opinion – Page 2 – ¡Vámonos!
 

Category: opinion

Uploaded on November 21, 2009 by eyesplash Mikul

There has been much debate about the status of Primary Language Learning, beginning when the General Election process led to the rejection of The New Primary Curriculum being added to the Statute books.  Will the entitlement become statutory or will, heaven forbid, PLL be abandoned?

Forums have been buzzing with ideas opinions and worries.

Today, Kate Board, Chief Executive of CILT wrote the following letter to one such fora:-

Dear colleagues

In light of recent discussions on the forum, we thought it important to clarify the current status of languages at Key Stage 2.

Key Stage 2 languages do not currently have the legal status to become statutory in September 2011. However, the entitlement to learn a foreign language in Key Stage 2 still stands, having come into effect this year.

As many of you are aware, reforming the primary curriculum was one of the key provisions removed from the Children Schools and Families Bill during consideration of Lords Amendments in April 2010. The introduction of statutory languages in Key Stage 2 from September 2011 was part of the proposed new primary curriculum and therefore was also removed from the Bill. (For more information, please see the Children Schools and Families Bill

The future shape of the primary curriculum and the statutory status of languages will depend on the policies of the new government. CILT is in close contact with Baroness Coussins, and others in a position of influence through the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, and we are very grateful to her for raising this issue so prominently. We will continue to work together to encourage this dialogue and to promote the further development of language teaching in the primary school.

Kind regards,

Kate Board

Chief Executive

CILT, the National Centre for Languages

As far as I’m concerned, I passionately believe in Primary Languages and will fight for the continuance of a policy that gives pupils the right and entitlement to learn other languages during their Primary years.

This video speaks for itself.

Very thought provoking as a parent and an educator. I’m taking it as a challenge at the start of a new academic year.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSVMht1VrMc&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999&border=1]


I read the above Tweet and decided to investigate.

It took me to Building Peace, the blog of Reach364, a Captain in the US Airforce and C-17 pilot, and a post that begins with a question –

Why should American military officers learn foreign languages? For that matter, why should Foreign Service Officers or any other representatives of the American government?

And whilst the context of the article is military, considering the situation in Afghanistan and Jordan, the comments Reach makes are relevant to language learning in general, not just in volatile situations.

Acknowledging that advances in technology and translation software mean that people can ‘talk’ to one another without being able to speak the language, Reach makes the following statement –

I still believe learning human languages the old fashioned way is important. Why? This is the crux: foreign language ability is not just about converting information from one format to another. It’s about human relationships.

He talks of language as ‘a way of building relationships, of winning trust.‘ Couldn’t agree more. How many times have I been met with a beaming smile and extra special attention because I spoke in Spanish, French, Catalan, or even when I attempted to speak German in Switzerland? I see it as a mark of respect to attempt to communicate in someone’s language, even if it is a job to get your mouth around the sounds and intonation. I’ve mentioned before that some of my favourite and most rewarding teaching experiences have been when pupils have led, sharing their experiences and language with joy and pride – and been amused by my efforts!

As Nelson Mandela said –

Reach concludes –

Language is extremely hard. We need as many language solutions as we can get, and technology certainly can and should help fill the gap. But no matter how good the technology gets, no matter how prevalent English becomes, old-fashioned speaking of a foreign language still matters.

Certainly with him there.

What do you think?



Today I attended The International School Award – Celebration of Excellence at Birmingham’s ICC. Lots of people attending came from schools that had achieved the Full award three times and there were prizes for them this afternoon. One school is unique in having achieved it four times in the 10 year history of the ISA.

There were lots of inspiring speakers, from schools, from management, from national organisations and even from the BBC. Here are some of the thoughts I managed to get down!

David Garner from QCA spoke about the International Dimension in the context of the new curriculum, sharing how it is deeply entwined and embedded into both the secondary and primary context.
He spoke of the challenge to develop the new curriculum- see slide below, and of how the 2020 vision following the Gilbert Review aims to do so. He introduced Naomi Moris, one of the Prime Misister’s Global Fellows who, along with other Fellows, went to China for 6 weeks – 2 weeks looking at cultural aspects of life, 2 weeks spent in a business and 2 weeks in education and completing a project. Her observation was –

I noted that we were all exactly the same, but whilst we are complacent, they (the Chinese with whom she came into contact) are striving to achieve the best.’

