The National Association of Language Advisers (NALA) is carrying out a nation-wide survey of language teachers to investigate the extent to which the current secondary curriculum content disadvantages certain groups of pupils by asking them personal questions on topics where their own experience is limited or sensitive.
So far 375 language teachers, consultants and teacher trainers have responded. Initial findings show that the current secondary GCSE language assessments discriminate against vulnerable pupils, particularly those from socio-economically deprived backgrounds.
- 85% of respondents said that, given the social backgrounds of their pupils, some or all of their pupils would have difficulty answering GCSE speaking and/or writing test questions. Most teachers said that when pupils have to invent answers, their outcomes are less good.
- 95% said that their pupils find it difficult to make up answers to questions on topics about which they have no experience and that this disadvantages them.
- 96% said that the personal content of GCSE speaking and/or writing tests makes pupils feel uncomfortable and that this has a significant impact on their performance and motivation.
“Pupils without disposable income or experience of travel and many other privileges feel alienated by a lot of the topics.”
“I was this child at school who always had to ask e.g. ‘How do I say dead?’ when the question was to describe your dad.”
“One photo card last year expected pupils to talk about a skiing holiday. Some of mine live on the 14th floor and have never left Wigan.”
“Modern languages examination specifications view poverty as something that happens to other people, as if our children live in some kind of middle-class bubble.”
The survey will close on Monday, 7 September 2020. Access the survey here.
A full report of the findings will be published in Autumn 2020.
Background and aims
The languages curriculum, including GCSE exams, requires students to have the potential to answer a whole range of questions on travel, social issues, their home situation, celebrations with their family, or to discuss possibilities about university. The speaking and written elements focus largely on students responding about personal experiences.
NALA is keen to investigate to what extent the content of the language curriculum, including GCSE exams – and in particular the speaking and written elements – is further disadvantaging particular groups of vulnerable and disadvantaged students.
We would like to consider to what extent the exams and curriculum content pose issues for these students and would like to gather the views of the languages teaching community.
We would therefore be grateful if you could take a few moments to give your opinions in this short survey to help our research. Please share the survey with your relevant contacts as well. The aims of the survey are to identify:
- To what extent the current curriculum content at KS3 and KS4 disadvantages certain groups of students.
- To what extent the current curriculum content at KS3 and KS4 has the potential to demotivate and disadvantage some students by asking them personal questions on topics where their own experience is limited or sensitive.
Additional contextual information: vulnerable and disadvantaged students
Whilst answering the survey we would like you to consider the following student:
Student 1 (vulnerable pupil with Child Protection Plan)
This student may be suffering or may have suffered previously from neglect, and is living in a family where there is drug addiction and some violence. He / she is part of a child protection plan.
Student 2 (vulnerable and low income pupil premium student)
This student lives in a low-income family, possibly in a family where adults have struggled to work for more than one generation. The student may have little experience of travelling outside of the immediate local community.
Student 3 (vulnerable Looked-After Child or post Looked-After Child)
This is a student who may have suffered neglect and/or abuse when young and who has been in Local Authority care for years but is now in a stable household, either adopted or in long term foster care. The student has access to some additional support as part of a personal plan to support social and emotional needs, but these difficulties might not appear to pose any great barrier to learning specific subjects.
Additional contextual information: curriculum and GCSE exam content
We would like you to consider the content of the 2018 and 2019 GCSE exams and the content of your GCSE and KS3 curriculum, and reflect on whether this might disadvantage students, particularly those who fall into vulnerable categories.
For example, here are some speaking question suggestions which might ‘typically’ appear in classrooms as part of preparation for GCSE content:
- How have you got on with your family recently?
- Describe your house.
- What do your parents do for a living?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of ski holidays?
- What did you do in the last holidays?
- Where would you like to study at university?
- Why do people take drugs?
Thank you for taking the time to consider this background information and for responding to our survey. If, after completing the survey, you have any further comments you would like to be considered, please email email@example.com.
Please visit the NALA website on your laptop or PC to complete the survey, as it is unfortunately not optimised for smart phones or smaller tablets. Thank you!