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Retail therapy French style

A street with cafe and shops was recreated for the pupils of six special schools in Enfield, reports Bernadette Clinton

A good mix of ideas is one of the benefits of the cross-borough support group for French teachers in Enfield and Barnet special schools, which meets once a term in Enfield, north London. Enfield has six special schools for pupils who range from those with emotional and behavioural difficulties to those with moderate and severe learning difficulties. French is taught in all but the early years provision.

When the group decided to provide an authentic French experience for the students, the Europa Centre for Modern Languages, in the nearby London borough of Havering, gave us inspiration.

It has a simulated centre-ville with a street of shops and native-speaking shop assistants who serve visitors from schools. We decided to run a shopping experience where students would use French money to buy real French food, drink and other items using basic phrases. We thought it was important they could eat and drink what they bought at the cafe, play boule, listen to music and be serenaded. One of our talented teachers brought along his accordion.

The main room at Enfield's Professional Development Centre is on the ground floor, with wheelchairaccess. It was transformed for the day into a French street, complete with tables, benches and parasols outside.

We set up a boulangerie-patisserie, confiserie, mini-supermarche as well as the cafe and bureau de change and agreed on the phrases the customers and the assistants would use for those with speech. Symbols were drawn up for the non-speakers. Pupils made flags, decorations and signs. Local supermarkets donated food and Cafe Rouge came up trumps with some lovely stationery.

Real French people were drawn in from our network of tutors. Our timetable for the day was arranged so that every group had a 45-minute slot.

Every child had pound;1, which was changed into 10 francs on arrival. This also gave us a contribution towards the cost. As high street banks do not supply them, we had to borrow one franc coins from colleagues and have already started to collect coins for next year. We have also started writing to super-markets for support. Next year we will have a greater variety of small goods on sale.

The feedback from the day has been very positive. "I love French," said one happy customer.

Bernadette Clinton is general adviser for MFL and European Links in Enfield. E-mail: Centre, tel: 01708 445694

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