Moving from Specific Learning Difficulties to Neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is the term used to describe the differences in brain function and behaviour that would be regarded as normal variation within a population.

A Specific Learning Difficulty, (SpLD), refers to the difficulty a child or adult may experience with specific aspects of their learning. The most common SpLDs include: Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADD), along with some aspects of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, (ASD). The needs of the majority of pupils with SpLD can be met within the mainstream classroom through differentiation.

Specific Learning Difficulties are often referred to as Specific Learning Differences to emphasise that the problem is not always within the child, but linked to the demands being made of them in different contexts. 

Historically, different SpLDs were defined in comparatively narrow ways. Dyslexia being associated with literacy problems; dyspraxia with co-ordination problems; dyscalculia with numeracy difficulty; attention and hyperactivity difficulties with ADD; and sensory issues and social awkwardness with ASD. Unfortunately, these narrow definitions have created misconceptions, particularly amongst adults in school. For example: Thomas cannot be dyslexic, because he can read. Freya cannot be dyspraxic, because she’s in the hockey team. George cannot have ASD, because he can look me in the eye. Eve cannot have ADD, because she can focus when she wants to, but only on those topics she’s interested in. 

It is important to remember that any child with a SpLD is an individual, and will exhibit their own personal profile of strengths and weaknesses in the same way everyone else will do. It is not possible to put individuals into boxes.

Susanna has poor spelling and terrible handwriting, is forgetful, and dislikes noisy and crowded environments. She also loves to read, is popular with peers and teachers alike and excels at gym and dance.

Josh has limited attention, terrible time keeping, never appears to listen and has few friends amongst his peer group. He also produces beautiful poetry, is working his way quickly through his Music exams, and is Captain of the school’s debating team.

In addition to the difficulty of identifying a child as, for example, dyslexic or on the autistic spectrum, because of the overlap between different ‘conditions’, other factors play a part in a SpLD diagnosis. These factors include:

  1. Which professional assesses the child. Educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and specialist teachers will all focus on their own specialist areas, and will use their own specialist tests.
  2. The child’s age at the time of assessment. The pre-school child may be assessed as having a speech and language problem and then, when they are in school, the same child will be diagnosed as dyslexic.
  3. The child’s gender. Many assessments were originally designed for boys, so male behaviour is more likely to match the diagnostic criteria. This means that girls are often overlooked.  
  4. The ethos of the child’s school. A school may be very formal, and staff may have unrealistic expectations of the pupils’ behaviour and academic performance.
  5. The child’s level of maturity. The school year starts in September and runs through to August. Those children with birthdays later in the school year, perhaps in July and August, may be developing appropriately, but inevitably be less mature than peers with birthdays in September and October.

All of these issues: the interweaving of the different SpLDs, the interaction of the child’s strengths and weakness with their SpLD, the differing levels of support and understanding they receive from the adults, limit the value of a single SpLD label, and may negate any generic support given to the child in the light of that label. 

It would be far preferable to treat each child as an individual in line with current theories of neurodiversity and to continue to advocate for the inclusion of all. 

Fidgeting

Some people are born fidgets. Fidgeting tends to be a family trait and, if parents move about a lot, their children are likely to inherit the same need for continual motion. Unfortunately, anyone who fidgets in situations where they are expected to remain still, (work meetings, concerts, plays, school lessons, church services), will appear to others as being bored, irritated or not paying attention; with those who do not experience a difficulty in keeping still, finding their peers’ constant movement annoying and distracting. 

Individuals can fidget quietly and without causing too much distraction by moving small items such as squishy, stress or koosh balls, a few smooth pebbles or coins, Play-Doh or Silly Putty about in their pockets or hand. Swivel chairs allow larger, but still discreet, body movement. Doodling, note taking or drawing can help with focus, as can seizing every opportunity for a movement break: distributing handouts, opening or closing a window, delivering messages and so on.

Alternatively, fidgeting could be elevated to a desirable trait; something to be encouraged among more sedentary members of a group. The reasons for a shift in attitude could include: – 

  1. Fidgeting helps to maintain circulatory health.

Foot tapping or leg movement while seated for a period of time will keep blood flowing around the body. Moving your legs for a minute, every four minutes, increases blood flow to the leg arteries.

