Earlier this year, NACE member and Challenge Award holder The Broxbourne School was named one of nine schools to become national language hubs, supporting England’s new Centre of Excellence for Modern Languages. In this blog post, Deputy Headteacher Peter Clift reflects on the school’s journey to becoming a national language hub, and what it hopes to achieve in this role.
 
We are delighted to have been selected as a national language hub. It is an affirmation of all the hard work of the outstanding practitioners we have in our modern foreign language (MFL) department and the enthusiasm they have engendered in our young people to learn a language.
 
We are constantly looking for ways in which to further develop our practice as a school and we believe this will enable us to further enhance the effectiveness of our pedagogy, not just in languages. We are also excited at the prospect of working with other schools to develop their practice; we are confident that as well as having a considerable body of expertise and resources to share, we will also learn an immense amount from the MFL colleagues we work with in other schools. Our lead practitioners are also looking forward to the training they will receive from the Centre of Excellence that will be an integral component of the MFL hub programme.

A whole-school commitment to language learning

We are committed to offering a broad and balanced curriculum to all our students and particularly our disadvantaged pupils, whose attainment exceeds those of non-disadvantaged pupils nationally. Modern languages are central to this curriculum offer. In the past year our curriculum pathways ensured that over 52% of our pupils obtained the EBacc at 4+. In the previous two years this led to the Schools Minister writing to congratulate us for being in the top 100 schools in the country for our EBacc outcomes.
 
In recent years we have given learners a freer choice of languages, which has helped to keep the numbers choosing a language at a very high level, despite a national decline in language numbers. We are keen that the whole school community embrace languages, and this is clear when you walk round our site and see signage in the three languages the school offers.
 
A good part of our success comes down to a considered approach to pedagogy – one of the reasons for our selection as a hub school was the extent to which our daily practice already exemplified the best practice outlined in the Teaching Schools Council (TSC)’s review of MFL provision and practice, which I would urge interested parties to read.
 
As an economics teacher, I am more than aware of the increasingly global nature of trade (despite certain challenges!) and that our young people are increasingly being asked to compete in a global marketplace for jobs. Facility in a modern foreign language can enable them to compete successfully. More broadly I believe that learning a language and the doors this opens into other cultures can engender empathy and fellow-feeling amongst people around the world at a time when a narrow nationalism seems to be increasingly and worryingly prevalent.

Developing as a national language hub

 On a simple level we hope to improve the outcomes and improve the uptake of languages at our school and those of our immediate hub partners. We are looking to ensure a widespread implementation of the pedagogical approach outlined in the TSC review. We would be particularly proud if our work led to an uptake amongst disadvantaged learners, given the cultural capital that access to a modern language can facilitate.
 
Initially it is planned that language hub schools will work with other schools in their immediate geographical area. We are also planning a wider offer of training activities and conferences, and will certainly be welcoming as many colleagues as we can from other schools.
 
Another cohort we think will particularly benefit, and of relevance to our work as a NACE member and Challenge Award school, is our more able language learners. We will be looking to developing a role for them as MFL ambassadors, and from work they have done in the schools as MFL prefects we know they will excel in this.
 
Read more from The Broxbourne School: 5 ways to challenge and engage learners in MFL

Peter Clift is Deputy Headteacher at The Broxbourne School, a NACE member and Challenge Award-accredited secondary school and sixth form in Hertfordshire. He has been a teacher for 20 years and a senior leader for more than 10. He leads on pupil progress, able, gifted and talented provision and is the SLT lead for The Broxbourne School’s new MFL hub. 
 
Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018