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Cambridge English coursebooks and exams help to boost children’s confidence and skills in English. Jonah Champaud from Cambridge University Press & Assessment says a recent project in Chantilly France is a great example of how Cambridge makes a positive difference to people’s lives. He reflects on a study involving over 300 pupils. Findings showed very high levels of motivation and enjoyment when learning English with Cambridge.
“We’ve been working with three state primary schools in the municipality of Chantilly, near Paris since 2018. It was part of a wider project that was supported by the office of the Mayor of Chantilly, which provided Pre-A1 Starters exams for all the primary school pupils in the area. The schools used Fun For as their main English coursebook.
Fun for Starters is a specially designed coursebook for children that helps them to prepare for Pre-A1 Starters, while learning English in an engaging and effective way. Pre-A1 Starters is our qualification for children at the start of their language learning journey. It introduces children to everyday written and spoken English and helps them to gain confidence to improve their English. We wanted to look at the impact of this project in more detail, so a team of Cambridge researchers collected data from pupils, teachers, parents and school leaders as part of the study. The aim was to measure the impact Cambridge was having on their learning journeys.
It was clear that Cambridge was having a really positive impact on both pupils and teachers. We found that pupils were doing well in their tests, with particularly good scores for the speaking part. Most of them were highly motivated to learn English and 95% of pupils we surveyed told us English was important to them. This was a great piece of insight because motivation is such a key part of successfully learning a language. It’s also important that children enjoy their learning experience, which was the case in Chantilly. In fact, 89% of children surveyed said they enjoyed their English, with many of them saying that they find learning English fun.
A big part of our study was to look at why children wanted to learn English in the first place. For many it was simply because they wanted to make friends with other English speakers. Some were influenced by the media, with 61% saying that they wanted to get a better understanding of English so they could watch movies, TV, listen to songs and understand online content. Every single pupil in the survey said that they want to learn English to travel to other countries, which was great to hear because everything we do in Cambridge is about unlocking opportunities and helping their world grow. This emphasis on opportunity showed how our brand is resonating with young learners.
Every pupil that took part in our survey said that tests were important to them and that they enjoyed preparing for the test. Importantly, less than a third of the pupils said that they felt worried about taking the test. This was reassuring because we know test anxiety can be a problem and design our solutions, so they do not put too much pressure on young children. In fact, for this reason, there is no pass or fail Pre A1 Starters, and every child gets a Cambridge English certificate. Exams like Pre-A1 Starters provide a reassuring and confidence-building opportunity for learners to show their full skill in English.
Teachers told us that they liked the Fun for Starters coursebook, because they found it easy to use and said that their pupils found it interesting. They were just as positive about the Cambridge English test too, with 100% of teachers saying that the Pre-A1 Starters test is an important means of assessing pupils’ English and that they were happy that the students receive a Cambridge certificate for their hard work.
Parents are a huge influence in children’s education, so it was great to get their views too. Nearly all of the parents said they felt Pre-A1 Starters would add value to their children’s education, and that they saw the importance of English and of making it a fun experience. The vast majority thought that standardised tests are an important and effective way of measuring progress alongside classroom-based assessment, and almost all were pleased that the schools have introduced Cambridge courses and tests.
Our work in Chantilly primary schools is just one example of how Cambridge can help make a positive change in people’s lives. It was great to see such high levels of confidence in language use and motivation to learn English. This work is all part of our ongoing impact evaluation programme which focuses on looking at the real benefits our English language programmes, exams and courses provide to learners, teachers, parents and schools. It shows how we’re engaging with the French state-school sector, and how we’re having such a positive impact on young learners in France”.
This article was based on the findings of a study looking at the impact of Cambridge English Qualifications for Young learners in French State schools (2018-2022). Jonah Champaud was the Principal Investigator on the study working alongside Dr Brigita Seguis, Sonia Canville and Usman Tahir from Cambridge University Press & Assessment.
Access the summary brochure to learn more about the impact study.