Background and Challenges

Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College is a popular mixed secondary for students in Worcester. The college prides itself on encouraging and supporting the uniqueness of students to help them achieve, and has been recipient of a number of accolades for their achievements. The Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) Department is particularly successful, having been presented with the Leading Aspects Award for the appreciation of other cultures through MFL.

The MFL department aims to allow students to experience and enjoy learning languages, whilst acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to succeed. As part of this, teachers regularly look for new ways to engage students in their learning. Claire Parker, area leader for MFL, explains: “We are constantly looking to improve attainment and increase excitement in languages, and I had been looking for an effective way to test spellings and grammar. I spent a great deal of time creating spelling booklets for the students based on the vocabulary that they needed to learn, but these were often lost or needed to be replaced, using more time and resources.”

Solution and Benefits

The college first began using Vocab Express in 2011 when Claire came across it while searching for a replacement solution for the spelling booklets. She was attracted to its pre-categorised content and the ease of use. Blessed Edward Oldcorne has since established Vocab Express for use with GCSE groups, and more recently Year 9 students, studying French, German and Spanish. Activities on Vocab Express are regularly set for homework, with a test also carried out in class each week as a starter activity to ensure students are completing the work at home.

Claire believes that Vocab Express is having a significant impact on student’s attainment: “Since we started using Vocab Express, we have seen a marked improvement in the vocabulary mastered, grammar and pronunciation. We have also noticed it has really helped with consistency, and the ability to set homework activities encourages the routine of independent study that is so important to master.”

Claire feels that Vocab Express has also helped engage those harder to reach students, and students of mixed ability: “What is great about Vocab Express is that it is a different way of motivating learners; it pulls in a different type of learner and really gets them involved, such as those students who might not usually contribute in lessons. One such student for example has gone up two grades above his initial predicted grade, and we might not have spotted his potential without Vocab Express, which really suited him.”

For the staff at the college, Vocab Express provides this easy way of tracking student’s progress. Claire explains: “As teachers, the ability to monitor and follow each individual’s progress is great as part of our raising attainment plan; we can keep an eye on target students or groups, and in regular meetings with students we can use their score as a point of discussion about their improvement or achievement.”

Blessed Edward Oldcorne was also a winner in the first two Vocab Express Language Championships. The college was awarded, amongst other category wins, the overall Genius Cup in the European Day of Languages Championship in autumn 2011 following the success of its top 25 scoring students. This was followed by the Challenge Cup Medio in the National Language Championship in spring 2012, marking their winning achievement in the overall league for the highest total score based on all student scores from schools with between 151 and 500 registered students.

The college also won in categories for individual languages, and Claire believes that this success is a testament to the inspiring and engaging nature of Vocab Express, as well as the hard work and determination of her students. She comments: “The competitive element of Vocab Express and the Championships created a real determination to succeed both in the wider league table, but also internally against one another. The testing aspect has helped students gain skills transferrable to other subjects, learning to pay close attention to detail to not lose points - the students themselves even remarked on how their own vocabulary levels shot up!”

Future plans

Since the successful introduction of Vocab Express throughout the college, Blessed Edward Oldcorne plans to continue its use with students of all abilities, and to build on the independent learning process. The Vocab Express Language Championships were very popular and have presented new ideas for moving languages forward in the school as Claire explains: “The wide range of languages that Vocab Express offers means we are considering expanding our use, as some students have enquired about the chance of learning other languages such as Arabic having experienced them on Vocab Express. The Championships have really helped to raise the profile of languages in the college, and we look forward to the opportunity to compete again!”

Case Study

Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College

April 2012