Answers to the most frequently asked questions about getting into NCELP. If you can’t find an answer to your question, please contact us.

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What do people say about NCELP?

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Want to learn more about NCELP and our resources?

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Want to get started using NCELP resources?

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What do people say about NCELP?

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Alice Harrison Head of Department, Reddish Vale High School

“We have been thrilled to have free access to such a well-planned and structured scheme of work. The resources are so well organised and easily adaptable for our classes. It has made a big difference to our workload”

Lynne Kay Course Leader for PGCE Modern Languages, Newcastle University

“Just to also say a big thank you for all the excellent resources you have created on the NCELP Portal. Awesome!…What’s great is having the research, the underpinning principles and extensive resources all in one place”

Pippa Allenby Primary MFL Outreach Teacher for KS2, St Bede's Catholic College

“I think the KS3 SOW is inspirational! Thank you to everyone for all the resources and CPD information and videos. They are fantastic!” 

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Want to learn more about NCELP and our resources?

The National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy (NCELP) is an initiative funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and co-directed by The University of York and The Cam Academy Trust.

NCELP comprises a Centre, based at the University of York, and the network of 9 Lead Schools and their Hubs. As our strapline says, our goal is to understand, improve, and promote the learning of foreign languages.

Our work is to:

  1. Connect classroom practice and research
  2. Develop pedagogy, with resources to deliver it
  3. Improve intrinsic motivation and increase GCSE uptake

The Centre itself now has the equivalent of 15 members of staff who create a wide range of resources, develop and deliver professional development, maintain the resource portal, communicate research findings, monitor progress, address feedback, and provide technical and administrative support.

For more about NCELP, please see our What is NCELP? presentation from our Introduction to NCELP Conference in November 2020.

The NCELP Resource Portal is an open, searchable, and sustainable database for materials supporting language learning and teaching, particularly in the areas of vocabulary, phonics, grammar, meaningful practice, corrective feedback in interaction, and motivation. All our resources are practice and research-informed and fully align with the new Ofsted framework. We draw particularly on the recommendations of the Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review when creating materials.

The Resource Portal holds fully resourced Schemes of Work and lesson resources for French, German and Spanish Years 7 and 8 that can be freely downloaded in two clicks. It also contains professional development for teachers and rationale documents that detail the underlying research-informed principles for our resources. On the portal you can find

  • fully resourced and detailed Schemes of Work that ensure knowledge sequencing and systematic revisiting
  • downloadable 2-lesson PowerPoint / Google Slide sequences for each week of the SOW with phonics, vocabulary and grammar. Each lesson contains speaking, listening, reading and writing activities and extensive teacher notes with aims, timings and procedures for each slide and suggestions for differentiation and extension activities
  • downloadable homework activity and answer sheets with links to NCELP-made Quizlet sets.
  • structured, sequenced vocabulary lists, grammar and phonics materials
  • posters for high frequency verbs and Sound-Symbol Correspondences (SSCs) in French, German and Spanish
  • language guides to support student learning in class and at home
  • assessment tests
  • PowerPoints and screencasts with professional development for teachers
  • Links to other resources made by NCELP including video lessons for French, German and Spanish via the Oak Academy, the Gaming Grammar website/app and the multilingual profiler

A Scheme of Work (in some schools called a Scheme of Learning) can be defined as a plan for the work to be carried out in a defined period of time, whether this is a month, half term, term, year of study etc. It decides the content and structure of the material to be covered in the classroom. Schemes of Work will consider the aims of a course and take into account the subject curriculum and syllabus requirements.

Fully-resourced and detailed Schemes of Work for French, German and Spanish for Years 7 and 8 can be found be clicking on the languages below.

Read our brief how to guide How to download Schemes of Work from the NCELP Resource Portal?

It is also worth looking at the Schemes of Work webpage which groups together all the available Schemes of Work, resource collections, language overview and language guides for French, German and Spanish.

These SOW detail the weekly Phonics, Vocabulary and Grammar focus, learning purpose and context of each week. Select other tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet to see links to all resources, current awarding body vocabulary lists, and grammar and vocabulary tracking over KS3. 

