Introducing Prof Kim Bower, ALL‘s President. The President sits on the Association’s board of trustees, its Management Board, which comprises two elected Officers: Honorary Membership Officer and President and up to five invited Trustees. Kim will assume the President’s role from 2020-2022, when Jane Harvey concludes her term.
What are you looking forward to most in your role as President?
I am really looking forward to speaking up whenever and wherever I can for the importance of languages in education particularly in this post-Brexit era. I’m also looking forward to meeting, working with and representing language teachers.
Can you describe the career you have had in languages?
I began by teaching French and German to language learners of all abilities in 11-18 secondary schools in the Midlands. I loved teaching. The head at my first school believed in providing students with opportunities to explore other cultures and instigated many exchanges e.g. to France, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, the USA, as well as trips – all in school time. My first experiences of integrating content and language in the curriculum began here. When students went to France, we organised and supported specialist interventions for the exchange group – for example, the D&T teacher taught them how to make a ‘galette’, they learned ‘handball’ and orienteering in PE and the history teacher taught a brief resumé of the French political system. Our colleagues reciprocated for the French on the return leg.
In 2000 I moved to Hull University to lead the modern languages secondary PGCE course, where I trained French German and Spanish teachers for 13 years. Here, I set up ML SKE courses via a 2yr DfE national pilot, so that graduate linguists of another language, could learn enough French to access teacher training. At the time, without some French it was difficult to find teaching placements in school and jobs – so teacher educators had to reject many promising Hispanists and Germanists who did not have French. I also ran a DfE Anglo French Bilateral Exchange pilot from 2007-2010. This enabled trainee teachers from other disciplines to be paired with a linguist trainee in order to plan and teach another curriculum subject through French and English for 4 weeks in French schools. There was a reciprocal arrangement for French trainees who came to work in the Hull partnership of schools. I found CLIL had the potential to motivate learners of all abilities to enjoy language learning both in school and in teaching education, so my research and writing has remained focused in this area in my current role as Professor of Innovation in Languages Education.
What languages have you learned?
My main languages are French and German. I also learned some Spanish to support my niece when she was struggling with her GCSE.
What inspired you to become a languages teacher?
I took part in school exchanges from the age of eleven – at this point, no-one in my family had ever been abroad. I loved staying with penfriends and exploring other cultures as well as improving my linguistic ability. My German exchange partner, Franka, and her family became lifelong friends. I chose a French with German degree because I wanted to live abroad for a year – although I never intended to be a language teacher! I thought a PGCE would provide useful skills and enable further travel abroad … and then really enjoyed teaching. I found motivating students to develop a love of languages fulfilling. In teaching my students, I experienced how learning a language can develop intercultural awareness, thereby enriching lives and raising aspirations.
What do you think are the current challenges in the teaching of languages today?
Learner motivation in the wake of Brexit and the increasing dominance of Global Languages, especially English is particularly challenging. Never has the need for a national coherent, All-Party policy for languages been so great. Issues such as equity in grading at GCSE across subjects, so that languages is no longer perceived as more difficult than other subjects need to be fully resolved. Social justice is a further challenge – access to language learning is currently greater for non- disadvantaged learners and girls. Changes in school populations due to global migration include many newly arrived migrants (NAM). Collaboration between and CPD for teachers of English, modern languages and EAL across primary and secondary sectors is urgently needed so that skills can be shared and learners enabled to reach a competent level of English quickly in order to access the curriculum.
How do you think ALL best supports language teachers?
By speaking up for languages and making our voice heard with the decision makers. ALL is well placed to do this as a body which is consulted by the Government. Having sufficient speakers of other languages is essential to the success of the UK’s economy. We also need to highlight further the language skills many of our fellow citizens already have, those for whom English is a second language. By providing active regional networks we also support language teachers and offer CPD, networking opportunities and links to wider opportunities for their learners such as 6th form language days and competitions.
What will be the first few projects you will be undertaking in your role?
I would like to find out from members what support they need from ALL. One area where I definitely think we can grow further is the work started by Jane Harvey in supporting the professional development of language teachers. There is a real gap since the disappearance of Local Authority language advisors and the publisher CILT whose Pathfinder series were of great use to teachers.
Continuing to provide really useful CPD would meet a need as shown by the great demand there has been for recent titles in the ALL shop for teachers – such as a Guide on effective mentoring https://www.all-languages.org.uk/product-category/inspiring-language-teaching-and-learning-series/ and the increasing demand for our high quality ALL branch and network CPD. The ELAPSE programme, for which Jane has been one of ALL’ s representatives, provides an introduction to integrating content and language through free training materials and resources and is due to be launched in September 2020. A further bid is underway for Erasmus-funded one-week CLIL training courses abroad for ALL members. And of course we already offer face to face CPD at Language World, our fantastic two day annual conference held every Spring as well as throughout the country in our branches and networks during the academic year. I’m also looking forward to developing greater links with partners in other Anglophone contexts who face similar issues in language learning such as the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA).
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
Don’t hesitate, just do it! Learning a new language is great fun – it will enrich your life and research shows it will keep your brain active longer!
How do you “fly the flag for languages” in your daily life?
At Sheffield Hallam University, I continue to manage innovations such as the French SKE programme and an international network for CLIL in Anglophone contexts. Planning is underway for the next biannual Sheffield Hallam/ALL CLIL conference entitled ‘Curriculum Integrated Language Teaching’ in June 2021. Our book with a similar title came out in July. I’m also part of the international ADiBE project team developing resources for diversity in CLIL contexts https://adibeproject.com. This year, the UK team is producing training materials for teachers, which will be available freely online. I’m about to begin a project with Australian colleagues to bring specialist teachers from English, modern languages and EAL disciplines together to develop CPD for teachers of newly arrived migrants (NAM). In Sheffield, where I am based, I enjoy working on the steering committee of the vibrant ALL South Yorkshire Hub.