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Academy Transformation Trust is speaking the language of success

Academy Transformation Trust believes that every child matters and deserves a first class education and we aim to give our academies and our pupils everything they need to realise their full potential.

This includes encouraging innovative approaches to education wherever possible on a range of topics.  Our latest innovations have focused on our foreign language provision across our family of academies.

Data from the recent Language Trends Survey highlights the challenges facing language teaching.  The report states that 42 per cent of primary schools have increased resources available for languages but secondary schools reported that the quality of teaching at primary school is not consistent and pupils did not have a “worthwhile level of knowledge to apply their studies at secondary” level.  It also mentions primary schools report finding it hard to fit languages into the curriculum time available and to recruit suitably qualified teaching staff.

Modern foreign languages are becoming increasingly important in our schools.  At key stage 2, there is an expectation that pupils are now taught a modern foreign language.  At key stage 4, the English Baccalaureate is forcing leaders to re-think their curriculum offers so that more pupils study a language at GCSE.

At ATT, we are pleased the profile of language learning is being raised across the country. We believe in languages for all regardless of pupils’ backgrounds or circumstances. We understand the benefits it has on all learners and the impact it has on brain development and securing skills in other areas of learning. For example, learning a language is hugely beneficial in developing pupils’ confidence in listening, speaking, reading and writing in English.  Almost half of our academies teach Latin with this rationale in mind.

At ATT, we are bringing Latin to life through an innovative curriculum. Our academies teach it in a variety of unique and exciting ways.

At ATT’s Jubilee Academy Mossley in Walsall, West Midlands, Vice Principal Kelly Vaughan leads on languages.

Kelly outlines her top tips for bringing Latin to life for pupils.

Become ‘language detectives’ – We spend time being ‘language detectives’ by investigating Latin words to see if we can work out the meaning of English words by using our Latin knowledge, e.g. signum is Latin for sign, what could designate/signal/signature mean? benignus is Latin for friendly, what could benign mean? Simple investigations like this not only increase children’s vocabulary but they help them to problem-solve by applying their knowledge of related words to unfamiliar words as well as seeing how Latin is still relevant today. Investigations like this can be extended to other languages like Spanish.

It’s OK to make mistakes – Children need to feel safe to make mistakes when practising a language. As adults think how self-conscious many of us feel when we go on holiday and can only say a few basic phrases in the local language. I’m convinced lots of this dates back to secondary school language lessons where you were forced to speak in front of others. In Latin, we know there are a few basic rules which the children pick up very quickly, e.g. v is pronounced as w.  They get the opportunity to read Latin in the form of a comic strip, work out the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary (using context clues – a vital skill in English reading), hear it being modelled and then practise speaking in pairs. They then get the chance to read one of the comic strip boxes aloud in front of the class if they want to – this might be as part of a pair or individually, it depends on the confidence level of the children involved.

Children are praised for what they get right and given a prompt to improve for next time. Children love to feel successful in any part of school and languages are no exception to this.

Contextualise learning as much as possible. Our Latin learning is linked to a real Roman family who lived near Hadrian’s Wall 2000 years ago. We make our learning as practical as possible – when learning about Roman soldiers, children in a class formed a small army who had to respond to Latin commands practically. This helped to cement vocabulary by linking the words to physical movements.

Drama is a great way to apply knowledge of vocabulary. Children enjoy it and tend to feel less self-conscious than they do when in a traditional behind-a-desk classroom environment.

Storyboards also give children opportunities to show off their vocabulary knowledge – apps like Comic Life or websites like www.storyboardthat.com are a fun way for children to do this.

Pupils at Jubilee Academy enjoy playing with the language of Latin and spotting the connections with English.  This is allowing pupils to understand more carefully about the origins of words and this is reinforcing more accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar in pupils’ written work.

Kelly hopes to build on last year’s success and this year she plans to introduce year 6 pupils to Latin in greater depth.

Principal Improvement Director and language specialist Lisa Crausby outlines ATT’s belief in the importance of languages in the curriculum, “In our modern foreign languages classrooms, we expect teachers to bring the country into the classroom so that  ATT pupils have as close to ‘real life’ experiences as possible.

“We want our pupils to have a genuine love of language learning and to be confident in speaking in the target language. We aim to raise aspirations and to engender a sense of self-belief that they can genuinely compete with their peers locally, nationally and globally in the job market.

“We want all our pupils to have an appreciation of language learning, diversity and multi-culturalism so that they can enter a global world of work with an open mind and a full heart. “

For more information about Academy Transformation Trust, visit www.academytransformationtrust.co.uk

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