2. Fidgeting helps with weight management.

Fidgeting burns calories and is considered to be nature’s way of helping us to maintain an appropriate weight. Fidgeting while sitting or standing increases the calories an individual burns, compared to when they remain sedentary: this increase can amount to between 100 to 800 calories  per day. As we only need to overeat by 100 to 200 calories a day to gain weight, the calories burnt off through fidgeting will correct any imbalance. 

3. Fidgeting supports focus and concentration.

Everyone’s concentration levels differ and we all have limits to our attention. When an individual reaches the end of their concentration span and is struggling to maintain focus, physical movement will occupy the areas of their brain distracted by random thoughts. Even small movements are enough to keep the mind from wandering without distracting from the work in hand. Fidgeting therefore, can be considered to be a self-regulation mechanism, providing just enough stimulation to bring an individual’s attention to the required level. 

4. Fidgeting will enable the individual to self-soothe.

Fidgeting can serve as a self-soothing strategy in situations where a person feels anxious. The individual can stroke their hair or face, massage their hands or neck, and swing or rock on their chair in order to self-calm. 

Perhaps a reasonable compromise to fidgeting issues would be, if the individual is not bothering anyone and their fidgeting is not impeding their functioning, just let them get on with it.

Spelling and IT

‘Words are our servants; we are not their slaves. It matters not how we spell them, it matters what we say.’

(Sally Gardner – Children’s writer and illustrator.)

A difficulty with spelling is one of the problems typically experienced by children with dyslexia. Most dyslexic children will learn to read adequately, but spelling may remain an entrenched area of difficulty.

Spelling ability depends on – 

  1. The individual’s phonological skills; that is their understanding of how sounds correspond to letters, and their ability to hear these sounds within words.
  2. The individual’s memory: most dyslexics will experience problems with some aspect of their memory.

Reading is easier than spelling because the words of a text remain in front of the reader. They will be able to examine the words and use various strategies to help with decoding, for example – What letter / sound(s) does this word begin or end with? What other words does this one look like? Are there any smaller words within this word that I recognise? Which word would make sense in this sentence?

Unfortunately, when trying to remember a spelling, the dyslexic individual is not provided with such clues, and will have to rely on their knowledge of letter / sound correspondence, combined with any recollection they have of the word’s shape and size. For example, if they depend solely on their memory of letter / sound correspondence, their spelling of the word ‘school’ will be phonetic, but inaccurate: scool, skule, scoul, skool, and so on. Alternatively. if they rely solely on their visual recall of the word’s approximate size and shape, their spelling of ‘school’ may appear bizarre: sfuuk, zofeet or szlooh. 

Reading a word could be compared to being shown a picture of the Taj Mahal and asked to identify it. ‘It looks a bit like Brighton Pavilion, but it has those pools of water in front, so it must be the Taj Mahal.’ 

Spelling the same word would be like trying to draw a picture of the Taj Mahal accurately from memory. ‘How many towers does it have? Does it have towers or arches? Where is the dome? Is there just one big dome? Is the dome higher or lower than the arches?’

Traditionally schools have offered dyslexic pupils withdrawal lessons for additional spelling intervention. In these lessons, the pupil can be taught spelling rules. An example of a spelling rule would be: ‘In the final syllable ‘sion’ the ‘si’ usually has the voiced sound /th/ as in division, invasion, etc. The syllable just before the ‘sion’ is the stressed syllable in this word and, as it is an open syllable, all of the vowels will be long except tiresome ‘i’ again.’

Such rules will be challenging for any pupil with a memory weakness, and will be quickly forgotten when the pupil starts to write an essay under timed conditions; needing to structure the essay, write legibly, and get all of their ideas down within the allotted time. 

With progress made in technology, stand-alone spelling interventions are no longer necessary for the older pupil who experiences an entrenched spelling difficulty. Nowadays is easy to circumnavigate secretarial issues such as poor presentation and weak spelling. Technology enables the individual’s work to be judged on its content rather than its appearance.

A selection of quotes about assisted technology from individuals with dyslexia: –

‘I definitely need a computer to write. It enables me to write without hesitation and it takes away the worry about spelling mistakes.’ Julian Ogiwara. Architect.

‘Technology has created a fairer platform for everyone.’ Steven Woodgate. Marketing Leader.

‘I use assisted technology all the time. I simply couldn’t do my job without it.’ James Kinross. Consultant Surgeon.

