I work across the FE sector to support colleges with the embedding of English and I can see a significant role emerging for curriculum managers in this process. They can champion it in team interactions and discuss it in 1:1 settings, in order to highlight its value and role within the provision. They can also support the teachers in identifying an appropriate place for it within plans for learning and identify training and development needs within the team, to raise levels of knowledge, confidence and expertise. In learning walks and observations, they can gather information about great examples of embedding English and situations where opportunities were missed. Managers can play a valuable role in how well all of this embeds at curriculum level so here are some things they can do to support and lead their teams forward:
Schedule slots to share practice on how teachers are embedding English already.
Teachers could bring one resource or activity and do Show and Tell; there could be a micro-teaching session where people actually demonstrate things to each other; sharing practice slots can be themed, e.g. one on vocabulary approaches, one on how they tackle spelling etc
Useful resources for embedding need to be available to teachers online and this may involve making stronger links between specialist GCSE teams and vocational areas.
I have met GCSE staff in different colleges who say they have lots of useful resources but they don’t feel those materials are getting shared widely enough with vocational colleagues. Managers could have an agenda item where a specialist teacher visits the team meeting sometimes to give ideas, trouble-shoot or share resources, to address specific challenges the vocational teams are facing.
Foster some team review and reflection work around how English is embedded in schemes for learning.
Useful questions for this could be:
- Where are the naturally occurring opportunities to embed English?
- How are we supporting the students who may need additional support outside class?
- Where have we missed a chance to highlight English skills in units, e.g. specific reading skills learners need to complete tasks and assessments?
- Have we worded our ‘Embedding English’ plan for learning column in realistic and specific ways, to only include the skills we are actually developing in the sessions?
Develop confidence in using different approaches to marking work and encouraging learners to correct their own work.
This can involve:
- Practising using a marking code together in a team meeting of teachers.
- Discussing how the code could be used at different levels, e.g. at level one, many colleges start with a focus on basic punctuation, paragraphs, key spelling and use of tenses. Then they build up from there across time, expanding the code use into greater levels of detail.
- Sharing approaches to using learners’ written errors in class during games and recap activities that focus on accuracy.
- Comparing marked work in a peer review activity, to comment on how clear and useful the feedback on English skills is for learners. This can provoke some interesting debates about what teachers feel they should be correcting versus what the exam board/assessment body actually requires.
Building teachers’ confidence and expertise with English grammar
In many colleges I have visited recently, staff have mentioned a lack of confidence in correcting errors because they can’t explain them due to a lack of grammatical knowledge. Many colleges I work with are now running short ‘in a nutshell’ sessions on grammar rules useful for teaching levels 1-3. The GCSE or other specialist teams or ESOL staff could be involved in this work, I think.
Managers can support staff by identifying required support or training needs and liaising with others across college to set that in motion. Managers themselves are often not experts in this area so harnessing specialist support in college is a useful approach to take.