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How do we promote teacher resilience?

This edition of Herts for Languages blog sees the launch of the first in a series of guest posts by language experts.  Our last blog of the academic year is on the theme of community and resilience in the language teaching and learning world.

At HfL, we work hard to bring together language teachers; through our training and conferences and through our Strategic Learning Networks for Languages (SLN), launched in 2003.  The SLN, which meet every half-term and are free to join, have enabled collaboration between a wide layer of primary and secondary teachers, improving transition between key stage 2 and 3.  Every year, their work is showcased at our annual SLN presentation and again at our conferences for Primary and Secondary Leaders of Languages conferences in December.  If you would like to join one of our networks, please contact

‘Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable’: communities and resilience in languages


Post by Dr Anna Lise Gordon, President of the Association of Language Learning and Academic Director for Teaching and Learning at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

‘I am delighted to be invited to write this guest blog and have chosen to focus on the importance of community in the MFL teaching profession. Having followed Herts for Languages over a number of years, I am aware of their commitment and energy in leading and supporting modern language enthusiasts across a wide range of primary and secondary schools in Hertfordshire and beyond.

So, what is community? Broadly speaking, it’s a social group of any size who share common values and a shared sense of purpose, often in a specific area of interest. I am involved in a number of professional communities. My level of involvement varies considerably, from being President of ALL which is a busy and active role, to little more than attending meetings to learn from others. The most important online community in my current role is #mfltwitterati, an amazing group of MFL enthusiasts (including @herts_languages) who share their work, ideas and resources freely. This online forum provides a welcome opportunity to celebrate and be inspired by so much positive work that it is going on across the country to inspire children and young people in their language learning.

When we are extremely busy and dealing with a range of challenges, it is easy to think that we do not have time to engage with community. However, there is a Kenyan proverb which encapsulates the importance of community for me: ‘Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable’. We all know the value of collaborative learning, the importance of discussions and networking, as well as the inspiration that comes from sharing ideas with others. I am reminded of these benefits every time I summon the energy after a busy week at work to attend an ALL event, always returning home refreshed, brimming with ideas and ready for action!

At a time when teacher recruitment and retention is of concern, we all have an important role to play in actively supporting new teacher colleagues, modelling the benefits of working collaboratively and encouraging them to join in our communities as equal and valued members.  

Speaking personally and professionally, the Association for Language Learning has been a community of huge significance throughout my career and I would urge you to join me as active members. Be inspired to connect and engage with community, by checking the ALL website –  As a modern language community of teachers, we are stronger together!’


See you in September …

Herts for Languages’ next blog post will be in September.  In the meantime, take time to reflect over the summer on the following quote by John Le Carré, spoken at this year’s German Teacher Awards.

‘To learn a foreign language is an act of friendship;

to teach one an act of generosity and heroism.’

After 44 years of such heroism, it is with much sadness that we say farewell to Jackie Rayment, who has been the Languages Adviser at Herts for Learning for 11 years.  If, as the Kenyan proverb says, ‘sticks tied in a bundle are stronger’, Jackie has been the string holding us together.   So over to Jackie to have the final word and to wish you all happy summer.

‘Dear Colleagues

I am writing to inform you that I will be leaving Herts for Learning at the end of term, as I am retiring after 44 years in education.

Whilst I am excited about this new challenge and chapter of my life, I am also sad to be leaving Hertfordshire. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with so many of you over the past 11 years, and with such outstanding colleagues in secondary, primary and special schools in the LA.

Thank you all for the support and friendship that you have shown me over the years. I have learnt so much from working with you all.

From September, Yvonne Kennedy will take over the reins, so I leave you in her very capable hands.

Best wishes to you all for the future,



Assessment without Tears? Pupil progression in KS2 Languages.

It’s been a busy term for the Herts for Languages team.  We were invited to give a talk at the Association of Language Learning’s annual Language World conference in Nottingham at the end of March.  The theme for the 2017 conference was Progress for All and the issue of progression has been at the heart of much of this term’s work in primary languages.

Since primary languages became statutory in September 2014, we have developed a KS2 Languages Progression and Assessment model.  This has been designed to work alongside the ‘new approach to tracking pupil progress’ developed by Herts for Learning (so that it would feel familiar to teachers using this model in other curriculum areas) but also to work as a ‘standalone’ resource for tracking progression in languages across the key stage.  It also cross-references the Primary Languages Quality Mark  criteria for ‘achievement, assessment and recording’.

This September will see the start of year four of statutory primary languages for those children who entered Year 3 in 2014.  As we enter year four, the question of what ‘substantial progress’ might look like (referenced in the Languages programme of study for KS2) is becoming increasingly important, as is how this might be evidenced.  The creative latitude offered by the programme of study, and of ‘life after levels’, allows a certain amount of freedom to schools in their approaches to the teaching of primary languages and issues such as assessment.  This new landscape for languages has allowed us to start to look at new and interesting ways to assess.  We have a long tradition of supporting informal classroom-based action research, through our practitioner-led Strategic Learning Networks for Languages supported by Herts for Learning, and so we decided to launch a small research project on assessment at KS2 called Assessment without Tears.

