Learning a foreign language is often perceived as difficult and can be a de-motivating experience for learners, owing to pupils being required to talk about subjects, which are not age-appropriate, or of little interest to them. Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) enables pupils to learn a content subject via a foreign language and also gain an understanding of another culture in a more creative and joined up way.

CLIL proved to be a very popular topic amongst primary teachers participating in our London Schools Excellence Fund (LSEF) project, ‘Professional Language Networks’ and the Legacy Project, ‘Professional Language Network Hubs.’ Time to make good resources and availability of resources, together with support in delivering CLIL are often factors that prevent teachers from attempting to use a CLIL approach. During the LSEF project, four teachers developed some new and innovative materials and lesson plans that have been tried and tested in the classroom, linking Spanish and French with other subjects, such as science, geography, art and design. The resources can by found here. One of the teachers from the LSEF project conducted a research project (as part of an MA course) on the link between CLIL and motivation in primary aged learners and has since gone on to undertake a PhD at Sheffield Hallam University, with her research focus being CLIL and Motivation.

We see CLIL as a way forward primarily because it motivates pupils to learn a language as they can see an immediate use for it. It allows teachers and schools to create an innovative and motivating languages curriculum, which will not only inspire pupils to learn a language, but will also encourage them to want to continue to learn another language beyond GCSE and at university. We recognise that there are important factors to consider and challenges to overcome, for primary and secondary schools, wishing to implement CLIL. That is why support for teachers is so crucial for helping teachers implement CLIL in their schools. That is why we have taken the step to launch our CLIL Centre of Excellence. The launch event took place on Thursday 10 May and was marked by presentations from Dr. Alan Dobson who provided us with the rationale for CLIL and factors promoting effective CLIL, particularly when thinking about the UK context and Pippa Jacobs who has mentored primary teachers in CLIL, as part of two London Schools Excellence Fund Projects. Three teachers provided an overview on how they have implemented CLIL in their classrooms, including one who is now conducting her own research into CLIL and Motivation.

The University of Westminster’s CLIL Centre of Excellence aims to:

to support teachers who are using, or wishing to use, a CLIL approach in language teaching in London and the South of England.

to signpost language teachers towards excellent CLIL practice and resources, including arranging lesson observations in schools where teachers can observe excellent CLIL practice;

to develop new and innovative CLIL resources to support the teaching of languages in schools;

to help schools to increase pupil motivation and attainment in languages as well as their understanding of other cultures;

to work with partners nationally, as well as with partners internationally, to keep abreast of latest research and developments in this area.

It is an exciting time ahead, which will require both determination and patience, whilst keeping our feet on the ground and working realistically within our own context and means. A programme of activities for the new academic year will be available soon. Meanwhile, our next CPD course for CLIL is taking place on Thursday 21 June.