Raising the profile of Modern Foreign Languages in schools

Raising the profile of MFL in any school is paramount, if you want students (as well as parents and colleagues) to get behind the EBACC qualification at GCSE, explains experienced language teacher and Head of Department, James Walding.

In an ever-changing global society, teachers and leaders at all levels recognise the importance of promoting our subjects, both in the classroom as well as in the local community and beyond. When doing so it is vital to lead from the front to build strong foundations and emphasise the crucial role that languages play in our young people’s future careers and life experiences.

Social Media Platforms

This is the most current, accessible and modern way to share your message and showcase your department beyond the walls of your school community. Social media has emerged as a popular platform to keep students and parents up to date and informed. Setting up a departmental Twitter page is a great way to share best practice and ideas for language learning. A Twitter account can also be used as a method of sharing best practices amongst schools too.

School libraries

This haven for students is an often-untapped resource that can have a positive effect, not only on the value you place on the library being a central part of the school’s literacy strategy but also on additional subject resources such as dictionaries, target language comics/graphic novels and age-suitable foreign language books. The library should be a place where young people yearn to escape to faraway lands, have opportunities to dream big and learn outside of the lesson.

Intervention Days

In the pre covid classroom, arranging a theatre group to perform to students in the target language was an engaging form of both education and entertainment. This can still be achieved through an online virtual performance until normality resumes. A French or Spanish ‘Escape Room’ to encourage confidence and spontaneity with speaking and listening skills. Another idea is a GCSE masterclass, hosted by an examiner or expert, to break down the writing element and work closely with students on specific exam techniques and the complexities of grammar. These strategies can take place within school and create a buzz of excitement around the corridors bringing language learning to life.

Virtual field trips

The staple of any language department in schools up and down the country is the much loved school trip. The covid pandemic put an abrupt stop to overseas trips and residentials and whilst there will be a time where trips do return to the school calendar it may not be in the near future. However, the covid classroom has encouraged us all to embrace technology to enhance teaching and learning. Virtual reality apps such as Google Expeditions can take students on a virtual tour of the Palace of Versailles or explore the city of Barcelona! The teacher and/or student can take on the role of the tour guide; scripting descriptions and showcasing speaking and listening skills whilst learning about the landscape and culture from a socially acceptable distance!

The European Day of Languages (EDL) on 26th September

One of the biggest dates in the MFL school calendar is EDL at the end of September. Assemblies and quizzes can be shared across the whole school to promote this event during form time. It is worth encouraging all staff and students to dress up on that day in a wide variety of national costumes. An International ‘Bake Off’ competition, with Mary Berry style judging and prizes awarded to the best homemade cakes adds flavour to the event. Ask your colleagues if they speak another language? You may be surprised! You can find out more about the European Day of Languages at:https://edl.ecml.at/


Finally, rewarding and praising students frequently has a clear impact on promoting languages, both in and out of the classroom. A colourful yet simple sticker or stamp can be effective for recognising an excellent piece of written work or a high mark in a spelling test. A ‘Linguist of the Month’ Award involves MFL teachers across the school nominating a student from each of their classes whom they felt has made a positive improvement in their work or for their progress and effort which can act as a great boost of confidence and motivation for students. Postcards and positive phone calls home are also very beneficial at raising the profile of languages amongst parents too.

Students are the most valuable, influential resource in our schools, so engage with them fully and genuinely - your departmental profile will increase quickly, and students will be keen to discover the benefits of being international citizens.

James Walding is a French teacher and Head of Languages at the Cornelius Vermuyden School on Canvey Island in Essex. He also leads the MFL Networking Group for the Benfleet Teaching School Alliance. He tweets @MrWaldingMFL.

How the article appeared on the TES website 7th June 2021 - https://www.tes.com/news/mfl-five-ways-make-modern-foreign-languages-more-popular-your-school

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