Young people are, like any of us, motivated by success. So, formal accreditation of their language skills, however they are acquired and developed, will give them a sense of pride in the same way that they value other certificates in music or swimming skills. In language acquisition the learner does not always have a sense of the progress they are making so breaking it down into measurable steps is both reassuring and motivating.
Formal accreditation will help them identify their strengths, but also those skill areas which they might want to focus on for further development and will allow them to set small achievable goals. It is important that children develop a sense of progression so that they may achieve the sophistication of language skills demanded in the world of work and in further and higher education.
Parity of esteem at school between the languages of Europe and their home language is key to boosting the confidence of bilingual pupils and contributes to positive identity formation. A student with GCSE in Farsi or Panjabi attained at a complementary school for example, coupled with Spanish or French attained at mainstream school could be on the road to a professional career as an interpreter or translator. One language is not sufficient in the job market today.
Moreover, enhanced literacy in their mother tongue can only benefit the parallel development of a pupil’s English as they transfer their increased 'knowledge about language': transferable skills such as content mastery. And high self-esteem is an essential characteristic of a successful learner, so the more confident the pupil, the more likely is there to be an overall increase in their motivation for learning across the school curriculum.
The process of accreditation can stimulate an important dialogue between a complementary and maintained school as the bureaucratic details of entry are arranged and results communicated. It is essential that the maintained school knows the 'whole child' and this includes the wider context of the community as well as the home. Finally, formal accreditation informs the higher education sector of a young person’s achievements, so again knowledge of the mother tongue needs to be part of the jigsaw rather than a hidden asset.
How to assess and accredit language learning?
There are a number of options open to teachers and learners so it is worth spending some time on research before taking a final decision. Above all, you will need to have some sense of your pupils’ level to ensure that it is appropriate to put them forward as examination candidates. Where an examination proves too challenging, this experience may discourage pupils from continuing their language study, so try to be realistic rather than overly ambitious.
Start early because examination entries need to be made well in advance of the actual exams, especially if you are considering GCSE or A Level. After early February it is too late, so we suggest you first contact the pupil’s school in November to allow plenty of time for negotiation.
Although cost is a factor, it should be possible to persuade a state secondary school to enter pupils for examinations in community languages even when the school itself does not provide classes in these languages. The reason for this is that all schools feature in national achievement and attainment tables (AAT) for which examinations carry points and they have to meet government targets of attainment. For example, each GCSE or equivalent a pupil achieves at grade C or above is worth 20% towards the overall performance threshold of 5 GCSEs at grade C or above. There will be new performance indicators in the AAT from 2008 measuring attainment and participation in languages at level 2 (A*-C and equivalent) and level 1 (D-G and equivalent). This is very good news for community languages as qualifications achieved by pupils will count towards the new languages performance indicators.
- vocabulary lists
- required knowledge of grammar
- assessment objectives
- past papers
- administrative arrangements