By focusing on mastering the basics of foreign languages Paradigm Trust is achieving excellent progress figures and giving its pupils the foundation they need to succeed in the future.
Paradigm’s approach to teaching modern foreign languages focuses heavily on the spiral curriculum method, rather than covering a wide range of subjects and topics in little depth. By revisiting the same grammatical structures again and again, teachers embed the linguistic foundations which students need to fully comprehend so they can successfully progress in their understanding of the language. So in the current curriculum for example, the present tense is studied several times in Year 7, until teachers are confident the pupils understand the concept and know what they’re doing. Once they reach this point then teachers will add more in, but again keep revisiting the concepts in different topics so the students continue to grow in confidence. By doing this, pupils are able to gain mastery of these vital foundation building blocks.
As with all subjects across Paradigm, a lot of focus is placed on retrieval practice. Throughout the year teachers revisit what has been taught and check that pupils have understood it and can recall that information. This can take many forms, such as low stakes tests and spaced practice, so students see those same things again and again but in different contexts, to ensure they really understand what they’re talking about and that the solid foundations are there.
Learning foreign languages isn’t only for secondary school students; Paradigm has a keen focus on teaching languages in its primary schools too. Nationally this is traditionally seen as a challenge; firstly because there is a shortage of teachers at that stage with the skills or experience to teach a foreign language – many primary schools don’t have a specialist foreign languages teacher at all. Secondly, establishing time for foreign languages in the curriculum can also be an issue, as other subjects may take priority.
To overcome these challenges, Paradigm employs a specialist languages teacher for its London primary schools, who splits her time between Solebay Primary, Old Ford Primary and Culloden Primary. This way the children at all three schools can benefit from specialist teaching at a stage where they would normally not receive any. It also puts them in an advantageous position when they make the transition to secondary school and start studying foreign languages in more depth.
In Ipswich, Paradigm employs a different strategy, with both its primary academies, Murrayfield and Piper’s Vale, using a carefully selected bought-in scheme which has been chosen as it closely mirrors the London school’s programmes, and fits well with the Paradigm pedagogy.
When it comes to choosing what language is taught in its primary schools, Paradigm ensures it is one that correlates with what is being taught in the local secondary school. Currently this means the London schools learn Spanish as that is the language which is predominantly taught in the surrounding secondary schools, while in Ipswich, Murrayfield and Piper’s Vale teach French, the main language learnt at Ipswich Academy.
At both primary and secondary school Paradigm is careful to use examples which show people around the world who speak French and Spanish, not just in their home countries. In this way children get a greater understanding and appreciation of different cultures and how language spreads around the world.
The ability to speak a modern foreign language is more beneficial now than it has been for a generation. In terms of business links and employability, the skill is highly in demand – recent events mean that as a nation we will be trading directly with more countries than before, and the ability to communicate effectively, and understand the culture, will be invaluable.
The demand for foreign language speakers isn’t restricted to the business and trade sectors either. Many public organisations such as the NHS and the police require employees with linguistic skills, as do private companies in a range of industries from construction to accounting and finance.
The comparative scarcity of bilingual and multilingual speakers in this country is reflected in the wages on offer for positions which require these skills. A recent study by Preply found that people with Arabic as a second language can earn as much as 74% extra, compared to the average UK salary, with Mandarin increasing wages by 45%, and French by 34%. While it is impossible to teach every language, studies have proven once someone has learned one foreign language, they can pick up further languages more quickly.
Learning another foreign language also develops a range of transferrable skills, such as communication and presentation abilities. It also builds understanding and appreciation of other cultures, which are really important qualities in today’s society, and when dealing with other nations.
The success of remote working during the pandemic has opened another window for foreign language speakers. Over the last year and a half many businesses across the globe have discovered and embraced the benefits of remote working. This means people are no longer restricted by their physical location when it comes to building a career. Instead they can seek employment with firms around the world without having to move – and people who are able to speak foreign languages will have an important advantage.
The Department for Education is currently considering amending the subject content requirements for GCSE modern foreign language qualifications. The proposed changes involve a greater focus on stripping back the amount that is taught, a similar approach to how Paradigm already teaches foreign languages. There will also be more emphasis on teaching phonics, which is another area Paradigm has looked at – it adjusted the curriculum to do this in September 2020, and continues to embed it.
