Institution: Hele's School
Hele's is a 1,360 pupil co-educational comprehensive school on the
edge of Plymouth and Dartmoor, providing for the needs of pupils
aged 11-18. It is maintained by the Local Authority and is a
government designated Language College, with a second specialism in
Maths and Computing. In 2006, Hele’s was identified as a high
achieving school by the DfES and awarded a third specialism,
Vocational Specialist Status.
To offer real situations
through links with local business for students to develop their
language skills in line with the vocational specialism.
How the programme is organised
languages are an important and integral part of the curriculum. All
students study either French or German from Year 7 and continue
with this, their core language, up to GCSE level. In Years 8 and 9
they take a further hour of languages in which Spanish and
Mandarin Chinese are introduced, which can be taken as optional
GCSEs. As of September 2006, all students studying French are
following the Applied French GCSE course in either the Media and
Communication or Leisure and Tourism contexts. Students have
responded very positively to the course as they perceive it as
relevant to their lives and where they live and find the content
An important difference between the Applied GCSE and the
conventional GCSE is the emphasis on developing language skills within a
real situation and for real purposes. This can be enhanced through
links with local businesses and learning visits to contextualise
'The trip has helped me with my work
experience choices as well as my French.' A learner
Students in Y10 who were studying French as a tutor group
exclusively through the target language since Y7 and began the GCSE
course early in Y9, have been involved in a project with Brittany
Ferries to enhance their GCSE coursework. The group are following
the Leisure and Tourism context and the link was developed through
their work on travel and transport combined with jobs in leisure
The students visited Brittany Ferries offices in Plymouth where
they had a tour of the premises and listened to a presentation by
the General Manager and two employees about the company, the types
of roles that exist and how languages are used on a daily basis.
One day later, the students travelled overnight with Brittany
Ferries to Roscoff. At the main terminal they were welcomed and
received a tour and presentation given completely in French but
targeted to their level. This was followed by a visit into Roscoff
and some research into the town’s facilities for tourists, then a
'business lunch' at a local restaurant. They caught the afternoon
ferry back and the students interviewed employees in French, with
questions they had chosen and prepared themselves prior to
departure, to find out about different jobs aboard the ferry.
On their return, the students worked with a foreign language
assistant at school who is a former employee of Brittany Ferries to
discuss what they had learned. They then read advertisements for
different summer jobs aboard the ferry and wrote a letter of
application as their coursework. The students’ motivation to write
their letters was undoubtedly enhanced by the learning visit. Later
in the term, the students prepared for an assessed speaking
interaction as part of the GCSE. Their task was to make a
reservation in a restaurant for a large party, discussing details,
dietary requirements etc. using their experience of the lunch in
Roscoff to help them visualise the situation. All students in the
group rose to the occasion and performed very well.
The opportunity to link with business and set up learning visits
has contributed to increased motivation.
'The visit made me see how much French is
used and made me want to learn more.' A learner.
'Our work on the
Applied French GCSE contributed to our successful bid for
Vocational College status in 2006. In addition to this, our
business link projects and innovative ways of teaching French at
GCSE have now rolled out to German classes and we are now aiming to
develop more cross-curricular link projects across the school.'
A revised scheme of work for the Media and Communication
contexts is being implemented, as well as working as a department
to continue developing coursework and interaction tasks that the
students can relate to and therefore succeed in completing.
Business links are growing and they have several other projects
they are working on with different classes, including work with
Plymouth City Museum and Language Farm.
'As an SSAT Lead Practitioner, I delivered INSET
for teachers interested in the Applied GCSE and developing business
links, hosted aboard a Brittany Ferries ship in port at Plymouth on
8 February 2008, with a large turnout and will be sending details
of future training and developments for the GCSE to members of the
Applied French network. For more information contact Sarah Ward.
Author: Sarah Ward, Deputy Head of Department and Lead
Practitioner for Applied French.