St Michael’s Catholic Grammar School
Background on school
St. Michael’s is a Voluntary Aided three-form entry secondary grammar school for girls. It was established in 1908 and is under the trusteeship of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus. It became a Voluntary Aided Grammar School in September 1958. Boys were admitted to our 6th Form from September 2009.
The school is situated in North Finchley in the North London borough of Barnet, and has 750 pupils including the 6th form. The school gained specialist Language college status in 2006 and maintained this title until the government recently annulled the initiative. This status has meant that language learning has always been highly valued at the school with French, German, Italian and Spanish being taught throughout the curriculum from years 7 to 13. Indeed all pupils take at least one language at GCSE and many continue to study two. Uptake at A/S and A2 level across all four languages is also high.
Louise Chapman is the French teacher leading this project within St Michael’s.
Reason for interest in the project
Learning how to use the voice thread software will allow us as teachers to increase opportunities for pupils to use their MFL learning in real terms rather than academic terms and improve their literacy as they embark on a story telling project. I hope that this will better allow them to see the value of learning a language and at the same time allow them to express themselves creatively during language lessons. Similarly the use of technology and art to make a film I believe, will also be more motivating for pupils that are less engaged in the subject and so will increase enthusiasm for it.
Once the filming is over I am of the opinion that the voice thread software will change the way in which we currently approach peer assessment of oral activities as pupils will have more time to give a proper critical analysis of what their peers have created. This in turn should improve the quality of feedback that pupils are able to give each other. Finally I hope that being able to film and watch one another on screen will take away some of the anxiety that can be felt when having to perform ‘live’ in front of small groups or a whole class and that this will boost attainment.
On a pedagogical level, because of the reasons mentioned above this project has the possibility of revoltionising language learning, particularly for the oral skills. I also believe that the benefits of using the software to improve critical skills will reach far beyond the realms of language learning into the rest of the curriculum and truly make peer assessment the valuable learning experience it should be, in all subjects.
Links with other schools
A legacy of our language college status is an outreach project carried out by the school in partnership with local primary schools. We send teachers to model good practice in language teaching for primary school teachers in the hope that they will make language learning a part of their curriculum time. This project has been running with great success now for several years.
Despite no longer officially being a language college we continue to offer Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin as evening classes at the school available to both pupils and adults in the wider community. This is thanks to our links with local Spanish and Japanese teachers as well as the Huashia Chinese School.
Finally, St Michael’s has long standing links with schools in Germany, Spain and Italy with whom we run exchanges for our pupils each year. We are also very proud to be a part of the European Work Experience project also, which allows yr12 language learners to work in the country of the language they are learning for one week whilst staying with a host family.
Background on class involved
A year 7 class of 32 11-12 year old girls. The whole class is currently level 2/3 in French but due to the selective nature of the school, the pupils are mostly above average levels in English, maths and science. There are no native French speakers in the class but many pupils do speak another language or have access to another language at home. They are all computer literate and have 1 ICT lesson of 45 minutes per week in their curriculum time, however all pupils have access to a computer at home.