Our Conference 2016

Above is the overarching theme of our 6th annual primary language learning conference, attended by 140 delegates from a wide range of teaching backgrounds - SLT , class teachers, coordinators,TAs, ITTs ,PPA  teachers etcetra.


It was truly a remarkable and encouraging day. Thanks to everyone who presented, participated and attended. Feedback has been tremendous!

We wanted to consider "effective primary language teaching and learning" and all the ways that schools can ensure the "sharper focus on primary languages" that Sir Michael Wilshaw mentioned in his report to HMCI in May 2016. Everyone of us went away with next steps and new or more determined intentions for primary languages teaching and learning. CPD and a sday with like minded colleagues, networking and sharing afforded us all time to consider how we can bring strands , activities and lessons together to create something even more effective in our individual schools next year.

The conference delegates come from across the North West and are engaged in the delivery of primary languages as primary class teachers, subject coordinators, PPA teachers ,TA s and HLTAs, ITTs ,SLT and KS3 language coordinators.Every year we try to offer the conference a range of key note presentations and workshops and this year was a delight! 

From an early morning focus on national and local considerations of "Are we making good progress" and a really thought provoking reflective presentation by Anne Farren which allowed teachers to consider foreign language provision as it is nationally and  approaches in the Lonodn network schools .The discussion and focus upon the statement below from HMCI allowed delegates time to consider how they can achieve this "sharper focus " back in school

Colleagues found the responses by pupils to the question about MFL on the pupils questionnaires during inspections particulary thought provoking.

On to hands on and active whole conference key note workshop with Elaine Minnet and Laure Daly from the University of Chichester , in which we tried out and considered the links between language learning and active learning in dance .Brilliant! Activities that suited both specialist and non-specialist primary language practitioners and that took some teachers out of their comfort zones too . To see 140 delegates perform a pirates' dance in the target language of French was quite a sight to behold! Thanks to Elaine we now host the materials in the conference folders too in French and Spanish .A huge thank you ! The activities are easily replicable, very creative and totally non-threatening for non- specialists so I am certain that "Ahoy my hearties" will feature in schools primary language long term planning next year! 

This conference was about "actively bringing it all together" so the challenge was to deliver workshops for different stages of implementation in schools and  therefore requirements of the teachers. Our virtual learning environment certainly helps teachers feel that they have the materials and resources to fall back upon and we shared some of these materials in the workshops and the associate teachers who each weekl see between them over 6,500 children  delivered a fabulous diet of workshops packed with practical , real and achievable ideas and resources. 

Assessment was incredibly popular and Kate's clear message after a whole year considering and working alongside myself and other colleagues on assessment  was: "one size does not fit all" and how she had learnt that you can take the tools we have created and use these as appropriate in individual schools to link with individual school's assessment criteria was well received and reassuring.


Practitioners see the value of assessment but it has to be manageable and meaningful and demonstrate progress and inform next steps. 

Progress in the core skills is always a core focus  and this year we decided that we needed to share how we were looking for and establishing activities and lessons where children could explore sound spelling links leading to confident reading aloud and reading comprehension skills.Emilie has been exploring ways to link this to ICT to allow children active learning opportunities.

Joanne shared our new focus this year on creative talking and writing using our Talk and Write learning resources and shared how she has encourage children this year to become creative and active in their speaking and writing -from hungry giants ,to training dragons and creating a theatre spoken and written performance of the "ser" and pantomime characters.


The clips she shared of the children demonstrated the value of the activities , the speaking aloud, being creative, performing ,writing for  purpose  that has taken place and the FUN the children were having in doing this! It was wonderful too to share Our Lady's Year 4 story adaptations of our resource "Walking in the Jungle" and Tricia informs me that she does demonstrate and then encourage/expect the children to use accent tools on the lap top key board in Year 4 and onwards, so that they write words accurately! (Just a quick message to help teachers who asked this question in the workshop)

Teachers from three network schools shared their inspring projects both reaching out to the wider community and also making links abroad.Using languages to broaden children's horizons and  raise aspirations and encourage children to make progress in their language learning.

What never ceases to amaze me about the colleagues I work with ,is their willingness to participate , explore and find new ways or new areas that they can develop to strengthen primary language learning in their schools.The KS1 and the Drama and games workshops were packed! 

And once we all came back together again in the main room for our final key note presentation, the buzz was tangible. The networking and sharing that takes place at the conference every year is in invaluable.The CPD extends across subject areas and the opportunity to explore approaches to primary language teaching and learning often reaches out in to other areas of the curriculum too. The final keynote presentation was no exception.Just how can you present story to young learners, how can you  explore story telling and just what is story telling ?Nigel Pearson asked us all to consider this. 

So now a few days later on relfelction how do I think the conference went? Did we succeed? Well we will have to wait and watch and see how the network moves on next year back in school, when we visit coordinators for their membership entitlement 1 to 1 consultrancy meetings- but the messages have been fabulous since the conference, so it looks very optimistic.A valuable day of CPD - actively bringing it all together!