A Study of Free School Meal (FSM) and Non Free School Meal (NFSM) Students Perceptions’ of Learning Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) and the extent to which these perceptions can be influenced by a Family Learning Intervention.
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Research shows that FSM students do not achieve as well as their NFSM peers. FSM students can face different types of barriers to their learning. These include material barriers such as a lack of resources, social barriers such as low aspirations and low parental education, and personal barriers such as low confidence. This action research took place over a six month period at a secondary school in the south Wales Valleys with a whole-school FSM student percentage higher than the average for Wales. The aims were to investigate how and to what extent the perceptions of FSM students and NFSM students differed with regard to learning MFL and whether or not gender and age influenced these perceptions. It also evaluated the effect of how a ‘Family Learning’ intervention (with parents learning Spanish alongside their children during Saturday sessions) might change FSM students’ perceptions of studying MFL. The study aimed to reduce the impact of poverty on educational attainment, whilst improving learning outcomes for all students. The use of a different questionnaire prior to and after the intervention and further focus groups allowed a comparison of the data to be made and the intervention to be evaluated. The findings showed that before the intervention FSM students perceived learning MFL negatively in comparison to NFSM students. Older FSM boys expressed the most negative views. Overall, the family learning intervention had a positive impact on FSM students’ perceptions of studying a MFL and that uptake of a MFL at GCSE by FSM students also marginally increased. The opinions of NSFM students towards learning MFL were also more positive after the intervention and uptake of MFL at GCSE also increased with NFSM students. Parents of both FSM and NFSM students responded positively to the intervention and expressed a desire for it to be extended to other subject areas in the future.
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