‘I used to write my books by talking into a Dictaphone, and then pay someone to type it up.’ Jamie Oliver. Chef, author.

‘I used spellcheck which negated the worst aspect of my dyslexia.’ Oliver Wright. Journalist.

‘Writing reports has become less of an obstacle with assisted technology like Dragon software and text to speech.’ Chad Choudhury. Detective Sergeant.

‘I install Grammarly on all my devices. It’s a must.’  Holly Tucker. Entrepreneur and dyslexic.

Creativity and Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Creativity – the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something. 

Creative individuals share numerous personality traits including: –

Motivation. Creative breakthroughs occur as the result of perseverance and hard work. The creative individual pursues their hobbies and interests with an unusual amount of dedication and, as a result, has an in-depth understanding of their specialist field. 

Independent and original thinking. Creative individuals day-dream, often engaging in fantastical and magical ideas. Many will be more creative when working independently: group work can tend to stifle some voices in preference to others. 

Extreme sensitivity and empathy. Creative individuals are sensitive to the emotions of others, and care deeply about social, political and environmental issues.

An ability to problem solve in unconventional ways. Creativity is an essential part of problem-solving, particularly for those problems where conventional solutions do not always work. 

Individuals on the autism spectrum share numerous personality traits including: –

  • An overwhelming desire to engage with their personal interest. This will include focusing and concentrating on their hobby to the exclusion of almost anything else. As a result, many autistic individuals will gain an encyclopaedic knowledge around their specific area of interest.
  • A keen sense of fair play. The autistic individual will pursue what they feel to be right without compromising their standards or ideals.
  • Independent thinking. They are not influenced or deterred by the opinions and beliefs of the majority, but possess the ability to think independently and devise ingenious solutions to problems. 

Can you spot the similarities between these two groups?!!

Three famous autistic individuals who use(d) their creative strengths for the benefit of the wider community.

Alan Turing is regarded as one of the most innovative mathematical thinkers of the last century. Turing helped to crack the ‘Enigma’ code through his work at Bletchley Park during World War II. Turing struggled at school, and was a concern to his teachers because of his obsession with mathematics, and his disdain for the classics, which he felt to be of little importance. 

Greta Thunberg is a political activist and environmentalist. Greta’s ability to hyper-focus has enabled her to develop a comprehensive understanding of environmental issues: she does what she believes to be right, refusing to conform to society’s expectations of a young woman. 

Chris Packham is an English naturalist, photographer, television presenter and author. Chris accepts that some people see him as an extremist. However, he doesn’t mind about his reputation as an activist, as long as climate and the environment are discussed as a consequence.  

Chris says that, ‘People like me have a very aggravated sense of injustice, and I think that has been highly motivational throughout my life.’

Autism Awareness Week runs from 29 March – 4 April. 

April 2022 is Autism Awareness Month.

Imaginary Friends

It isn’t uncommon for children to create imaginary friends: someone for them to talk to, interact and play with. Research shows that two thirds of children up to the age of seven years, and over a quarter of children aged 5 to 12 years have an imaginary friend. These pretend friends can be invisible, something fantastical, a pet, inanimate object or a soft toy.

The benefits of imaginary friends include: – 

  • Providing a safe way to practise friendship skills: to learn how to resolve arguments and to share. The child will be able to look at situations from the imaginary friend’s perspective, making it easier for them to appreciate other people’s points of view. 
  • More opportunities to develop language and communication skills. As a result of additional speaking and listening practice, children with imaginary friends tend to have larger vocabularies and use more complex sentence structures. 
  • Alternative ways to cope with difficult issues: the birth of a sibling, a separation, bereavement or a house move. The child can share the emotional burden with their pretend friend: talking through the situation, thinking of solutions to problems or simply venting pent-up emotions. 
  • Provide companionship. The imaginary friend will always be on call whenever the child is bored or lonely and has no one to play with. The imaginary friend will supply unconditional love and acceptance.
  • Improving the child’s creativity and imaginative play. Imaginary friends are a sign of a child’s creative resourcefulness. Children with imaginary friends will have a rich internal private life that is totally under their control. The child will have opportunities to experiment with more creative play without risking others laughing at them.
  • Exploring different roles. The child can experiment and adopt alternative roles: caring for their friend, explaining that it is bedtime so they have to switch off the TV, bossing the friend about or shouting at them. The imaginary friend is all forgiving, so children can safely test out strong emotions like anger, jealousy and fear. 