Read our brief guide How to find teaching resources on the NCELP Resource Portal.

NCELP resources are labeled using the following system: Language – Year Number – Term and half term number – Week Number. For example, to find the first lessons for the first week of the school year for French search ‘French Y7 Term 1.1 Week 1 Full lesson’.


We recommend downloading our Schemes of Work as a first step to finding specific resources.

NCELP language guides accompany the Scheme of Work for each language in each year group. They provide succinct grammar explanations, vocabulary lists, and a phonics guide to support students’ independent learning for the whole of the year. They also have QR codes on each page to link to each week’s vocabulary learning on Quizlet. They can be found by clicking the links below

There are also phonics posters that have all the Sound-Symbol Correspondences and their source words on an A4 sheet for French, German and Spanish.

The MFL Pedagogy Review concluded that:

‘Pupils need to gain systematic knowledge of the vocabulary, grammar, and sound and spelling systems (phonics) of their new language, and how these are used by speakers of the language. 

They need to reinforce this knowledge with extensive planned practice and use in order to build the skills needed for communication.’

NCELP’s Schemes of Work and resources build on the findings of this review and develop pedagogy that is research-informed and practice-informed. Engagement with it therefore strengthens subject teachers’ specialist knowledge, a stated Ofsted priority.

Key aspects of NCELP’s rationale

  • Practice is frequent, spaced, meaning and form-focused, and involves an element of struggle. Please see the rationale on meaningful practice, and separate rationales for teaching phonics, vocabulary and grammar and a verb lexicon.
  • The rationales for teaching the core strands of phonics, vocabulary and grammar inform the rationale for our Schemes of Work.
  • Learning is carefully planned to support progression for the vast majority of learners at KS3 within a low exposure foreign language setting.
  • Progression is determined by the functions of grammar, and the frequency and usefulness of vocabulary and phonics, and avoids introducing too much language too fast. 
  • ‘End points’ denote planned progression to the end of KS3 and KS4:
    • Phonics – confidence in understanding and producing the key Sound Symbol Correspondences (SSCs) is established by the end of KS3.
    • Vocabulary – 360 words approximately are taught per year at KS3 and KS4 with systematic revisiting of vocabulary within a month, within a term, and within a year. The focus is to teach the most frequently used vocabulary of the language.
    • Grammar – high-frequency grammar functions are taught and revisited several times over KS3 and KS4, in particular features for persons, subjects, tenses and aspect and a range of key syntax (word order and relations between words).

Not exclusively, but predominantly, yes! According to some estimates, the most common 2000 words represent around 80% of the words in any written text and an even greater percentage of the words in speech (Nation, 2001; Nation & Waring, 1997). The teaching of high frequency words is particularly important during the early stages of language development. If learners do not first learn the most frequent words, they will not be able to say or understand basic things. The MFL Pedagogy Review also found that vocabulary teaching which was too context dependent may prevent vocabulary becoming transferrable and usable in different contexts. In addition, it found that ‘In the early stages of a language course, particular attention should be paid to the planned building of pupils’ verb lexicon, focussing on the meaning of the stem or infinitive form of common verbs. A strong basic verb lexicon has been found to relate positively to pupils’ ability to effectively manipulate those verbs at later stages.’

This explains why NCELP chooses to teach the most frequently used vocabulary first and focus on the most commonly used verbs. However, we do not only teach the most common 2000 words. Words outside the top 2000 are taught in our resources where they support a particular grammar feature, complement the other vocabulary and suit the context.

Our vocabulary rationale document explains the pedagogical thinking and research that has informed our decision to prioritise the most frequently used vocabulary in French, German and Spanish

The 2016 MFL Pedagogy review informs both NCELP pedagogy and the proposed GCSE Subject Content. As a consequence, there is a high degree of alignment.

Our Draft GCSE Subject Content and the NCELP Schemes of Work document outlines the most notable areas of overlap. It shows how NCELP resources and rationales align with the proposed contents, detailing the research that underpins and supports both NCELP’s work and the GCSE subject content. It also details the rationale and research behind the creation of NCELP Schemes of Work, and lesson content on Phonics, Vocabulary and Grammar.

