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Francais pour petits

As the Government pushes for primary language lessons for all, Hannah Frankel and Phil Revell report on how secondary teachers can help

judith Oldham is much in demand at Bolton's primary schools. Altho-ugh she already teaches languages at Rivington and Blackrod High Sch-ool, she is being hired out to its seven feeder primary schools as part of a pioneering project that sees pupils as young as five learning whole lessons in French.

She's obviously worth it. Chorley New Road Primary pays pound;6,500 a year for her to come in one day a week, which helps it fulfil Labour's aim for all primary schools to offer a foreign language by 2009.

Andrew Hurst, headteacher, says: "In 15 years, Judith is one of the best teachers I've seen in a primary. We use her at both key stages, because I think key stage 1 is the time when children are most receptive.

"This is a real opportunity for the staff to develop as well. They sit in on Judith's classes and can reinforce the language during the rest of the week - for example taking the register in French."

Judith says: "The overall aim is the ability to communicate. In key stage 1 lessons it is more about introducing children to the sounds and the patterns of the language, getting the tongue around these new sounds and words.

"In key stage 2 we start to look at writing it down. I don't shy away from grammar; the children here will all tell you about plural verbs."

John Baumber, executive principal of Rivington and Blackrod High School, was concerned that pupils arriving at Rivington had different language experiences. A visit to Chateau Broutel, near Avignon in France, next summer will help address this. About 150 pupils from Years 5 and 6 will go on the trip, which will help them use their French and ease their transition into secondary school.

"It's an opportunity to have a week to get to know each other before they start at Rivington and Blackrod," says Andrew. "And because a cluster of primary schools have all been taught by the same teacher, they should all be at a similar level in Year 7."

The first batch of primary linguists joined the secondary this year, where teachers have already noticed the improvement. John says: "We have increased the language provision in Year 7 and everyone now studies French and German with a view to the children taking a GCSE in one of the languages at the end of Year 9." Eventually the school's Year 9s will have experienced about 10 years of languages teaching.

Such moves could become more widespread following Lord Dearing's interim report on languages last month. It has warned that foreign languages could become compulsory again post-14 if language uptake does not improve

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