Imaginary friends will not be around for ever, but are very useful whilst present. 

Procrastination.

‘Never do today what you can do tomorrow (Procrastination)

If I do too much it’ll only end in sorrow (Procrastination)

I’d have done it all by now but there’s something in the way (Procrastination)

I’ll consult a horoscope just to pick the perfect day (Procrastination)

(‘Procrastination’ The Damned – 2018)

Most of us will procrastinate occasionally: – 

‘I can’t do this essay yet. I don’t have the right books.’

‘I feel a bit tired this afternoon. I’ll start it in the morning.’

‘I don’t need to learn this topic yet. I’ll wait for the test deadline, then revise. I work better under pressure.’

About 20% of the population are regular procrastinators. Research suggests that these individuals often suffer from low levels of confidence; they worry that they are not up to the task, won’t be able to complete the work and will look foolish. Procrastination gives them the perfect excuse as they can claim they simply didn’t have enough time to do the job properly or to their usual high standards. 

The solution to procrastination requires a re-framing of attitude and an acceptance that a ‘good enough’ performance is preferable to a perfect performance that is never quite completed.

‘Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’

Leonard Cohen – ‘Anthem.’ 1992.

Steps to take to avoid procrastination.

  1. Try to work first thing in the morning and tell yourself that you’ll have time for other tasks and activities later in the day.
  2. Clear your workspace of things that might distract you: the dirty washing that suddenly calls out to be put in the machine, the pots of pencils that require colour coding, the text messages that might be really important, and so on.
  3. Break tasks into smaller sections. Then start working on one without over-thinking. You don’t have to work sequentially by, for example, starting with the introduction to an essay; you could start with the conclusion.
  4. Work alongside friends you know can focus and concentrate. If you can work at this sort of friend’s house or go to the library with them, you may find that you can work for longer periods of time.
  5. Attend any supervised Homework Clubs or Subject Surgeries at school or college. When sessions are supervised, there will be someone there to keep you on track. 
  6. Get rid of distractions. Turn your phone off. Work in a quiet room without a TV or radio and away from the window.
  7. Set yourself time limits. I will work for 20 minutes, then have a break of 10 minutes, then work again for 20 minutes. Reward yourself when you have worked for an hour in this way: have a snack, watch 20 minutes of TV. or phone a friend.
  8. If a thought comes into your head and distracts you, make a note of it, tell yourself you will deal with it later, and then carry on working.
  9. Keep lists of tasks to be done, and tick them off when completed to give yourself a sense of progress and achievement. Be realistic about how many of the tasks you can complete in each session; if you are over ambitious, you will be disheartened.
  10. Take advice from others. See how they deal with procrastination, ask them to mentor you or to take charge of your list of tasks and monitor your progress.

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunals.

When a child or young person has additional educational needs that might require more support or resources than are usually provided by their school or college, the child’s parents or the young person can apply for an Education, Health and Care plan to access additional provision. 

SEND Tribunals have been set up in order to settle any disagreements about the sort of additional provision a child might require. For example, a parent might feel their son needs 1:1 support in the classroom; some input from a speech and language therapist; or further assessments to identify undiagnosed needs, while the Local Authority might maintain that the boy’s needs can be met in his school without such additional input.

The parent or young person making an appeal to the Tribunal will need to present evidence to demonstrate why the current provision the child or young person is receiving is inadequate. In such cases, it is useful for parents to collect evidence: to keep meeting minutes, school reports, the results of any assessments the child or young person has had within school or from agencies outside school: the GP, Speech and Language therapist, Occupational therapist, counselling services, and so on. 

