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NVQ for less-able linguists

Institution: Hove Park School

'My experience has been that most learners respond better to a portfolio building course than to the GCSE. The majority of my students achieve better results with NVQ than they were predicted to achieve with GCSE.'
Ceri Dunbar 

Teachers from other subject areas can see the relevance of the NVQ course content. 
One teacher covering an NVQ language lesson praised the students’ attitude to work and their willingness to tackle quite complex authentic texts in search of the information they needed. 'They have a great ‘can-do’ attitude'.

Hove Park is a secondary comprehensive school for students aged 11-19. There are over 1780 students on roll, taught on two sites. Hove Park is the only Language Specialist School in Brighton and Hove, and languages are taught to all students throughout KS3 and KS4. The main languages taught are French, Spanish, German and Italian. This year a small group of students in Year 10 are learning Mandarin Chinese, and after school classes are offered in Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Arabic.

Key Objectives
NVQ was introduced with a small pilot group four years ago. The following year the school started teaching NVQ French and Spanish to larger groups of students in KS4. NVQ German was introduced last year and NVQ Italian started in 2007. The objective for introducing NVQ was to raise attainment and motivation of less able linguists in the school.

How the programme is organised
All KS4 students at Hove Park study a Modern Language, but the school’s experience was that GCSE was not an appropriate course for a significant number of these students. NVQ has been targetted at students who are predicted to achieve quite a low grade on a GCSE course. This group includes students who are learning English as a second language (last year NVQ classes included students from China, Afghanistan and Poland who had arrived in the UK during KS3) and students who have literacy difficulties. Many students have had an unhappy experience of language learning in KS3, and start their KS4 language course feeling demotivated and saying 'there’s no point me trying to do anything – I can’t learn languages'.

Results – 2007
39 Year 11 candidates
All achieved at least 2 skills at Level 1
9 candidates gained 43.9 points (GCSE C grade = 40)
5 candidates gained 49.2 points (GCSE B grade = 46)

Results - 2006
Two classes of students were compared, each group of students predicted to achieve the same GCSE grades. The class which took GCSE – the majority actually achieved a lower grade than predicted. The NVQ class – two-thirds achieved a higher result than predicted, gaining 4-22.6 extra points. Two students who had been predicted GCSE grade G (16 points) actually achieved 38.6 points (just short of a C grade).

  • Overall the introduction of NVQ has had a positive impact on results for individual students and for the school as a whole
  • Teachers have welcomed the introduction of a course which is better suited to many students than GCSE and support staff enjoy an opportunity to use their language skills to work with students on speaking assessments.  One member of the support staff is now a qualified A1 assessor
  • Companies who visited the school on the European Day of Languages were particularly impressed by the relevance of the NVQ course to real-life situations. They also praised the Year 11 NVQ students’ enthusiasm and willingness to participate in speaking activities
  • In October NVQ and Applied French students took part in a very successful visit to Dieppe, which included a visit to a French secondary school where French and English students worked together. It is planned to build on this link by visiting the partner school in Dieppe again in February.

Future developments
This year has seen the introduction of NVQ Italian at KS4, so we now offer NVQ in French, Spanish, German and Italian. Many of the students who took GCSE French in Year 9 are now studying a new Level 3 course which we are developing for Years 10 and 11. I am also writing a beginners course for Sixth Form students, with the aim of taking them to Level 2 in two years, and students are very enthusiastic about this new course.

Author: Ceri Dunbar, Responsible for NVQ Languages at Hove Park

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