Languages: inspiring the future in Oldham

19 Jun 2014

Last year’s national winner of the British Academy Schools Language Awards was Oldham Sixth Form College, for their project in which A level language students act as ambassadors for languages in primary and secondary schools throughout the borough. Sarah Shaw, French teacher and school liaison officer at the college, describes how the project has already reached out to more than 1000 young people to inspire them in their language learning.

Like many sixth form colleges located in more deprived towns, OSFC faces the sarah shawchallenge of encouraging young people to pursue languages post 16 by breaking down the perception that they are reserved for the more able and ‘elite’. Therefore, In June 2013, the College’s Modern Foreign Languages team put their heads together and decided to reach out to young people in local secondary schools – before they chose their GCSE options- with the aim of promoting languages as a valuable, realistic and achievable route for all.

It was the overwhelming response from local primary and secondary schools, as well as the enthusiasm and passion of the College’s own A Level language students, that spurred the team on to develop the ambitious LIFT Project; Languages: Inspiring Futures Together. As A Level French student Krishmeela Rittoo says, “Learning a language is useful regardless of your ambition in life, and it will open you up to many opportunities. I think too many people are not aware of these long term benefits so I was really happy to get involved in LIFT”.

Since the LIFT Project was announced the National Winner in November 2013, over 1000 young people aged from 9 to 20 have taken part in the programme. “Winning this award has enabled us to make our vision reality and we are delighted by the positive response we have received from schools,” says Sarah Shaw, French Tutor and LIFT Project Manager.

A team of 15 OSFC A Level language students have delivered almost 30 LIFT Roadshow sessions, which target pupils in year 8 and 9 to raise the awareness of the value of languages, in secondary schools across the borough. “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of the LIFT team,” says A Level student Katy Haigh who has been involved in the Project since the beginning. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the pupils and I hope I have inspired them to continue French to a higher level.” Chris Gough, one of the teachers involved at Saddleworth School added “The Roadshow was insightful and enlightening for our pupils. The students gave a fascinating account of foreign language study beyond GCSE.”
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the project is the LIFT Little Linguists, which targets primary aged pupils. It’s unique because it’s delivered exclusively by A Level students, who are trained to run five weekly French clubs in local primary schools.  The idea is to ignite enthusiasm and curiosity about language learning, and to teach the pupils useful language skills. Carl Jones, Enrichment Manager at Holy Cross Primary Schools says, “The pupils thoroughly enjoyed the classes and were engaged throughout. The A Level students produced high quality lessons and were able to inspire the children to learn more French. The programme was a great success due completely to work and effort by the students.” This success has led to the creation of a Primary Languages Day which is being held mid June at the College and which will see over 100 year 4 and 5 pupils take part in a full day of language learning activities.

With fewer students pursuing languages at university, a key angle of the project has been to encourage current A Level students to continue studying languages at HE through the LIFT Booster. During the Easter break, 22 A Level French students took part in a revision session supported by former OSFC students who are currently studying languages at university. Having the opportunity to work alongside undergraduates was a real inspiration, and hearing about their plans for their year abroad was particularly motivating. David Robinson, currently studying French and Spanish at the University of Leeds, takes every opportunity to come back into College to promote language learning. “No other subjects offer the same personal satisfaction as studying languages so I am always keen to encourage others to take these further,” says David.

The deadline for applications for this year’s British Academy Schools Language Awards is 18 July  http://www.britac.ac.uk/policy/BASLAs.cfm

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