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Primary adds success by teaching 1+5

News | Published in TESS on 14 December, 2012 | By: Elizabeth Buie

Parliamentary inquiry into teaching of languages is launched in Glasgow

The prospect of teaching 1+2 languages from P1 is a daunting one for many in the primary sector.

But today, the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee will launch an inquiry into the teaching of languages in primary - at a school where 1+5 is the norm.

At Dalmarnock Primary, in the east end of Glasgow, pupils have access to French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Greek, in addition to their home language of English.

Headteacher Nancy Clunie said that what her school does “is not rocket science” and its success is down to the commitment and “buy-in” of her staff.

When she joined the school as head six years ago, she inherited a tradition of French being taught from P5. Last year, the neighbouring London Road Nursery said it wanted to introduce Spanish to its pupils, so Miss Clunie thought it would make sense for her P1-2s to learn Spanish too, as 98 per cent of the nursery children move up to her school. A Spanish teacher now spends one day a week at the nursery and primary and the school runs an after-school club, “Come with your mammie or your granny and learn Spanish”.

A modern languages specialist based at Glasgow City Council’s education directorate spends a day a week at Dalmarnock, working with staff on continuing professional development in French and Italian.

Miss Clunie has replaced “golden time” with “masterclasses” in various skills, including Greek. Having lived in Greece in the late 1970s, she became fluent in the language and now teaches pupils about the ancient Greek myths and legends, the country’s culture and some basic vocabulary. A masterclass in Italian is starting next term.

The local Russian Cultural Centre runs an after-school club for children from P4 upwards, and the centre’s teachers offer support in school in literacy, art and music.

After Christmas, the school will adapt the council’s resource pack for embedding active maths games into PE by adding French and Spanish to the mix, so children will learn vocabulary for colours, numbers and directions as part of the games.

Dalmarnock’s linguistic prowess came to the attention of Sarah Breslin, director of the languages centre SCILT, who asked it to be one of the pilot schools for the government’s 1+2 languages policy.

Staff are “buzzing”, says Miss Clunie. Her science specialist has suggested she could teach pupils how to say parts of the body in French or Spanish, and another teacher has volunteered to introduce languages into art.

The children have told Miss Clunie that “knowing a bit of one language made doing a second one easier” and “you might need to know languages to get a job”.

“That surprised but delighted me,” she said.

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