What happens to state kids entering independent secondaries without any foreign languages?

(35 Posts)

Son is going into the independent sector for secondary after a state primary.
I reckon a very large percentage of his new classmates will already have had Latin, French, Mandarin. Do schools help or offer a fast track for children who has not had the benefit of this, or will they just end up in the bottom set?
How are lessons structured?

Talkinpeace Sat 23-Mar-13 22:37:40

has his Primary not done French?
My kids school do it from year 3 onwards - as do all others in teh county

whoknowswho Sat 23-Mar-13 22:48:42

My DS had done only a little French when he moved from a state primary to a private secondary. They were grouped in ability and he was in the bottom.... 2 years on he's in the top set for 3 languages. MFL in primary is not statutory in the curriculum at the moment so your DS won't be on his own.

His primary has done French. They have done one hour per week, and nobody has learnt anything. The parents have tried to get the HT to take French seriously and get a competent teacher on board, to the point of suggesting using PTA funds to pay for it, but to no avail. So, no French. The lessons have mostly consisted of random vocabulary and no grammar. Son has come home with worksheets with spellings of random objects, including various vegetables, and no context. They tried to get a French after school club running, but the children came home with sugar paste figurines as part of culture study. One of the mums put her foot down and said "I will do after school French for free" - She is French, and it has improved, but demand far outweighs supply.

I started at indie secondary from a state primary with no knowledge of languages. It was v tough - there were no catch up classes and no streaming so I was in a class with a mix of abilities where the teacher had high expectations.

Could you contact the school to ask what their expectations are - maybe you could do some language work like learning numbers etc over the summer if the school are expecting all children to have a basic knowledge from the start.

Picturesinthefirelight Sat 23-Mar-13 22:54:30

Dd is at an independent primary. They did French but at a very basic level. However they have recently started a carousel system - one term each if French German & Spanish.

The letter sent from the senior school ;she goes into year 7 in sept asks them to choose which language they want to study in years 7&8 and points out that no prior knowledge will be assumed.

I think I need to hand him over to my cousin. She is a French Teacher....

BooksandaCuppa Sat 23-Mar-13 22:55:32

Depends on how many of his senior school will also have come from state.

Ds (now yr 7 - state primary; non-selective independent secondary) is just about holding his own in top sets for MFL despite having very little French at primary (French and Spanish now). I guess that's because a) they actually 'stream' for the first half term and his Cats/Sats results were very good; b) by the time they 'set' rather than stream them after first half term, he's caught up with the (bottom end of the) top third of his year, which is the top set, and c) maybe the children from the prep haven't had that amazing a headstart. This third aspect could be one that is very different for your son's school...

At least 50% will be from the independent sector, as that is how many is coming in from the Junior school What proportion of the rest come from private I dont know.

I think I need to prepare him a little.

Any book recommendations?

BooksandaCuppa Sat 23-Mar-13 23:02:40

I didn't bother for ds (probably should have as his lowest attainment grades are in MFL; though still good enough for top set) but I think those Usborne sets of books/DVDs/CDs are supposed to be pretty good.

I am just on Amazon now, Usborne looks good actually!

Needmoresleep Sun 24-Mar-13 08:40:33

Schools vary and so perhaps worth asking them. Almost all, if not all, will have strategies in place to help ensure that talented linguists can catch up, and that less talented linguists get the support they need.

One school we looked had sets in Yr 7 based on "exposure". They said they had a major reshuffle at the end of Yr 7, and a number new to French then found themselves in the top set.

Another had mixed classes. Those that had done a lot of French gained some useful consolidation, confidence, and a pretty easy year. Teaching was at a brisk pace so those new to French had to work quite hard. By the end of the year the talented linguists had caught up and setting was pretty mixed.

SPGS in contrast only teaches French as a second language. So everyone starts with German or Mandarin or something else.

The equally big London thing is how many bilinguals there are. 10% French bilinguals might be a reasonable expectation. Throw in kids speaking a Romance language, eg Spanish or Italian, who have the advantage of both familiarity with vocabulary and experience of a foreign language, and you will see that prep school is only part of the picture. Also not all prep schools teach French well. Some don't at all and others, especially some of the 11+ focussed girls schools don't seem to allocate much time.

In terms of catch up, I think the only thing worth doing might be to take a short trip to France to try to give your child a sense of French as a language, including accent, and an idea that it is worth learning, even if it is just so you can buy your preferred flavour of ice cream. Vocabulary learning in year 7 will be quite tedious so they might as well know what the aim is.

clb Sun 24-Mar-13 08:56:07

DD did French at her prep school but it was pretty worthless. She keeps up fine. I wouldn't worry.