To understand how our NCELP Schemes of Work, resources and rationales align with other key policy documents and influential thinking on pedagogy visit our NCELP alignment with wider policy collection.  

Our New Ofsted framework and NCELP presentation outlines how NCELP principles resonate with Ofsted’s curriculum criteria, intent, implementation, impact and personal development.

To understand how our NCELP Schemes of Work, resources and rationales align with other key policy documents and influential thinking on pedagogy visit our NCELP alignment with wider policy collection.  

The MFL Pedagogy Review underpins NCELP Schemes of Work and resources and also informed the new, proposed GCSE Subject Content. There is therefore a high degree of alignment between NCELP pedagogy and the new GCSE. By end November 2021 NCELP will have a fully resourced Scheme of Work for the three years of KS3 in French, German and Spanish.

This will give teachers plenty of time to prepare for first teaching of the new GCSE in 2023, first exam in 2025.  It is the current Year 7 who will first take the new exam. Teachers and Heads of Languages may therefore consider this an optimum time to look at the KS3 Schemes of Work in more detail, with a view to building the core phonics, vocabulary and grammar knowledge on which the new GCSE exam will be based. The teaching of the sound-symbol correspondences, in particular, is something that can be built in immediately to existing schemes of work. To facilitate this, we have created a phonics collection, with all of the resources from across the KS3 Schemes of Work that present and practise each SSC available in two clicks.

Every lesson contains activities for phonics, vocabulary and grammar practice, and has speaking, listening, reading and writing activities.

Each PowerPoint is a weekly sequence of two 50- minute lessons. A typical 50-minute lesson contains:

  • phonics practice (introduction and/or consolidation)
  • vocabulary revisiting and presentation
  • grammar introduction (pair of features)
  • input practice (listening and reading) practice
  • production practice (speaking and writing) 
  • vocabulary learning homework to prepare for the following week

Tightly focused, topic-based vocabulary is not at the fore because the NCELP SOW propose an explicit spine of grammar and high frequency vocabulary. The SOW are not driven by a need to cover pre-determined topics or communicative functions via a holistic approach to sentences, but rather via a focus on the functions of grammar. Although topics are not the explicit driver, our schemes cluster together small, feasible sets of vocabulary, from all parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions) that are likely to belong to one, broadly-conceived context for learning (or thematic/semantic field). It is also worth noting that the proposed GCSE Subject Content prescribes a frequency-informed vocabulary in place of specific themes and topics. A NALA 2020 teacher survey reported that 73.1% of teachers said that they did not think that GCSE topics were necessary for effective language learning.

Yes, all resources can be used and adapted. The Schemes of Work (SOW) is searchable for specific parts of grammar and language. The resource portal is searchable for these and provides segments of resources, such as phonics, that can be downloaded and used in isolation from other parts of that particular week’s lesson and integrated into a school’s own SOW.

We also have the following resource collections for teachers to incorporate or adapt:

NCELP resources are not aligned to any textbook for French, German and Spanish. Existing textbooks are often ‘topic’ driven with accompanying vocabulary and this is not NCELP’s approach to teaching languages. NCELP adopts a grammar-focused approach to teaching languages with lessons also having a thematic context that is adapted to the purpose of the grammar taught.

However, NCELP grammar activities can easily be used when teaching a grammar point in textbooks. Teachers can search the relevant language Scheme of Work (SOW) for where a grammar point is taught. Click on the ‘Y7/Y8 grammar tracking’ tab or the ‘KS3 Grammar’ tab on the bottom of the SOW to see the lessons in which specific grammar points are taught.

NCELP phonics resources can easily be integrated into a school’s existing SOW. Our Phonics Collection brings together all the NCELP resources created so far for the teaching and practising of each SSC (sound-symbol correspondence). 

This is possible to determine, if your Scheme of Work (SOW) details each word that you have taught, though you may work out the readability of each text manually. 

NCELP has created MultiLingProfiler, a lexical profiling tool that is designed to help teachers assess the suitability of written texts and listening transcripts for inclusion in their classes and assessments. It answers questions like:

  • What percentage of the words in this text are within and outside the 2,000 most frequent words?
  • Does this text contain any words which I will need to gloss or replace?
  • How many of the words in this text have students learned so far?

