City's flexible friend

Bournville College's languages teaching has won it a Beacon Award. The Birmingham further education college offers courses in 15 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Latin.

Sean Gardner, the head of department, says the college's secret has been its willingness to be flexible. It works with local employers on staff development in languages, while offering family French sessions in primary schools as well as languages courses for the over-55s.

"We have had some problems in the 16-19 age group, which traditionally was the bread and butter," he says. "So we looked at other kinds of demand.

"eing involved with companies is something we have learned from. It's about responsiveness - you have to be flexible. You have to fit in with their shift systems and bring in accreditation so that people come out with a certificate."

Bournville has been quick to respond to the demands of learners , subsidising minority-interest courses, such as Polish, via more popular subjects.

"We have always tried to respond to what people have asked us for. It has meant we have had to think laterally and go against traditional ways of thinking. Sometimes that's quite a step, but it gets easier after a while."

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