“We must see to it that this work continues – this project has got legs!” Said Baroness Coussins at our LSEF Languages project showcase event, “Foreign Language Capacity in the UK: Showcasing successful engagement”, at the University of Westminster on Tuesday 28 April.
Since September 2014, when teaching a second language to children over the age of 7 became a compulsory part of the curriculum, how many primary teachers have been asked to teach a language to their class for the first time? Or, how many teachers with a skill in a second language have been asked to co-ordinate this subject, or teach across a whole key stage, without support, extra training or guidance of any kind?
Well, this is the case for many hundreds of teachers across the country, but here at the University of Westminster, we have been running a project called “Professional Language Networks” which has been addressing these needs.
The London Schools Excellence Fund, which is part funded by the Department for Education and part funded by the Greater London Authority, has been established by the Mayor of London and has enabled Network for Languages London to provide one on one mentoring support for teachers, meeting them in their schools, finding out what their vision for the development of languages is and facilitating the support, training and upskilling they need to achieve this.
Training courses, local borough workshops and two 3- day summer schools have also given teachers a wide range of opportunities for CPD and a golden opportunity to network with other teachers.
“I don’t feel alone any more.” “It is fantastic to have the chance to bounce ideas off each other, to affirm what I’m already doing, to get new ideas, to benefit from professional dialogue.” “This is the most exciting thing to happen for years!”
These are just a few of the responses we have had from the 130 + teachers we are working with across 8 boroughs in London.
Do the pupils benefit? Of course they do! Teachers feel empowered, more confident, more energised and they are planning fresh new lessons that engage and fascinate their pupils, as we saw from the films of two case studies of schools involved in the project, premiered on Tuesday at the event. For a whole school approach to teaching languages follow this link and for a film about the development of a specialist and non-specialist languages teacher follow this link.
If, as we heard from Peter Mathews CMG, CEO of Black Country Metals Limited and International Trade Ambassador for the West Midlands, this country is crying out for more linguists to boost trade across an increasingly international market, then of course it makes sense to start languages at a younger age and in curriculum time. Tick. But for those who have to deliver this “new curriculum subject” , it is not just a question of clicking fingers and it will magically appear- there must be the proper support for our primary teachers, and when this is provided, they typically respond in kind- with rich, robust teaching, with energy and enthusiasm. This is what we celebrated on Tuesday. Tick? I think so!