Another observation that David brought to us came from an African teacher on a reciprocal visit, highlighting a difference in priorities –

‘When you came to us, you are an honoured guest. When I visit you, I am a resource’

We want to develop young people who fit the criteria on the right – how will we do it? David commented on how a project in India impressed visitors who commented that it was resource poor, activity rich – in our country, so often the reverse is true.

David also shared some new publications from QCA entitled

  • The Global Dimension
  • Sustainable Development
  • Community Cohesion in action (to follow next year)

John Phillips , Assocaite Head, Hillside High School, Sefton
shared that the ISA is all about children. And demonstrated it by bringing some of the pupils to share their experiences.

‘Working internationally, if it ever was an add on, isn’t anymore. Kids only get one chance at school, and it’s up to us to ‘drip feed’ changes lives. We have opportunities now that 50 years ago weren’t given kids and teachers are empowered now.’

and then developed into their own At Hillside High School, international links started with European Studies project 1986-1992 and developed into their own project – Czech Mates before in 1997 Comenius emerged followed two years later in 1999 by ISA.
One pupil reported on a Performing Arts project involving cookery, dancing, art; another
young lady talked about a poster / banner collaboration between Sefton and Slovakia – using Skype and Adobe Photoshop. A young man talked of an international maths seminar – held in Sefton with several nations represented, solving maths problems together. And Danny Murphy – not the footballer!- reported on radio days, a four hour show that went out over the Internet to many countries – it was lots of work but great fun.

Audrey Nicholson, International Coordinator at Carlton Digby School
Carlton Digby is a small special school in Nottinghamshire and two of its pupils, Luana and Mia delivered the presentation beautifully with details of their activities such as China Day, raising money for a water pump at a school in Uganda, visits from other countries. ‘We had lots of fun!’ was the phrase that jumped out at me, especially as they taught us a song (see photo) with signs!

Ann Suthern, International Coordinator, Durham Trinity School
Ann talked about the 183 pupils at special school and gave us ideas of projects they had done – touching and feeling ingredients, matching shoes to people and a number of partner schools taking a photo of the view from their window at a set time on a set day – and then comparing and contrasting them

Kevin McCabe, Executive Headteacher, Birmingham City Council
Kevin spoke very charismatically about the profound effect of the International dimension and specifically the ISA on teaching and learning, and how in his experience it has helped improve standards as well as the lives of the kids with whom he was working.

‘The ISA is all about shared experiences between teachers and pupils. It is not given to individuals but to teams of committed people.’

For Kevin, the ISA
has been the encouragement of giving kids things with which to be engaged. The first contact from partner schools inspired an overnight improvement in writing as the careful, neat handwriting of their correspondents led to them taking extra care in an attempt to emulate it. The letters they wrote were not seen as work, and the pupils were motivated by communication with their peers. Kevin left us with a piece of advice he was given before going to India-

‘smell it, live it, eat it and then know that your life will never be the same again.’

Paul Keogh MBE, described by Feargal Keane later in the afternoon as ‘the Peter Kay of language teaching’ is Head of Languages and AST at King James’s, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. He woke us all up after lunch with braingym in French, the alphabet march and airwriting with hands, noses and bottoms! Very amusing!
He was followed by Maggie Semple OBE, Chief Executive, The Experience Corps Ltd

Maggie talked about how at home as a child she had an international environment (her parents are from British Guyana )but at school not. Education saw people who were different as a deficit – lost to learning.
Maggie related the story of Mrs Jefferys, one of her primary school teachers who tried to make her feel part of the class by using Anansi stories and getting Maggie to read. She;d made assumptins that weren’t correct but her intentions were good. It wouldn’t happen today – teacher wanted to include but went the wrong way about it. Over the years, language and action has evolved.

Her next anecdote came from the opening of the Wallace and Gromit exhibition. As the doors opened, it was the adults who ran through the exhibition not the kids. ADULTS playing – going back to themselves and enjoying playing. Maggie believes that the ISA has enabled us to play again – to do fun things like drawing with our backsides!!
Finally, Maggie talked of how people used to find it hard to get a handle on her- nowadays she is less likely to find comments in playgrounds about differences. She was recently in a museum about to start a PDA search. The kids had done it first and interacted with one another about their learning. Maggie asked a child how to cheat and fnish quickly to which the child said ‘but why would you want to cheat? It’s about learning!’ Through the ISA we’ve allowed kids to be honest about what they do and think.