The tool profiles texts according to each week of the NCELP SOW. Teachers following the NCELP SOW can ascertain which words in a text have already been taught, at any given point in the school year.

For more information about the tool and how to use it, visit our MultiLingProfiler webpage.

NCELP has produced a ‘No-Go Pedagogy’ document that articulates some activities that are highly unlikely to present learners with efficient learning opportunities; those that do not make the most of the limited contact time between teacher and learners in the classroom foreign language learning context.

NCELP resources support target language use in the classroom. Instructions for activities on the lesson PowerPoint slides are in the new language where possible, using concise instructions. Common ‘classroom’ language to facilitate this is taught early in the Schemes of Work.

Rachel Hawkes’s When Less is Definitely More Presentation (at Language World 2020) provides more detail on teacher and student use of the new language in the classroom.

Cultural content is integrated throughout our Schemes of Work, within phonics, vocabulary and grammar strands and activities. In addition to exercises based around the geography and cultural practices of the French, German and Spanish-speaking worlds and famous speakers of these languages, there are regular callouts giving information about tourist attractions, festivals, traditions and sociolinguistic and sociocultural aspects of each language. There are also whole lessons based around rich literary texts such as poems, songs, legends and non-fiction texts. We have created a Cultural Collection to show where specific cultural information and activities can be found in NCELP resources in French, German and Spanish.

BBC has videos available of teachers discussing using NCELP resources: short film on teaching phonics and short film on teaching grammar.

You can also see our resources being used with French, German and Spanish Key Stage 3 lessons from the Oak Academy.

‘Achievement’ tests are built into the NCELP Schemes of Work to take place in February and June each year. These tests, comprising a principled sample of phonics, vocabulary and grammar, evaluate the extent to which students have learnt everything up to the assessment.

‘Applying your knowledge’ tests take place in June each year. These tests bring together Phonics, Vocabulary and Grammar in more holistic assessments. They include more recognisable listening, reading, writing and speaking tasks and assess students’ ability to apply knowledge in context through listening comprehension, oral picture description and short translation tasks.

NCELP provides downloadable ‘paper’ tests, and is trialing the use of online tests in select settings.

For more information, see slides 18-29 in Professor Emma Marsden’s NCELP Keynote (at Inside Government 2020).

Sample assessment questions for Year 7 and Year 8 are downloadable from the resource portal as are the assessment tests themselves. 

These assessment tests are designed not to be practised for, though we do provide a PowerPoint with two examples of every question type for familiarity ahead of the assessment. Here are the practice assessment tests for each language in Year 8.

Teaching resources throughout the year also include ways of practising core knowledge that are similar, for example listening and transcribing Sound-Symbol Correspondences (SSCs), reading unfamiliar words aloud, listening and recognising vocabulary categories etc.

We have created explanation screencasts to explain the rationale behind the design of the assessment tests for the Phonics, Vocabulary and Grammar sections.

Every school has its own requirements for the timing of assessments.  Schools in the NCELP network have used the principles and question types from the NCELP assessments and created smaller tests that fit their own contexts.

Feedback from teachers who have used NCELP resources and attended NCELP training days and other events is available on our testimonials page.

Gaming Grammar is a digital game designed to support foreign language grammar teaching and learning. Learning grammar is important because it can help us understand how we put words together to make phrases and sentences. However, many people find learning grammar a bit dull or difficult, particularly if they are learning grammar in a new language. Gaming Grammar makes grammar practice engaging and motivating, through a suite of mini-games practising a range of grammar features in French, Spanish, and German. Gaming Grammar also integrates into the NCELP Schemes of Work (SOW) as is shown in the ‘Gaming Grammar’ column of the Resource tab on the SOW spreadsheet.

Gaming Grammar can be accessed through web browsers or downloaded from the Apple App store or Google Play store.

We have also created a page with more information about Gaming Grammar, which includes guidance on creating teacher accounts and using the site. Our guide to Gaming Grammar provides further detail and answers frequently asked questions..

