Routes to Languages in the West Midlands - Mapping Alternative Progression Routes

Author(s): Henriette Harnisch
Institution/Organisation: University of Wolverhampton (UK)


1.1 Scope of the initiative

Success case: Mapping progression routes in alternative forms of language
accreditation (phase 1) and designing bridging modules for specific universities’
undergraduate programmes (phase 2).

Target: 14-19 year old language learners studying for language qualifications other
than the traditional GCSE/A-level route.

Institution carrying out the initiative: Language Networks for Excellence at the
University of Wolverhampton, on behalf of Routes into Languages West Midlands.


About the programme

The programme was conceived as a two phase project. The aim is to smooth
progression routes for young learners from school into Higher Education. It is based
on the fact that the take-up of languages beyond 14 is very low in the UK.
Increasingly, however, young people are taking up courses that lead to qualifications
other than the traditional GCSE/A-level.

Universities, although often aware of these alternative progression routes, have
generally done little to adapt their undergraduate provision to make transition form
these alternative progression routes.

1.2 Range of languages studied

The range of languages is not restricted within this programme. The main emphasis
is on progression opportunities. However, from the initial research we know that the
main emphasis is on major European languages (French, German, Spanish) with
other languages being patchy and low in numbers.

1.3 Learning outcomes

The project is not a learning project as such. However, the main outcomes are:

  • Map the provision of alternative progression routes across the West Midlands region
  • Identify patterns of such provision across the region
  • Develop bridging curriculum targeted at enabling Universities to smooth
    progression for young people who engaged in alternative qualifications into Higher Education

1.4 Practical realisation

The project was conceived to be conducted in two stages:

  1. initial mapping of alternative progression routes
  2. development of bridging curriculum to increase progression

The initial research was conducted across a selected group of secondary schools
across the whole of the region. Some 50 secondary schools responded, indicating,
not least, that they are keen to work with Universities in order to address decreasing
take-up of languages post-14, post-16 and into universities.

Initial questionnaires were compiled, followed up by a series of telephone interviews,
designed to gather qualitative, as well as quantitative data.

Some of the initial findings are:

  • For majority of responding schools languages are not compulsory at KS4
  • For traditional KS4 qualifications French, German and Spanish are the most common languages
  • For traditional KS4 qualifications fairly standard curriculum models are
    generally used
  • Limited provision of alternative qualifications although a number of schools are considering implementing them in the near future
  • Most, although not all, are aware of the benchmark figure. Most are going with the government figure of 50% although many do not think it will be reached
  • Numbers post 16 are generally small and standard curriculum models are used
  • Community Languages provision is very limited
  • No schools offer qualifications outside of the NQF
  • No languages courses are delivered as part of other qualifications such as Leisure and Tourism.
  • Limited collaboration for language provision
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