Written by Neil Hughes, University of Nottingham.
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Valuing and developing community languages: What role politicians?
As part of the Nottingham in Parliament Day on 25 October, the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies at the University of Nottingham organised, in conjunction with Nottingham City Council and four of Nottingham’s eleven Community Language Schools, a panel discussion in the House of Lords titled “Valuing and developing community languages: What role politicians?”
The event was sponsored and chaired by Baroness Garden of Frognal and enjoyed the full support of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, as well as Speak to the Future.
A presentation by eight pupils representing The Nottingham Polish School (Izabela Rusin), The Nottingham Arabic School (Hassan Aldabbagh and Yara Hamed), The Kala Niketan Hindi School (Aranav Bhagat, Pranjali Gupta, Rashabh Mehrotra) and the Khalsa Supplementary School (Kimran Kaur Atwal, Avani Kaur Johal) kicked off the event. In it the pupils spoke about their schools and their motivation for giving up their Saturday mornings to attend. The reasons ranged from a wish to develop literacy skills in their heritage language to helping them achieve their personal career goals. Some of the most affecting testimony came from children motivated by a desire to communicate more effectively with older family members with limited English language skills.
David Evans, a researcher based in Lancaster, followed the children. In his presentation, David explained the findings of research he and Kirsty Gillan-Thomas carried out on behalf of the Paul Hamlyn Trust into the educational impact of regular attendance at a Community Language or Supplementary School. Given the context, David limited himself to a discussion of the results from Nottingham-based schools.
In his analysis, David produced compelling evidence to support his claim that attendance is having a ‘remarkable’ effect on attainment levels in Nottingham. Thus, the percentage of students attaining 5+ GCSE’s at A-C including Maths & English is 20% higher in the case of children attending Community Language and Supplementary Schools and children eligible for free school meals (FSM) achieve substantially higher than the borough/county average.
In a wide-ranging talk, the British Academy’s Professor Nigel Vincent pointed to the strategic value of foreign language skills. He was particularly keen to point out their contribution to the state’s soft power and diplomatic capabilities. He also spoke of the part the British Academy plays in recognising the work of Community Language and Supplementary Schools through, for example, the British Academy School Language Awards. He concluded by addressing the issue of qualifications and their importance in providing pupils with recognition for their achievements.
In the final contribution from the panel, Pascale Vassie, Executive Director of the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Schools, explained the work of her organisation and set out her thoughts about what can been done to ensure the long-term sustainability of Community Language and Supplementary Schools.
Pascale was keen to emphasise the need for both national and local government to continue supporting the schools. She also talked about the part mainstream schools can play in helping to increase the numbers of pupils taking qualifications by facilitating GCSEs and A levels in community language subjects. She concluded her presentation by urging government to raise the status of languages and to “develop a society in which all languages are valued, better respected and better learned.”
Download the PPT of the day here (PPT, 3.2MB)
Download the Press Release for the day here (Word, 95KB)