The Resource Portal contains a lot of material for teachers including: professional development PowerPoints, screencasts and materials to support teachers new to NCELP methods and resources, illustrate theory and practice, and provide resources for department INSET and meetings

Our Why Teach NCELP Schemes of Work guide details excellent reasons why your school should follow the NCELP Schemes of Work and use our resources.

Please do contact us to see if this can be arranged. The email address for general enquiries, including administrative, financial and organisational issues relating to network schools is enquiries@ncelp.org.

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Want to get started using NCELP resources?

The NCELP Resource Portal holds a variety of professional development materials.

Particularly useful as a starting point for teachers new to NCELP, is the material from the November 2020 An Introduction to NCELP Conference.

To learn more on specific themes, we recommend our suggested series of professional development screencasts for teachers new to NCELP. 

Colleagues also have the option of working through the ‘Teacher Research Group’ (TRG) materials, mirroring the training that teachers who have been involved in the programme as part of our network of schools have received.  The TRGs are run by the nine NCELP Lead Schools for their four Hub schools, supported by NCELP content. 

The TRGs are numbered sequentially, starting with TRG 1.1 on phonics.  Each TRG sub-folder contains a suite of materials that accompany each theme, including PowerPoint presentations, screencasts and related documents, such as rationale documents and research summaries.  The NCELP Bulletin provides notification by email when additional TRG materials have been added, so we also recommend that you subscribe to our mailing list.

NCELP has created screencasts (presentations with voiceover) that explain the rationale and design of the Year 7 and Year 8 Schemes of Work (SOW). There are also language specific Year 8 screencasts explaining the design, rationale and content of the SOW for Y8 French, Y8 German and Y8 Spanish.

Fully-resourced and detailed SOW for French, German and Spanish for Years 7 and 8 can be found by clicking on the languages below.

NCELP resources are labeled using the following system: Language – Year Number – Term and half term number – Week Number. (For example, to find the first lessons for the first week of the school year for French search ‘French Y7 Term 1.1 Week 1 Full lesson’.

We recommend downloading our SOW as a first step to finding specific resources.

Each PowerPoint weekly sequence contains two 50-minute lessons. A typical 50-minute lesson contains:

  • phonics practice (introduction and/or consolidation)
  • vocabulary revisiting and presentation
  • grammar introduction (pair of features)
  • input practice (listening and reading) practice
  • production practice (speaking and writing) 
  • vocabulary learning homework to prepare for the following week.

Detailed teacher support notes about timing, aims, procedure and suggestions for differentiation are also included in the notes section for each slide.

For teachers to get a more concrete idea of how to use a resource, we recommend downloading a PowerPoint lesson sequence, reading through it carefully and then watching the matching Oak video (the link is available in the resource description). Whilst this does not capture the ‘live’ element of the classroom, it is a very useful exercise for getting to know the pedagogy from the perspective of the teacher.

All resources can be downloaded in one go using the ‘download all’ function in a collection on the Resource Portal. Read our brief guide on how to download all resources for a language year group from the NCELP Resource Portal.

However, PowerPoints can be downloaded individually before lessons as NCELP resource developers revisit PowerPoints from time to time to improve and update resources. The most recent version will always be available on the Resource Portal.

Our Exemplary Activities Collection of templates and example activities contains worked examples of favourite activity types for phonics, vocabulary and grammar practice. These editable slides can be adapted by teachers to suit their own purposes and Schemes of Work.

Although the resources may be presented in a specific language, most are applicable and adaptable to other languages.

Our Quizlet guide explains how to set up accounts, what issues to bear in mind and how to make best use of the flashcards sets and activities on Quizlet, including how teachers can monitor pupil progress.

You can also find Quizlet vocabulary sets for each language and year group. 

You can find out about news and forthcoming events by subscribing to our mailing list or by looking at the news + events webpage.

NCELP emails weekly bulletins which are sent to network schools and subscribers. These emails contain details of new and updated resources on the portal, other additions to the portal, details of forthcoming events and work, suggested professional development activities and general NCELP news. Please subscribe to our mailing list or contact us with any queries.

Many NCELP schools have made use of the Schemes of Work overview documents for their school websites. These provide a clear, succinct summary of the curricula for Year 7 and Year 8.