Sue Freestone, Principal of King’s Ely, discusses why teaching children foreign languages is a vital component of them becoming members of a global community
We welcomed Sarah Schechter from Anglia Ruskin University to our morning assembly recently. She had come to present certificates to our merry band of young language leaders who help to teach younger students a wide range of modern foreign languages and carry high the torch of internationalism. The organisation Sarah was representing, Routes into Languages, works with government and is keen to drive home the message that the country needs linguists, the lack of whom is costing the nation upwards of £48 billion a year simply because the British do not speak foreign languages and seem to believe that everyone else speaks English.
The leaders are taught a range of teaching techniques and move on to prepare and teach two lessons to year seven students. They are linguistic ambassadors who also mentor fellow students, lead a year nine song competition and create pages on our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for younger pupils.
King’s Ely is a school which believes in the transformative power of education and that, as members of a global community, language learning is key to the sharing of ideas, to mobility across borders and even the breaking down of ideological barriers.
Language learning is key to the sharing of ideas and the breaking down of ideological barriers
In September, we welcomed over 40 students and teachers from Spain, Germany, Italy, Finland, Sweden and Poland to the school as part of Erasmus+, the EU’s programme for education, training, youth and sport. King’s Ely was selected as the only school in Britain to take part in this online learning project by the lead partner school, Liceo Scientifico Galileo Galilei, Pescara, Italy. Collaboratively, we are developing common digital resources which can be shared by schools across Europe in a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC).
So, if language is about international communication, language-learning strands at King’s Ely are manifold, and we’ve just been re-accredited with the British Council’s International School Award for what they call our “fantastic” international work. This is because our pupils have been fostering links with schools in France, Spain, Czech Republic, Latvia, Poland, Greece as well as further afield in India and Réunion Island. As well as developing language skills, students have worked on various cross-curricular projects and participated in the eTwinning programme, gaining European Quality Certificates for their projects. In June pupils were awarded the prize for best “peer-to-peer learning” at the National eTwinning Conference.
British Council chief executive, Sir Ciarán Devane, said: “The school’s fantastic international work has rightfully earned it this prestigious award. The International School Award is a great chance for schools to demonstrate the important work they’re doing to bring the world into their classrooms. Adding an international dimension to children’s education ensures that they are truly global citizens and helps prepare them for successful future careers in an increasingly global economy.” Justine Greening, International Development Secretary added: “Young people must be at the heart of our work to create a safer and more prosperous world for everyone, and we need to ensure their voices are heard if we are to win the fight against global poverty. That is why I am delighted to celebrate the international work of King’s Ely and the energy and passion of the young people involved.”