Joint Practice Development in Modern Languages

 

We are in the midst of unprecedented change. New Modern Languages GCSE and A Level courses have recently been accredited for teaching in September with the first examinations scheduled for Summer 2018.

Next academic year will see a sizeable challenge with Languages teachers up and down the country teaching new GCSE and A Level courses to Years 10 and 12 respectively whilst concluding the teaching of the legacy specifications for Years 11 and 13.

The relatively late accreditation of Languages courses by OFQUAL has put extra pressure on already stretched Heads of Faculty who have been keen to decide on examination boards for both the GCSE and A Level for many months now. It can be all too easy for Middle Leaders to feel isolated, anxious and afraid of what the future may hold.

In my role as Head of Languages at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School (DCGS), I have had the pleasure of attending various CPD events and conferences over the past few years where I have had countless conversations with colleagues in similar positions and who share the exact same concerns as me. Due to the nature of such conferences (such as the Boys’ Academic Selective Schools Group), I often end up speaking with colleagues from all over the UK with little chance of working together on sustainable projects due to the geographically diverse locations of our schools.

It occurred to me that my counterparts in local neighbouring schools must share, to some degree at least, the same day to day issues that I do. Having also read about Joint Practice Development as part of my National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL) and most recently David Hargreaves’ paper on “Leading a self-improving school system”, I felt compelled to act. I wrote to several of my counterparts in Buckinghamshire and the response was almost instantaneous. Several schools (including Chesham Grammar School, Aylesbury Grammar School, Aylesbury High School, Dr Challoner’s High School, John Hampden Grammar School, Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Cressex Community School, The Misbourne) now meet with me once a half term at DCGS where we discuss the latest developments/initiatives and ways in which we can support each other. Having a local support network has been absolutely invaluable over the past year or so and, as we navigate our way through the new challenges on the road ahead, we will be able to call upon a huge wealth of experience and expertise. Help is now but a phone call, email or short drive away.

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This is still a relatively new initiative and our group grows each time we meet. It has been a great place for teachers to discuss new teaching ideas and sharing of best practice. However, for me, the most important aspect is that our students have already begun to reap the benefits of our joint development working. For example, Mike Elliott (Head of French at DCGS) has inaugurated a French Film club with Year 11-13 students from our partner schools coming to enjoy an evening of culture once a half term. Nicola Rogers (Head of MFL at John Hampden Grammar School) has some very exciting plans afoot with regards to a 6th Form debating competition for next year. I can only see these ideas growing in the future. I started by saying that the education sector is in the midst of unprecedented change and with forever tightening financial constraints (especially in Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools), I cannot recommend Joint Practice Development more highly.

If you would like to come along to our next meeting, you would be extremely welcome. Please contact me direct at DCGS on 01494 787560 or email edward.walter@challoners.com

Edward Walter has worked at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School since September 2007. He was appointed Head of Spanish in November 2011 and later Head of Modern Languages in April 2013.

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