Our project is essentially about helping primary language teachers to assess more easily and flexibly, in a way that enhances curriculum and pedagogy and that fosters a life-long love and learning of a language among pupils.  The main focus of our research has been finding ways to facilitate and aggregate regular formative assessment to track pupil progression.  The question of whether this is a more valid and accurate way of assessing progress in language learning (compared to a summative test model which may prioritise certain topic vocabulary at the expense of others or neglect the development of certain language skills) is one that we think is worth exploring.

At our mid-way point in the project, we are seeing schools re-evaluating the content of their teaching and placing greater emphasis on high-frequency, highly transferable language and language structures rather than ‘topic’ vocabulary.  We are also seeing more emphasis on the development of certain language skills, such as reading and listening strategies, dictionary skills and communication repair strategies.  These are all highly transferable skills that will facilitate transition to KS3, even where a change of language occurs.  Later this term, we will be delivering an ‘Assessment without Tears for KS2 Languages’ training course (click here to book on).  We will also be delivering a new training course based on the Primary Languages Quality Mark which will provide practical pointers for teaching grammar, phonics and more in KS2 (book here).  Finally, in June we launch our new STEAM conference linking STEM, Arts and Languages in which we will showcase some of the work of our Strategic Learning Networks and our ‘Language Experiment’ project.  All courses and conferences can be booked via Herts for Learning online booking.

We will be back soon with an update on our work in secondary languages.

With best wishes for a relaxing break!

Jackie Rayment

Herts for Learning Languages Adviser


Resilience and success

Our blog post this half-term is all about embracing challenge and celebrating success!

Primary languages

Our Primary Languages Quality Mark ™ continues to go from strength to strength; recent awards have been made of Bronze and Silver and one of our past award winners has now officially applied to ‘go for gold’!  This is very exciting as, if successful, they will be our first school to receive a Gold Award.

Some of our PLQM ™ award-winning schools will be presenting their work at the annual Primary Leaders of Language conference on Friday the 2nd of December.  Our keynote speaker will be Vicky Gough.  Vicky is Schools Adviser and lead for MFL at the British Council – the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.  The theme of her talk will be ‘Bringing languages to life through the international dimension’.  To book on, click here: primary leaders of language conference.

Secondary languages

The theme of our annual Heads of Languages (secondary) conference on Friday the 9th of December is all about one of the key ingredients for success for language teaching and learning – resilience!  The title is ‘Resilience in challenging times’ and our special guest and keynote speaker, is Anna Lise Gordon.  Anna Lise will be serving as President for the Association of Language Learning from 2016 to 2018.  She is Academic Director for Secondary Initial Teacher Training Provision at St Mary’s University in Twickenham.  The theme of her talk will be ‘Being a resilient Head of languages & managing change’.

Her session outline promises an exciting presentation:

Welcome aboard the roller-coaster ride!

As modern language teachers face constant challenges – new GCSE and A level examination specifications, Key Stage 3 pedagogy review, transition from Key Stage 2 and teacher recruitment concerns, to name but a few – Anna Lise’s interactive presentation will take a positive view of the exciting roller-coaster ride. It’s much more fun when we embrace the ride together as a professional community!

Anna Lise will draw on her doctoral research about teacher resilience to share some practical and engaging strategies for managing challenges and leading change related to MFL teaching and learning.

There will also be presentations from AQA and Edexcel on the new language specifications as well as a celebration of the successes of languages in Hertfordshire and case study of a thriving languages department.  To book on, click here: secondary Heads of MFL annual conference.

A notable success over the course of the last year was the preservation of GCSE and A Level for lesser-taught languages (including Arabic, modern Greek, Urdu, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Japanese, modern Hebrew, Bengali and Punjabi).  New guidance regarding the accreditation of these GCSEs, AS and A levels (for teaching from 2017) is available here:

General Interest

For schools teaching (or thinking about) teaching Japanese, have a look at some of the exciting opportunities being offered by the Japan Foundation.  The Japan Foundation invites individuals and organisations that are planning international exchange projects and activities to participate in programmes organised by them.  For more information, click here:

The 2016/2017 edition of the Language Trends survey is now live!  Primary and secondary schools across the country should now have received letters asking them to complete the online Language Trends Survey for this year. If your school has been selected as part of this year’s sample, we would urge you to respond in order to contribute to this important annual update on the state of our subject.  Although the deadline for responding to the survey is 30 Nov 2016, the survey organisers would be pleased for respondents to complete the survey as soon as possible.

Bernardette Holmes MBE, Campaign Director of Speak to the Future, has produced a response to the publication of Languages & Brexit by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages released on the 17th October.  To read the response, click here.


Training for languages for the spring term

The courses we have on offer for the spring term are listed below.

Get Set for Exam Success for GCSE MFL.  Book here.

Get Set for Exam Success for AS and A Level MFL.  Book here.

Progression and Assessment for Secondary Languages. Book here.

State of Independence: up-skilling the Google Translate generation.  Book here.

Embedding Fun French in the Primary Classroom.  Book here.


Wishing you all a very well-deserved, relaxing and happy Christmas break!



