More than a dozen hands are high up in the air, wide-eyed faces are eager to give the answer – the pupils of this mixed year 5/6 class learning the French for items in the school bag are clearly enjoying their lesson. But there is one thing different from your average classroom: the teachers are only a few years older than the students.
Teaching is the best way of learning – this is the reason why saltash.net community school has launched an award scheme called “Language Leaders” which aims at enabling year 8 and 9 students to develop their communication and intercultural skills. This scheme was originally established by Routes into Languages London. However, languages teacher, Melanie Breforth, has brought this unique opportunity to the South West: “Many students are not aware how important it is for their future to not just learn a language but also acquire the skills linked to it, such as communicating effectively, understanding other cultures and expanding your horizon.”
In fortnightly meetings the Language Leaders develop their planning and presentation skills to be able to teach activities and lessons for younger learners in local primary schools. By helping younger learners the Language Leaders are not only contributing to the wider community but also improving their own language skills: “I really enjoy learning different languages and teaching younger children,” says Abbie Jones in year 8, and her friend Phoebe Northmore adds: “Also, I have met new friends and we do language workshops which will really help me for the upcoming exchange.” So far the Language Leaders have had introductions to Spanish and Chinese. They also have had the opportunity to take part in different competitions and celebrate various cultural festivals, such as the recent Chinese New Year.
For the students, the award scheme is a great opportunity to develop key employability skills by organising events and activities to encourage other students to learn about different languages and cultures. Carys, one of the first Language Leaders to visit Landulph Primary School, is a great example for this: “I want to be a primary school teacher one day and the Language Leaders scheme helps me to get the experience I need. I really enjoyed working with the primary school children. At the beginning I was really nervous but seeing the other children’s enthusiasm helped me to become more confident. I definitely want to go again – as soon as possible!”
Carys is one of 20 language leaders who on completion of the award will achieve an official certificate, a language leader badge, a skills set which will improve her employability, an extra qualification for her CV and a whole year of fun.