Talking their language: how London’s university-school partnerships are helping to tackle the MFL crisis


Caroline Conlon

In the ‘Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review’ published last November by the Teaching Schools Council for the Department for Education, Review chair Ian Baukham paints a bleak picture of language learning in England’s secondary schools. He says, ‘… currently fewer than half of pupils take a GCSE in a language’ and ‘beyond GCSE, modern languages are in crisis.’ He adds, ‘Without concerted action, languages in our schools are at risk, and may become confined to certain types of school and certain sections of the pupil population.’

On top of that, the Guardian reports that Brexit is threatening the supply of teachers who have come to the UK from Europe because Theresa May has refused to give EU nationals  any assurances that they will continue to be welcome. This is of particular concern for MFL teaching.

But as we demonstrate in our new book, Success Stories from Secondary Foreign Languages Classrooms – Models from London school partnerships with universities, all is not doom and Read more ›

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Posted in Teachers, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

 Social inequalities – the report card


Heather Joshi and Emla Fitzsimons .

In his speech to the 1999 Labour Party conference Tony Blair compared two babies in adjacent beds on a maternity ward, delivered by the same doctors and midwives but with two ‘totally different lives ahead of them’. One returns to a poor home where life is a struggle and potential ‘hangs by a thread’. The other returns to a prosperous home where ‘potential and individuality can sparkle’.

New Labour rhetoric was accompanied by a strong push to understand better both the reasons for such disparity in life chances and how they might unfold. Blair’s government backed the Millennium Cohort Study, which the Economic and Social Research Council commissioned.

With further support from government we were able to sample some 19,000 families with a baby born in 2000-1 and have Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, Evidence-based policy, Social sciences and social policy

In the era of ‘post-truth politics’ enabling people to take democratic action is more important than ever


Titus Alexander

We may feel like spectators as Brexit and the Trump Presidency unfold, but no one is a bystander. We will either be hit, or act to influence their impact. Educators have a special responsibility to help people make sense of what is happening and learn how to take effective action. Every student will be touched by these events. Many disciplines will feel their shadow. The combination of Brexit, the Trump Presidency and resurgent nationalism in China, India, Egypt, Turkey, Russia and many European states, is creating powerful waves to which we all have to adjust.

Responsibilities of educators

Educational institutions should not take sides in political battles, but they must help people understand the challenges that politics tries to solve. They create space for people to study the arguments, analyze the evidence and understand economic, cultural, social and other forces influencing events.  They foster critical thinking, moral courage and the capacity to act.

Educators cannot be impartial when politicians use outright lies, threaten democratic freedoms or undermine equal rights. In this context, the role of educators is not to decide Read more ›

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Posted in Social sciences and social policy, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

Why higher levels of education don’t necessarily mean higher levels of tolerance

Jan Germen Janmaat*.

It’s often said that a person’s tolerance rises with their education level. So on this basis, the higher a person’s educational attainment is, the more likely they are to accept racial or ethnic minorities.

Studies often show that young people are also more welcoming in their attitudes to outsiders. This is thought to be largely because they have higher levels of education than older age groups.

So, you would expect that society as a whole becomes ever more tolerant and enlightened as new, better educated generations steadily replace older, less educated ones.

But recent political events suggest that this line of reasoning is too simple. Because how is it possible that anti-immigrant sentiments – as expressed in the Brexit vote and the Read more ›

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Posted in Social sciences and social policy

Reclaiming the future: schools where children belong even in a volatile world


Kathryn Riley.

I’ve had to grit my teeth many times of late, before engaging with the ‘News’: the fragile and alien social and political landscape; the unfolding stories of the sexual abuse of our children and young people; the discourse of rage. My own email account has not been immune to messages which echo the shrill voice of bigotry.

When I visit schools, I ask children the question, ‘What does belonging mean to you?’ Answers over recent weeks – from youngsters in London, Luton and the Netherlands – have included: ‘It’s where you are safe and comfortable’; ‘It’s when you’re on the inside and working together’; ‘It’s when people tell you the truth and you can trust them’ – a prescient comment in the light of national distrust of politicians.

In this ‘post-truth’ world, the times may be gloomy and we may have to revisit battles we thought were long since won – about respect, equality, dignity. Yet a different world is Read more ›

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Posted in Leadership and management, Research matters, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment
This blog is written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education.

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