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City of languages

WHEN St Edward's College, Liverpool, decided to bid for language college status, its idea met with overwhelming support.

John Waszek, principal, said: "We had hundreds of sponsors, people sent pound;5 or pound;25. The goodwill was enormous."

Now every pupil at the former private school does two languages for five years. In the sixth form, learning a language is compulsory.

Ian Walker was appointed director of the school's language department in April 2000. He said: "There were six staff when I arrived. Now there are 13. We offer French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin."

St Edward's is just one of dozens of Liverpool schools where languages are booming.

The city council is four years into a programme to introduce languages in primary schools. Already 88 of Liverpool's 160 primaries teach French, German or Spanish within school time, but the amount of teaching varies and dealing with the wide ability range of pupils as they join secondary school is a pressing issue.

Mr Waszek said: "There are now a number of children who leave primary schools having been exposed to languages and having done pretty well. But the variation in experience and ability at 11 is wider in languages than in any other subject with the exception of music."

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