By focusing on what works, Paradigm is ensuring its pupils are making great progress in foreign languages – in 2018 the progress score was 0.89, and in 2019 it was 1.10. Using a process of continual feedback and review the Trust can make sure its pupils are being taught languages in the most effective way and will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities arising for foreign language speakers.
Pupils at our London schools have showcased everything they’ve worked hard to learn about playing the violin with some beautiful performances. Follow the links below to see them in action.
Culloden Primary Academy: Click Here
Old Ford Primary Academy: Click Here
Solebay Primary Academy: Click Here
Today the Ipswich Star featured the new special school that Paradigm Trust is planning to open in 2022, Woodbridge Road Academy. You can read the article here:
Paradigm Trust’s pioneering Hinterland programme is providing cultural capital for its pupils so they can enjoy a richer life experience and improve their learning.
Cultural capital has existed as a phrase and a concept for decades, but was introduced by Ofsted into its framework in September 2019. The new documentation requires educational settings to provide their learners with “the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.” While this has led to much discussion around what cultural capital actually is, this new aspect to the framework has dovetailed smoothly with work Paradigm Trust has already been doing for years.
The amount of cultural capital a child has can impact how much they get from their lessons at school. Due to differing circumstances and backgrounds, children inevitably come to the classroom with disparate life experiences. For instance, some pupils may have been to the seaside, while others will never have visited the coast. If then, in an English lesson the class reads a story set by the sea such as The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cat, everyone can understand it and answer questions on it to some extent, but the children who have actually been to the coast are able to relate far more readily and enjoy a richer experience than those who haven’t.
Traditionally, experiences such as these would have been accumulated by pupils in a rather haphazard way, with some children having many more such experiences than others due to their family background and related factors. Paradigm is committed to levelling this playing field, ensuring all pupils have access to high quality experiences. It does this through the Trust’s Hinterland programme, which it has designed not only to increase cultural capital in its pupils, but academic capital (the knowledge which supports new learning) and character capital (the knowledge which lets you engage with the world).
For Hinterland, Paradigm has developed a curriculum of thought-through systematic experiences which it expects every child from Early Years to the end of Y11 to benefit from. These include going to the seaside, the zoo, having a picnic, residential trips, museum trips, visiting backstage at a theatre, taking part in plays and other activities which prove beneficial to children’s learning. The activity is then brought back to the classroom and the teachers spend a lot of time unpacking and exploring it to ensure maximum value is drawn out of every experience.
As an example, a Hinterland trip may take a group of children to the National History Museum in London. This fulfils the criteria for academic Hinterland as it would fit with core science content, and teachers could discuss stories about influential scientists such as Darwin and Hooker, the work of Victorian philanthropists or the steel structure of the building. The cultural aspect would be drawn out through a discussion on the purpose of museums, who pays for them, who owns the exhibits, are they ethical? Finally, the character Hinterland is developed by taking the children through how they should behave in a museum, what can (and can’t) they touch, how do they talk about their experiences?
Paradigm operates schools in both London and Ipswich but makes sure all pupils are able to access very similar experiences, regardless of where they live, even to the extent of subsidising travel costs when London pupils need to travel to Ipswich, or vice versa.
The emphasis with Hinterland is quality over quantity – it is far better to choose the right visits and get the most out of them than take the children on lots of visits which have little value. Any time out of the classroom must be shown to be effective and worthwhile for the child’s education before it is agreed.
Because of Hinterland, and the knowledge-rich curriculum Paradigm has created and uses, the introduction of cultural capital in 2019 within the Ofsted framework changed very little at the Trust. The practice of building up a child’s store of experiences to improve their learning has been ingrained across all the schools for many years anyway, so while it was a new requirement on the framework, it was a concept which had existed for many years at Paradigm. By running the Hinterland programme Paradigm is working hard to ensure no child is disadvantaged in their education. In this way, the Trust is able to broaden children’s life experiences and help prepare them for future study, employment and, most importantly, leading a fulfilling life.
Claire Willis, currently interim principal of Murrayfield Primary Academy in Ipswich, has been confirmed as the permanent principal with immediate effect.
Claire became interim principal in January 2021 following the departure of the then principal Neil Winn. Since then, Claire has worked hard to continue improving the teaching and results in the school to deliver the outstanding education that every child deserves.
As a Trust, we pass on our congratulations to Claire as she continues to lead the school. Murrayfield is in a strong position and we have every confidence that Claire will ensure that the school continues to develop and flourish.