TRADITIONALLY, the British may not be the greatest linguists, but one Mid Cheshire school is making sure its pupils are well grounded in at least one European tongue.
As the EU and international trade become more important, speaking English and a European language has never been more valuable, and St Mary's Primary School in Middlewich is working to make sure all its students leave for high school with a working knowledge of French.
School manager, Sue Noyce, said: 'We are committed to providing a broad and balanced curriculum and, as a European state in the modern world, that includes a foundation in at least one language other than English. This will soon be a Government necessity, but we got there a little bit sooner and have been teaching French to all our pupils for four years now.'
Ms Noyce believes the lessons have made a big difference to pupils' enjoyment of the entire curriculum. She said: 'It's important in itself, and I'm glad we are helping to make sure the youngsters won't be frustrated when they travel abroad and look to find employment.
'But it also builds confidence and helps children learn in other areas. They are at exactly the right age to soak up new languages and information and once they are faced with something like a language it makes some of the other things they are asked to learn seem more achievable. It's been so good so far that I am hoping we might be able to start teaching other languages as well,
maybe through after-school clubs.'
On Mondays and Tuesdays, St Mary's pupils spend am hour learning French. Former secondary school teacher Emma Barr teaches the language, using sing-songs and nursery rhymes to begin with before moving onto a computer programme and on-screen games for older children.
She said: 'They are at the ideal age - in some ways it is easier than teaching secondary school children as they remember so much and it doesn't occur to them to think it's too hard.
'As long as they enjoy the lessons they keep working and as long as they
keep working they get better.'
The approach is already having an effect on the children's progress later in life. Ms Barr said: 'Most of the children go on to St Nicholas RC High School in Northwich, which is already altering its language curriculum to the new needs of the children.
'In effect, they should be ready to take GCSE by Year 9, rather than Year 11 as at present. Our next stage will be to enable the rest of the staff to teach French - it can only be beneficial to let the children know everyone can do it, after all.'