Concept is not achieved, the teacher will highlight the concept. When concepts not achieved, review tasks and teacher support are put in place to address any misconceptions.
Progression of Skills and Knowledge
Our Progression of Skills and Knowledge documents inform our planning. The National Curriculum objectives are listed in each term and broken down into progressive steps. The objectives are mapped out for progression across the year. In Foreign Languages lessons, these objectives are broken down into microscopic steps, reflecting our mastery approach. We ensure that all of our children are secure on a step before moving onto another step.