Ysgol Aberconwy, Jamie McAllister

Medium: English

Location: Aberconwy

International Languages: French, German, Spanish

Curriculum for Wales: A reflection on our first project

In the last four years, I have jumped on the Conti bandwagon and introduced EPI and MARS-EARS to my department.

Inspired by his and Smith’s book ‘Breaking the Sound Barrier’ (which was a game changer for me), we have seen a noticeable improvement in engagement in KS3 lessons, but sadly no impact on KS4 uptake.

So, when we started planning for the new curriculum, we decided we would tackle attitudes to language learning with year 7 before actually getting stuck into our International Languages themselves.

Controversial, but the beauty of the Curriculum for Wales is that it has given us the freedom to address learning needs in our individual school context.

Our numbers are declining despite any initiatives we embrace or any pedagogical changes we make, so we felt it was time to implement something completely different.

Initially inspired by the website We Are Multilingual, we based our key concepts for our first project on these themes:

  • Am I multilingual?
  • What is body language?
  • I am what I speak
  • What is culture?
  • Why am I learning a language?

We used and adapted the resources on the website and when planning the project, we considered our geographical location: Conwy, North Wales.

To build authentic experiences into our lessons, we took our learners to Conwy town so they could conduct a survey with the public on their attitudes to language learning and multilingualism.

Our learners really enjoyed the experience, met many linguists first-hand in the popular tourist town, and were able to develop their social and oral skills in a real-life situation.

For us that was a step in the right direction towards creating ambitious, capable, confident, and informed learners.

Yes, I do worry that we haven’t done any specific International Language teaching for a whole ten weeks, but we remain hopeful that the work we have done so far will go some way to developing an attitudinal shift in our learners towards the value of having language skills.

Something that they currently overlook and massively undervalue.

With the introduction of any new curriculum there are going to be teething problems and reviewing our first project there are of course several things we will do differently next time.

However, in terms of value in our own school context, we as a department feel it has been time well invested.