Languages Count - The Business Way

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

1. Description

1.1    Scope of the initiative

Languages Count – the Business Way

The initiative described in this case study relates to a group of schools that looked at boosting the number of language learners by linking language learning into the study of vocational subjects. Specifically, a vocational language qualification (Certificate in Business Language Competence) was introduced to 14 – 19 year old learners. The choice of language accreditation was designed to boost motivation amongst learners which would result in an increased and sustained take-up of languages  through the more explicit link of languages to a business context.

The case study is based on a wider project, funded by the sub-regional 14-19 strategy, which is aimed at vocationalising the languages curriculum and thus increase the number of language learning opportunities for young people. The strategy draws on the strengths of the Black Country Pathfinder, a nationally funded 3 year project, which contributed to the renaissance of language learning at 14 -19 in the West Midlands. The 14-19 Manager in Neath Port Talbot then commissioned Language Networks for Excellence at the University of Wolverhampton to conduct a replication project in Neath Port Talbot with a view to initiating a high profile initiative for languages.

The institutions involved are five secondary schools:
CEFN Saeson Comprehensive School
CWT SART Community Comprehensive School
Dyffrin School
St Joseph's Catholic Comprehensive School
Llangatwg Comprehensive School

and Neath College

The target groups within each partner institution are 14 – 19 year old learners. Four schools are offering French CBLC and one school is offering Spanish, both at entry level.

One aim of the project has been, from the outset, to encourage partnership and collaborative working between the schools that will lead to sustainable improvement and change. In the second year of the project, therefore, structures will be introduced that facilitate the collaboration. Specifically that will mean that one school will become a regional centre for the examination and thus act as a network hub for the collaborative working.

1.2 Range of languages studied

The Certificate of Business Language Competence (CBLC) is available in a variety of languages and at different levels:

In addition to the availability of the exam, the expertise of language teachers in schools was a deciding factor for the choice of languages. Phase 2 of the project looks specifically at establishing a greater variety of progression routes by including more languages and also a wider range of vocational subjects to link the vocational language qualification with.

1.3 Learning outcomes

The project has a number of desired outcomes, the majority of which focus on increased numbers of learners and the introduction of a more realistic, more authentic language qualification than the more traditional GCSE which is often perceived to be of little relevance, not engaging in terms of content and difficult to achieve well in.

Following the introduction of the project in Neath Port Talbot, a number of key reasons have been identified by the partners:

  • To increase the numbers of students studying languages
    Against the backdrop of a constant decline of language learnign in Key tage 4 in Wales. In addition, the project aimed to introduice a language qualification across a wide range of learners, incuding the more non-traditional language learner at that age group.
  • To offer a ‘different’ type of language course
  • The traditional GCSE is perceived by students to be of little relevance to their lives and their future career prospects. The broad topic based approach of the GCSE bears no resemblance to the students’ areas of interest. Topics typically include pets, my room, hobbies, school subjects etc.
  • Vocational emphasis of course (some schools are increasing vocational provision and therefore CBLC was appropriate)
    The CBLC is competence based, rather than content driven. This allowed the teachers to tailor the courses closely into the vocational area in questions.
  • Low aspirations of students
    By introducing a highly relevant qualification students would be motivated to look at learning a languages as a way of widening the outlook of students and raise their aspirations.
  • Students do not see relevance of languages
    This was expressed by the teachers as being a barrier. However, our initial benchmarking research identified that over 70% of the students surveyed through that learning a language would be relevant (agreed or strongly agreed) even though there is a predominance of English. This would suggest that students do not generally dispute the relevance of language learning in general, but are disillusioned by the qualification they are studying.


1.4 Practical realisation

In overall headline terms, the curriculum models can be summarised as follows:

  • 4 schools are running French CBLC and 1 school is running Spanish CBLC (all at Entry Level)
  • 3 schools are piloting with Y9 and 2 with Y10
  • A number of curriculum models are being utilised (please see section 4 below for more information)
  • Timetable allocations range from 1 hour per fortnight to 4 hours per fortnight
  • In most cases no timetabling issues have been reported as it is replacing an already existing slot
  • In most cases Entry Level is being taught over a full academic year, however, one school is planning to complete this by Easter in order to move on to Level 1 (this will then be continued in the following year)
  • 4 out of the 5 schools are working through the elements in the order of 1, 4, 3, 2.  This was agreed to be a more logical sequence

Curriculum models in detail:

2 of the schools are running the pilot with Y10.  Outlines of these curriculum models can be seen below.

Model A - Language element as part of Leisure and Tourism GCSE

  • Students who opted for Leisure and Tourism GCSE are studying French Entry Level CBLC as part of the course
  • When they chose Leisure and Tourism they were not aware that of the language element
  • 1 hour per fortnight in one of the timetabled Leisure and Tourism GCSE slots
  • 19 students
  • Languages and Leisure and Tourism are in the same option line so none of the students are studying a language GCSE
  • Entry Level to be studied over the whole of Y10
  • Scheme of work is not currently linked to the Leisure and Tourism scheme of work although there are plans to do this

Model B - Group with space on timetable due to previous study or options choices

  • Not a distinct option
  • 1 hour per fortnight
  • 19 students
  • Mixed ability group (not offered to those of very low ability)
  • Entry Level French
  • Planning to study Entry Level until Easter and then begin Level 1 which will be continued in Y11
  • Some of the students are also studying a GCSE language

3 of the schools are running the pilot as a replacement for their usual KS3 Y9 SOW.  Outlines of these curriculum models can be seen below.

Model C - Lower ability group

  • Replacing Y9 usual curriculum (Metro)
  • Set B chosen (bottom set before SEN)
  • 34 students across 2 classes
  • French Entry Level over whole year
  • 4 hours per fortnight

Model D - Able and average (and boy heavy) ability groups (2 pilot groups running)

  • pilot groups running (although only one is officially part of the pilot)
  • Sets 2 and 3 (out of 5, where group 5 is SEN) chosen
  • Set 2 is an able group which is boy heavy
  • Set 3 is boy heavy and quite resistant to languages
  • Replacing the usual Y9 SOW
  • French Entry Level over whole year
  • 35 + 32 students

Model E - Mixed ability group

  • The group was chosen due to previous issues with staff changes and behaviour issues
  • Spanish Entry Level over whole year
  • Replacing usual Y9 SOW
  • Students have 2 years previous experience of Spanish
  • 4 hours over a fortnight
  • 30 students


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