Such information could include: –

  1. Any advice from external agencies, for example, contact with the GP re a child’s anxiety, diet, sleep habits or toileting problems. 
  2. Information about the child over a period of time: perhaps speech and language therapy reports from their early years.
  3. Baseline assessments from the school. Schools will keep baseline scores for pupils from their Reception classes, measuring the child’s progress from that baseline as they move up through the school. Many secondary schools carry out baseline assessments for their new Year 7 pupils, using such assessments to predict the children’s GCSE grades. 
  4. Assessments of reading age. Does the school monitor pupils’ progress with reading? If the child has fallen behind their peers, have they been given any support to close the gap, and how successful has that extra help been? Do the school’s reading tests measure reading comprehension, (understanding the content of a passage), as well as reading accuracy, (being able to read the words aloud.) 
  5. Assessments of spelling age. If the child has fallen behind their peers in spelling, what has been put in place by way of catch up, and how successful has that been?
  6. Whether the child is working at Age Related Expectations, that is at the level expected from a child of their age. Is the child making steady progress in school?
  7. End of year reports. Is there any consistency in teachers’ comments over time, for example, do school reports regularly mention the child’s lack of focus, distractibility and poor concentration?
  8. Any sensory issues you may have noticed at home: a restricted diet, a preference for soft and comfortable clothing, an intolerance to noise, an aversion to having their hair cut, teeth cleaned or nails cut.
  9. Have you seen any evidence of poor co-ordination? Is the child able to ride a bike, catch and throw a ball, eat without making a mess, dress themselves with clothes in the correct sequence and the right way round? Can they colour in, draw, cut out and write neatly?
  10. If an Educational Psychologist’s report has been carried out, are there any discrepancies between the child’s Verbal IQ, Performance IQ, Working Memory and Processing Speed scores, or a discrepancy between their IQ scores and their performance in school. 

All children are individual and are certain to develop at different rates. Every child will have strengths and weaknesses, but keeping a record of evidence from a range of sources over a period of time, will provide a Tribunal with the most comprehensive overview of the child’s needs.

Top ten self-regulation strategies for children.

Although a parent’s natural instinct is to protect their child from upset and anxiety, it is inevitable that children will face difficult situations sometimes: the birth of a sibling, a house move, bereavement within the family or an episode of bullying at school. Children need to acquire self-regulation skills and learn coping strategies in order to deal with challenging situations independently. 

  1. Make space for down-time. Take a break and spend some time doing the things you enjoy: practising your football skills, knitting, drawing, gaming, dancing, listening to music, Lego. You can then become absorbed in your interest rather than your worry.
  2. Enjoy some repetitive physical exercise. Running, skipping, cycling, dancing or bouncing on a trampoline will burn off stress. Repetitive activities are particularly effective as they require little by way of conscious thought or specialist skill. Exercise releases tension, improves mood, increases energy levels and promotes quality sleep.
  3. Read a book or listen to a streamed story. To lose oneself in a good book is an excellent distraction technique.
  4. Use music to change your mood. Music will affect your emotions. Upbeat music will make you feel more energetic and optimistic, while music with a slower tempo will be calming. 
  5. Focus on the needs of others rather than your own concerns. Helping others will take your mind off your worries and encourage a sense of perspective. There are certain to be others who are worse off than yourself. Remind yourself of this and re-direct your energy into helping in a practical way by, for example, decluttering your room and taking unused toys, books or bric-a-brac to a local charity shop.
  6. Be creative. Colouring, drawing, modelling or writing a journal will clear your thoughts and help you to see challenges from alternative viewpoints. 
  7. Get out in the fresh air. Getting outside, whatever the weather, is known to relieve feelings of stress and worry. Going for a walk, a bike ride or a jog around the local park will all provide healthy down-time.
  8. Spend time with animals. Animals are excellent at keeping secrets and will love you unconditionally. Take a dog for a walk, clean out a rabbit, hamster or guinea pig hutch. You can talk to a pet and the animal will listen, never interrupt or insist on talking about themself.
  9. Experiment with relaxation techniques. Look for YouTube clips on yoga, mindfulness or breathing exercises. You may find something new that will help you to relax.
  10. Plan ahead. Organise something pleasurable to look forward to: a shopping expedition, inviting a friend to your house, visiting a grandparent, or planning a trip to the cinema or swimming pool.

SHYNESS

‘We can’t all and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it’ 

Eeyore.

In a world that values the extrovert and admires the vocal and gregarious, shyness could be seen as a disadvantage. Unfortunately, many confident, verbose individuals have nothing of value to say, while their quieter counterparts possess the skills that extroverts often lack: thoughtfulness, empathy, loyalty, respect for others and an openness to new ideas.

However, if and when, a shy individual feels the need to appear more outgoing and confident, there are a variety approaches that they could adopt: –

  1. Join a group, so that the focus of attention is on the team rather than the individual; then use that group membership as a way to gradually adjust their mindset.

‘Part of why I started a band was due to feelings of shyness. It was a way to interact with people from a safe distance.’ Jarvis Cocker – musician.