And just a v minor information point - SPGS does teach French as a first modern language, but children who already speak French at home aren't allowed to take it. Iirc, the choice for first modern language is French, German, Russian or Mandarin.

LIZS Sun 24-Mar-13 08:57:49

dd got to do basic courses in 3 modern languages and Latin before opting for 2.

We have been told Latin French and Mandarin will be compulsory for Y7, then he can add Spanish, German, Italian later.

He is bilingual Norwegian English, hopefully that will help with language acquisition.

MTSgroupie Sun 24-Mar-13 10:23:46

My DD only did one hour of French in Year 6 but, as part of the 'offer' package the indie secondary sent a letter that gave us the book title that their prep kids used in Year 6 and suggested areas to 'revise' in the summer.

I don't recall DD struggling in Year 7. The 'funny' thing was that some of the prep kids were referred to the lunch time French Club for extra tuition.

If your school hasn't done so already, I suggest that you ask them for 'revision' advice. As for keeping up, there are lots of prep kids that don't have a flair for languages. If your DC does then it all evens out mid Year 7

teacherwith2kids Sun 24-Mar-13 11:27:17

Talk to the school, as it will be a 'known' issue (if they take in c. 50% from state) and they will have a strategy in place.

I skipped Year 7, and came from a primary which did no languages - was sent a textbook to do some French from in the summer holidays between Y6 and joining y8. Was in the top stream by then end of y8, took O-level in Y10 and A/O in Y11. Still don't know the present tense, though....

CecilyP Sun 24-Mar-13 14:09:27

Even if 50% have come from private primary, there will be some of them who will have had very good mfl teaching, while for others it might have been so sketchy that they need to start again anyway. Do contact the new school if you are worried. And while many entrants might have done a bit of French before, I doubt if there will be many who are not starting Latin and Mandarin from scratch.

LetsEscape Sun 24-Mar-13 15:11:47

Probably best to ask your son's future school directly. It will all depend on the school. If it is 11+ entry and gets children from a range of schools they will have a clear plan and either teach them from scratch (and some may get bored) and then set them by ability in the language at an early stage. Some schools set from the start according to exposure. Don't assume all prep / independent primaries teach French to a decent standard. Many times it's just songs and some conversational French but not proper grammar and verbs etc. Other schools, especially in those going towards 13+ CE exams, the children by year 7 will be very advanced. I would think it is not a problem unless your son is joining a 13+ prep school or he is joining an all though school 3-18 or 7-18, where they will not plan for the 'odd' child with a difference MFL experience. In that case you would be advised to get a tutor to get him started - languages is something that is hard to do a crash course on, because of the amount of vocabulary they have to learn.

derektheladyhamster Sun 24-Mar-13 17:20:52

My son had no experience of mfl, but I don't know how many kids from his school came from state primaries. I do know that his teacher assumed that he'd learned french before because he picked it up quickly. I wouldn't worry, the school will be used to it.

PollyEthelEileen Sun 24-Mar-13 18:14:22

I don't think you have to worry. The independent school will be aware that many of their intake will have not had the same MFL opportunities.

Everyone will be caught up by half term.

happily3 Sun 24-Mar-13 21:06:37

They must be used to it, but in addition to suggestions above why not Google French for kids or French listening practice to find things your ds could listen to online.
Have you heard of Edith Piaf? Not modern at all, but a song of hers called 'Je ne regrette rien' is full of loads of French 'r's to practise singing along to ..?!

Elibean Mon 25-Mar-13 13:15:45

Quint, am I right in thinking your ds is bilingual though?

In which case, that will help him hugely smile

Primary schools are supposed to do a MFL but not necessarily French - ours does Italian. And after five years of it, dd1 is still pretty much at the 'ciao bella' stage hmm but they would need to do an awful lot more of it, time-wise, to make any difference. And there is no time on the timetable, unfortunately.

sugarfoot Mon 25-Mar-13 13:24:13

My daughter went from a state primary (with a bit of German club) to a (very) selective independent. In year 7 they divided them into those who had learned some French before and those who hadn't. Within a couple of terms they were all at near enough the same level. She is now doing French and Spanish at university.

Blu Mon 25-Mar-13 13:33:06

Presumably not all private primaries do exactly the same languages, or if they do, cover the same material.

My friend teaches MFL in an independent primary - Spanish and German.

Schools must be used to Yr 7s with a wide variety of experience.

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