Anyone working on a London Schools Excellence Fund project will know that undertaking your projects, whatever subject area and in whatever region of London, is tough. Tough, but rewarding. When you see exactly the kinds of enrichment and inspiration your project has brought to teachers and their pupils, it makes it all worthwhile.
That’s why it was great to attend Network for Languages London’s event in the University of Westminster’s Regent Street campus. The event celebrated the successes of the project so far by premiering two video case studies of participating schools and hosted a distinguished line up of speakers – Baroness Coussins, Deputy Mayor for Education, Munira Mirza and business guru and languages advocate, Peter Mathews.
Why are languages so important?
“Languages are important for UK economy, diplomacy, defence and homeland security – the reopening of the foreign office language school is testament to the increasing importance being placed on languages,” said Baroness Coussins.
“Business cries out for languages!” agreed Peter Mathews. “I’m totally convinced that this country – one of the most reliable trading partners in the world – misses big opportunities due to a lack of language proficiency in the marketplace.”
The importance of languages is being recognised, though. Network for Languages London is one of 11 projects supported by the London Schools Excellence Fund (LSEF). Following an education enquiry, languages was highlighted as a key area for support, which is why LSEF funding has been provided to bolster such projects.
“We’re delighted to have supported this project,” said Munira Mirza. “As a city we’re conscious that London has to engage with increasingly globalised world to succeed.”
As well as the business benefits, the cultural and personal benefits are also in abundance. As Baroness Coussins pointed out, learning a foreign language:
- Broadens horizons and promotes inter-cultural understanding.
- Has wider cognitive benefits to children – the process of learning a language makes children more receptive to learning everything across the board.
- Is fun!
As languages are becoming more and more important in today’s society – especially in London – she stressed the importance of giving projects like Network For Languages London the opportunity to continue to deliver beyond their initial funding.
But to secure extra funding, you need to demonstrate success – and how better to do so than with two video case studies of schools that are thriving as part of the project?
The Network For Languages London project has been incredibly timely, with the introduction of compulsory language teaching at KS2, introduced in September 2014.
Network For Languages London has supported the development of language learning, both in languages teachers and non-language teachers, across a number of London boroughs. It offers professional development, courses, conferences and professional networks to those involved.
The two video case studies were from St Stephen’s Primary School in Shepherd’s Bush and Chalkhill Primary School in Wembley. Both schools had Spanish as their core second language, although Network For Languages London supports a number of languages, including French, German and Italian.
St Stephen’s Primary School focussed on school-wide, curriculum-wide integration of Spanish into lessons – supporting the resident Spanish teacher to work alongside non-Spanish speaking teachers to help them learn vocabulary and collaborate on lesson plans in subjects like Geography.
The video speaks for itself – watch the case study:
Similarly, Chalkhill Primary School also took a whole-school approach to having Spanish spoken in as many lessons as possible. With one Spanish teacher to 540 children, it was important to get non-linguists up to speed and make them think about how they could integrate Spanish into their lessons.
See the results in this video:
Domini Stone, Network for Languages London’s Regional Manager said that they have found that there is a huge demand for the support the project is offering. They are looking at ways of continuing beyond September, when LSEF funding ends.
Baroness Coussins stressed that continuing projects like this is imperative: “This project has legs and can deliver long-term strategic outcomes. It needs to continue,” she concluded.
To find out more about Network for Languages’ LSEF project, go to www.networkforlanguageslondon.org.uk. You can also follow them on Twitter @languageslondon.