2. Practise being confident. While competent, outgoing people may appear to breeze through presentations, speeches and performances, they will undoubtedly have put in a lot of practice to make it seem so easy. They will have practised and anticipated potential problems: nothing will have been left to chance.

3. Use technology and on-line communication in preference to face to face situations. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is painfully shy, but his world famous compensatory communication system is a phenomenal success.

4. Involve themselves in something they are passionate about in order to overcome their reluctance to be centre stage. 

‘It is sometimes our actions and determination that matters more than the volume of our voice.’ Rosa Parks – political activist.

‘I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.’ Greta Thunberg – environmentalist.

5. Be brave, deliberately stepping outside their comfort zone and making themselves cope with any resulting uncomfortable feelings. 

‘As an introverted child, my mother worried my shyness would hold me back as I got older. To help try and tackle this, my mother always challenged me.’ Richard Branson – entrepreneur.

6. Create an alter-ego. It is a surprising fact that many actors and performers were shy children; Their parents enrolled them for drama classes to help to boost their self-confidence. As a result, the children realised the potential of role play, were able to develop an alternative persona, and change their body language, clothing, appearance and personality in line with this alter-ego. Elton John is known for his outrageous on-stage performance, but admits to playing ‘a part’ in order to separate himself from his inclination towards shyness. 

Some shy individuals will prefer to maintain their natural preferences, and adapt the situation to suit themselves, for example: texting rather than phoning, writing a report rather than giving a presentation, and maintain a wealth of strategies they can use to circumnavigate awkward situations. 

The most common advice seems to be ‘Fake it until you make it.’ You’ll probably find everyone else is doing exactly the same.

Quel est la date de ton anniversaire?

Since 2002 entries for Modern Foreign Language GCSEs have fallen by almost a half. The government hopes that 90% of pupils will be studying a foreign language as part of their EBacc by 2025. With this target in mind, the Department for Education aims to increase the take up of languages, and, consequently have published revised subject content for French, German and Spanish GCSEs.

From 2024, pupils will study the most common vocabulary used in conversation and writing, (high frequency words), as well as grammar and pronunciation. Pupils will be expected to know 1,200 word families at foundation tier and 1,700 word families at higher tier. An example of a word family would be ‘manage’, managed’ and ‘manages’.

Educationalists appear to view these changes with a degree of scepticism. Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says that the changes made will put children off languages, rather than motivate them to take them up. 

‘At a time when pupils need to be enthused to learn languages, the government has chosen to make GCSEs both prescriptive and grinding.’

The main complaint is around the emphasis put on pupils learning the lists of high frequency words. These lists have been published to try to avoid the situation of children being faced in their GCSE exams with words they’ve not seen before 

However, one of the problems of static lists is that in the real-world, pupils will come across words they don’t know all the time, and will have to cope. It would be surprising if children visited European countries and only heard high frequency words. Often it is the low frequency words that provide clues in a conversation, and these words are not static, but relate to current topics of interest, for example, vocabulary linked to Brexit, Covid or the Olympics. Slang and informal words do not appear in the vocabulary lists, yet these are words that are useful for young people to know in order to communicate with same age peers. 

A second problem would be that pupils do not learn vocabulary to the extent teachers would hope. Research suggests that the average learner will learn about half of the words they are taught. Some children will not retain vocabulary because they find rote learning tedious, while other children are unable to memorise lists of random words, regardless of the amount of effort they make.

The overarching problem the government is hoping to solve relates to this perception of MFL exams being unfair because of the unseen vocabulary. It is felt this gives pupils with a good general knowledge and a wide English vocabulary an unfair advantage. These children are the ones who may have visited France / Spain / Germany, and seen road signs, place names, and menus. They may have been to museums, swimming pools, restaurants, stations and shops. In addition, the same pupils may have a good prior knowledge of word families, word origins and the roots of words acquired through regularly reading English literature. These advantaged pupils are likely to come from middle-class and upper-class homes.

The solution to middle class advantage lies outside the MFL classroom. It is ridiculous for the government to bemoan the fact that pupils with a rich vocabulary and good general knowledge will do well in language exams. Of course, they will. 

All educational research points to vocabulary and general knowledge being a vital component of academic success. We should be working to ensure every child has a rich and varied vocabulary. Unfair isn’t the absence of vocabulary lists; unfair is allowing pupils to move through school with poor lexical knowledge.