Really thought provoking!

Feargal Keane, BBC Special Correspondent
I’d been really looking forward to hearing Feargal Keane speak – and he didn’t disappoint! He started by praising all the schools represented for boosting the moral capital of their schools and for ‘not being in it for the money.’
He then read a poem, All of these people by Michael Lumley that he had carried around in all warzones that raises the question – who can bring peace to people who are not civilised?
Feargal spoke of an idea of interdependence – of homes, communities and a world where people recognise their dependence on each other not just for money or food, but a mutual dependence where we recognise and see shared humanity and grasp it in every way we can, putting the ideal of that poem into practical effect..

He commented that there is a virus of fear at large in society; news items are full of fear, the
power of media leads to conspiracy theories which kids believe. And if kids are not taught to question orthodoxy and what is in front of them, they won’t be able to take responsible decisions. (At the same time he did acknowledge that this needs to be balanced with need for authority and discipline in schools!) Feargal said that he is worried by negative views of young people in the media, the constant stereotyping of them as yobs as if you tell people enough times, they’ll believe it. He suggested that there is a need for a greater willingness to listen to voice of the young people – what do they have to say? – as he spoke passionately of his experiences in South Africa and of contact with a Cameroon pygmy village.

Feargal Keane is well known for his coverage of the Rwandan genocide, and it is obviously something about which he will always speak with great passion. He pointed out that one reason it happened was because the education system was corrupted- for example, Tutsis made to stand up throughout history lesson whilst Hutus were told that Tutsis were evil. The genocide was described as ‘claustrophobic airless hell’ with a million killed in 100 days.

Feargal then told us the story of Valentina who hid and survived under bodies of her parents for weeks after the neighbours killed her parents and her brother . She had been severely wounded and was very very ill, but alive – just. Three years later, he went back to find that she had survived. A video was made of the story for the BBC, and that video caused many many schools to contribute to set up a fund for her education. She was sent to High School and two years ago Valentina came to London to speak at genocide memorial day and made a confident speech. She is now at University in USA, speaks fluent english and is doing medical studies to give back to her community.

Feargal’s point was that people who sent that money made all the difference in the world to that child. You can’t change the world on your own but we have a human obligation to make the attempt and reach out to one individual to make a connection. No man is an island – we are all part of the main. Politicians move on becasue another thing cmes along demanding their attention, but we have to keep on at it. As educators, we have a social responsibility – the need to enable kids to make informed decisions – to illustrate this, Feargal gave the example of one of his teachers, Jerome Kelly who gave 2 lessons RE and 3 of philospophy instead of the 5 of RE he was supposed to teach.
Feargal summed up his thoughts by saying

‘People are people because of other people.
We are who we are through our relati

onships and interactions through others.’

I think that is the message I’d like to conclude on, but a small postscript. Following on from this, there was a presentation for schools that had achieved the ISA three times. And one of my abiding memories of the day will the girl from Carlton Digby school ( i think it was Luana!) who, rather than settling for the sedate walk and handshake favoured by others, was so excited that she ran across the platform, launched herself at Feargal Keane and threw her arms around him. And he didn’t seem at all phased! a lovey moment!


Just read an interesting article in The Telegraph Education section with the above title. It reports on a group in the Harrogate area called French for Fidgets (a great name for the group!) that teaches French to toddlers through song and games. Taking kids as young as 18 months, their philosophy is –

“… to make it fun. When devising these classes, I asked myself what children this age enjoy doing and the answer was singing, eating and rolling around the floor. So that’s what we do. It just happens we speak French while we’re doing it.”

I’ve taught Kindergarten at a previous school and also had pupils as young as 18 months, so I can completely agree with and endorse the benefits of catching them early. In fact there were children with emergent speech who had as many words in Spanish as in English – and all that from 20 minutes first thing on a Monday! The analogy ‘little sponges’ is a very apt one.

