Case studies from headteachers

Three schools, three regions, three approaches... three headteachers discuss their experiences

Brighton Hill Community College

David Eyre, headteacher, Basingstoke

Quote:

“Our events highlight to students that, no matter what path they might take in life, languages are always an asset.”

At Brighton Hill Community College, a Specialist Sports and Languages College, we firmly believe that knowledge of a modern foreign language is an asset to all students regardless of ability or interests.

As of September 2008 we have made languages a core subject and offer a range of qualifications (GCSE, ASSET and International ASDAN Award) to enable all students to leave school with a recognised achievement in at least one language. With a firm focus on languages for all, we have also organised a very popular German football league for the last 2 years in an effort to reach even the most disaffected of boys and run a variety of trips abroad in both Key Stage 3 and 4, involving a mixture of sport, culture and extended language-learning. This academic year the Director of Specialisms has also funded cross-curricular projects in all other faculties to strengthen the effect of languages across the College.

In addition to this we host and deliver a number of events to ensure that students across the borough are aware of the importance of languages and cultural understanding. These include a Key Stage 4 Borough-wide Languages Challenge (organised in conjunction with Basingstoke Partners) and a Year 8 One Day Languages School for Gifted and Talented students as well as our own in-College events such as international cooking and dance to celebrate European Day of Languages every September. Where possible we try to involve representatives of a wide range of businesses and backgrounds in our events to highlight to students that, no matter what path they might take in life, languages are always an asset.

St. Bede's Catholic School & Sixth Form College

Maureen Bates, headteacher, County Durham

The Leadership of our school is committed to promoting Modern Foreign Languages which is compulsory to the age of 16 in a Language College. There is whole school support for the range of strategies employed to enhance our students’ experience. Our international ethos was launched at the outset of the academic year with our vibrant International ‘Week of Languages and Celebration of Other Cultures’; this involved, not only our own community but the local community of parents and supporters.

For a rural community, forging close links with people from other countries and cultures broadens our students’ minds. We actively encourage such contact through exchanges and study visits; by inviting native speakers of other languages into school; through use of links with schools abroad via video conference and shared blog. Our students see a new purpose in their learning, a genuine need to be able to communicate for their audience.

Work Related Learning is key to success: members of the NE community who use a language in a range of careers from hotel management to journalism; taster sessions for AS, involving students from local HE institutions. We are piloting CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning ) with some Year 7 students via Geography, ICT, Science and Technology (for example, teaching Geography in French). Schemes of Work for Year 7 MFL are based on cross-curricular themes, with a new emphasis on TL culture via cinema.

Finally, we are involved in a project with several other schools, the TDA, the National Youth Theatre and the British Council to explore how drama can increase motivation and consequently uptake in MFL. In addition, inspired by our initial experiences we have dedicated 1 hour of curriculum time per week for all Y7 students to drama taught in French.

Bournemouth School

John Granger, headteacher, Dorset

Quote:

“We chose languages as a specialism because of our belief that our students would have to cope in an increasingly competitive and globalized world.”

Bournemouth School, a boys grammar school with 1,050 pupils, became a Specialist Languages College in 2000. We chose languages as a specialism because of our belief that our students would have to cope in an increasingly competitive and globalized world.

Languages were not traditionally a particular strength of Bournemouth School and choosing languages as our specialism has enabled us to concentrate on this curriculum area and develop it.

Within the school, all boys study two modern foreign languages at key stage 3 as well as Latin. At least one language is compulsory at GCSE and we certainly encourage pupils to study more. Within our curriculum, we offer French, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese. Through our extended day classes, our pupils and members of the local community can study an even wider range of languages including Arabic and Portuguese.

We offer a very wide and varied language experience for our pupils which include language days for all pupils in years 7-11. We suspend the normal timetable on these days and offer a cross-curricular experience. For example, the year 10 language day is an enterprise day in which pupils design a product which they must market to foreign visitors.

At Bournemouth School we have also developed very strong links with our local primary schools. We support the teaching of a range of languages in these schools from year 1 through to year 6. We encourage our students to become involved in this teaching and ensure primary pupils can visit our school regularly.

In 2008, we face very different challenges to those of only 8 years ago. We firmly believe that encouraging language learning from an early age, whilst ensuring pupils see the relevance of their learning in the real world, is the best way of developing lifelong language learners.