November 26, 2018

Describe successful models for inclusion in your subject area – Charlie

It is essential for all teachers, including Modern Foreign Language (MFL) teachers, to recognise that every class is comprised of a group of unique individuals. A significant challenge for teachers is to meet the different needs of each of these students, who may vary with respect to gender, social class, special educational need and disability (SEND), interests, self-esteem, ethnic, cultural and linguistic background, family situation, motivation, ability, previous attainment and numerous other factors.

An advantage of an MFL classroom with respect to these individual differences is that students are encouraged to talk about themselves and their interests, hobbies, families and experiences in the target language, and so this can present the teacher with many opportunities to take an interest in and value what each individual student has to say about him or herself, thus modelling an inclusive approach. Discussions about festivals and cultural practices in other countries and differences between the target language and other languages can also lead to interesting contributions from students from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds and can give the teacher an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the class. This links to Teachers' Standard 1: Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils: establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect, and demonstrate consistently the positive attitudes, values and behaviour which are expected of pupils. Teachers can also ensure that resources featuring pictures of people reflect the diverse mix of the student cohort that they are teaching.

“Inclusion” within the literature on education is often used as a specific reference to the inclusion of SEND students. In her paper on foreign language learning and inclusion, McColl (2015) argues that it is essential for pupils with SEND to be given equal access to the curriculum, including MFL, even if they struggle with proficiency in their own language. This is, she argues, because the teaching of languages is also about the teaching of other cultures and acceptance of other ways of life and beliefs. McColl also argues that some students, for example those with autism, may only gain a clear understanding of what it is to be British and living in Britain through being taught about the existence of other countries and Britain’s global context. In this way McColl is advocating a fully inclusive model of MFL teaching.

Working with pupils with SEND can present significant challenges for a class teacher as these pupils can have very different and specific needs. One three-part research-based model of inclusion presented by the Institutes of Education at London and Exeter proposed that approaches should 1) help all but be modified to remove barriers for those with SEND, 2) be drawn from specialist studies of the subject being taught and 3) use insights from disability-specific knowledge (Peacey, 2016). One way to combine these elements in MFL is to ensure that the languages teacher combines his/her expert knowledge of the subject, pedagogical knowledge and knowledge of the students with the expertise of SEND colleagues within the school. The teacher should ensure that they obtain all available information on their students, including those with and without SEND, plan for appropriate differentiation, make any adjustments required by students and draw on any support available from SEND colleagues to ensure that the needs of all students are met to the best of the teacher’s ability.

Evidence demonstrates that I put in place specific strategies to meet the needs of my autistic learners. This links to Teachers' Standard 5: 5 Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils: have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with special educational needs; those of high ability; those with English as an additional language; those with disabilities. I engage with staff within the SEND department of my school to support these students to the best of my ability and at times they support these learners in lessons. This is in line with Teachers' Standard 8: Fulfil wider professional responsibilities: deploy support staff effectively.

Inclusion within an MFL classroom can present significant challenges for language teachers. However, inclusive models of teaching can also present opportunities to celebrate diversity and give equal access to the benefits of learning languages to all students.


McColl, H. (2005). Foreign Language Learning and Inclusion: Who? Why? What? - and How? Support for Learning Journal, 20 (3), pp.103-108.

Peacey, N. (2016). An Introduction to Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability. In: Capel, S., Leask, M, and Younie, S., eds. Learning to Teach in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience. 7th Edition. London: Routledge, pp. 302-324.

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