La rentrée – Der Schulanfang – La vuelta al cole

Welcome back!  We hope you had a relaxing summer and are looking forward to the new school year.  We hope your students were crowned with glory like the Team GB athletes with their amazing 67 medals.  If your students are still buzzing with sporting enthusiasm, don’t forget our FREE French Olympic classroom resources to keep the celebrations going a little longer.  The resources can be downloaded here.

Herts Grid for Languages

Over the summer we have been busy reviewing and updating the Grid content for Languages.  We have deleted out-of-date material and included new advice and resources to help keep you updated regarding language teaching and learning.  Please bear in mind that this is still a work in progress and there are still some sections we are reviewing content but these are clearly marked.

You can access the Grid content for Languages here.


Primary Languages Quality Mark

The number of schools signing up for PLQM, nationally, continues to grow.  For more information on the Primary Languages Quality Mark click here.  For more information, please contact

Free half hour consultations

Due to the success of our pilot project last year, we are continuing to offer a free half-hour languages consultancy to primary schools in Hertfordshire.  If you would like to book a consultation, please email

Progression and assessment

Our Progression and Assessment pack for KS2 provides guidance and support for tracking and assessing progress across the key stage.  The pack costs £100 (£50 for schools signing up to the PLQM) and can be purchased by contacting  For your FREE copy, why not book on to ‘Progression and Assessment for KS2 Languages’ on 5th October? Book here.

Encouraging pupil talk at KS2

Our new ‘On Target’ pack for French, complete with CD of sound files, provides teachers and children with the support they need to encourage spontaneous use of the target language in the classroom. The pack costs £30 and can be purchased from  For your FREE copy, why not book on to ‘Speak Up for Primary Languages’ on 27th September? Book here.

For general enquiries relating to KS2 Languages, please contact or

Support and Training

We can offer tailored support and guidance to all schools interested in improving teaching and learning as well as calendared training events.  Popular events are our ‘3 Day Subject Leader for Languages’ which starts on 4th October and our annual Subject Leader of Languages conference on 2nd December.  NEW for this year is the ‘Getting to grips with Grammar KS2 Languages’ on 1st November.

Primary NQTs

To boost your primary NQTs confidence and help them to integrate French into their everyday teaching, we now offer ‘Embedding Fun French in the primary classroom’.  The next training date will be on 15 March and can be booked here.


GCSE and A Level

We hope that your students reaped the rewards of their hard work – and yours – this summer.  As you prepare to teach the new specification for GCSE Languages, have a look at  some of these useful resources to help you.

In July, OFQUAL published Grade Descriptors for GCSE grades 2, 5 and 8.  These can be found here. For Ancient Languages, the descriptors are here.

Don’t forget that the examining boards offer lots of free resources for the new specification for both A Level and GCSE.

Support and Training

We can offer tailored support and guidance to all schools interested in improving teaching and learning as well as calendared training events.  Our annual Heads of Languages conference on 9th December will feature a session on examination issues.

Newly Qualified Teachers

Every year we provide an intensive three day training course for newly qualified Languages teachers.  This is an excellent way of providing support for your NQTs and for them to network and exchange best practice with their peers.  The first day of training is on Friday 7 October and places can be booked here.

 Foreign Language Assistants

Although provided by the British Council we still offer bespoke training to ensure that your FLA is deployed effectively and settles in quickly thanks to the support of other assistants and ourselves.  Local FLA training, based in Hertfordshire, helps them to create a network of other FLAs to ensure that their year abroad is successful both professionally and personally.

Our new FLA induction course offers all the essential training to get the best from your Language Assistant in a new, cost effective 1 day course.  Delegates will be given guidance on what is expected of foreign language assistants in order to support teachers and students effectively (including training on Child Protection). Delegates will be given a free copy of Herts for Learning’s ‘Good Practice Guide for FLAs in School’).  The FLA training will take place on Monday 17th October.  Please register your interest by emailing

New School Year Resolutions

Over the summer, you may have seen the BBC article ‘Foreign Languages Slump blamed on Cuts’.  To encourage your students to study a language at A Level (and beyond), you may consider the taster day at the University of Essex supported by the Association for Language Learning on Wednesday 16th November, where students will have the opportunity to sample languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Russian and see the first-hand workings of a university language department.  It is an after school event, completely free, and parents are welcome.

You can also sign up for emails from to access language events at other universities.

Like to learn a new language?

It’s not too late to join Future Learn’s beginners Spanish course in conjunction with the OU.  Module 2 starts on 12th September.  For more details, click here.


Welcome Bienvenue Wilkommen Bienvenido

Welcome to the first in a new series of blogs from the Herts for Languages team.  We will provide you with a regular round-up of the latest language learning and teaching news, ideas for the classroom and features on best practice in Languages.  We aim to cover all key stages and a broad range of languages.  If you have anything you would like to tell us about, please get in touch!  Are you ready for Rio?  As a free gift for the end of term, you are invited to download our award-winning Olympic resource for KS2 – KS4 French by visiting the website.

Wishing you all a very relaxing summer!
Continue reading “Welcome Bienvenue Wilkommen Bienvenido”

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