And research backs this up – Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith of the Birkbeck Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development in London is quoted in the article saying –

“Right from birth, the brain has the capacity to learn three or four different languages and in many countries that’s what happens,” she says. “In fact, the majority of children in the world are bilingual, either because their country has a number of borders or because their parents speak different languages.

“The typical pattern is for a child to learn one language from their father, one from their mother and another at school or in the street. As for brain capacity, I know children with Down’s syndrome who have three languages simultaneously. The truth is that languages shouldn’t be introduced at primary school, but at nursery school.”

And she concludes with a radical idea-

“Teach a language at nursery school and you won’t need to teach it at secondary,” she maintains. “By that time, the children will already be able to speak it.”


It’s a thought – what do you think?


I couldn’t resist sharing this video with you. In my befuddled bunged up state, I thought it was a interesting take on Star Wars, made by those who want Catalan to be given more prominence and power, and feel aggrieved by its treatment by Spanish authorities.

En una galàxia molt, però molt fatxa….

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DSCN0704, originally uploaded by lisibo.

We’re now over half way through the school holidays and time is flying. My thoughts are already turning to the new academic year – I’ve been invited to do an ICT action research project next year and I need to decide on the title, I’m speaking at three conferences (so far!) so am thinking about those, I need to start resourcing the new Spanish SoW for KS2 at school and I’m planning an animation club so need to make sure that’s in hand too.

In the light of this, I was struck by the ‘Cita de hoy’ from About.com

El trabajo más productivo es el que sale de los manos de un hombre contento.
(Victor Pauchet)
(the most productive work is that which comes from the hands
of a happy man)

I’m having a good holidays and feel happier than I have in a long time – so I’d better get to it, hadn’t I?

But I’ll also be bearing these words in mind when term starts and life is getting me down – I think my bike will be seeing some action ;o)

PS you can sign up for the Dichos refranes y citas newsletter here.

Picture taken at Greenwood Forest Park.

After my week in Anglesey (pictures on Flickr!) I returned to a mammoth list of posts to read in Google reader. I’ve now waded through them and am back to a nice clean page (until someone else blogs!)

This post on About.com -Spanish language caught my eye-


Reporting on an article in the Telegraph , it seems that Barcelona FC cancelled their flight to the USA on Air Berlin as the company refused to deliver the in-flight communications in Catalan. The club’s President, Joan Laporta is involved in the promotion of Catalan and the decision, it seems, was made as a matter of principle.


Whilst I can support the right of people to speak and promote their language, especially in the light of the treatment meted out by Franco to Catalan, Basque and Gallego, and in light of recent discussions, I’m wondering…
how realistic the demands are on a low cost airline? As the spokeman for Air Berlin said, it would involve a great effort.
how far the right to have announcements in your language could be taken – will those from Valencia expect valencià to be spoken whilst those from Mallorca would want them to ‘xerrar es mallorquí’ ?
how much it was for the entourage rather than the players – although the manager is now Pep Guardiola – Catalan through and through – and there are a number of players from Barcelona, there are others who perhaps would be more comfortable in Spanish – or perhaps they should have asked for announcements in Portuguese, French and Icelandic as well?

And one last thing – does anyone pay attention to the inflight announcements anyway?


There’s been lots of football going on around here – I’m making no apologies for it as it’s part of me and therefore part of my blog. Added to that, it is relevant to my ‘mission statement’ of making PLL relevant and fun, as proved earlier this week.

It was my assembly on Thursday – actually it seems to be my assembly every Thursday! – and the theme for the week was Happiness. I talked about Sunday night when Spain had been playing Italy and how I had felt sick when it went to penalties, and then about the match that was happening that evening between Spain and Russia. I talked about my friend Nick who supports Russia and how one of us would be very happy and one would be sad on Friday morning.
Come Friday morning, I walked down the path into the playground and felt like royalty as so many kids stared cheering and shouting and hugging me as if I had personally led the Spanish to victory. It was amazing! And what’s even better, they were shouting in Spanish! They love learning Spanish, and this has given them another reasn why their learning is relevant to their lives. Some of them even commented on John Motson’s pronunciation – good on you, kids!

So I am SO looking forward to seeing them tomorrow – it’s my day off but I’m going in anyway, just so we can all dance around the playground, chanting
¡Campeones! ¡Campeones! ¡Olé, olé, olé!

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