School cleans up in European languages award

A play staged on an island in a Glasgow park has helped win a secondary school a national award.

Shawlands Academy received a European Award for Languages from veteran news presenter Trevor McDonald at the Scottish Parliament this week as part of the European Day of Languages. It was the only Scottish school to win one of the 12 UK awards.

The school was recognised at Tuesday's ceremony for an environmental project which included a French performance of Litterhitters in Pollok Park. Pupils performed the play in the park, in the city's southside, which they had helped clean up earlier in the year as part of a conservation project.

Led by French teacher Basia Gordon, the fourth year pupils' project was recognised this week by award organisers CiLT, the national centre for languages.

The project taught Shawlands students about environmental issues in French in a cross-curricular approach including citizenship, drama and ICT. It also included a video diary and workbook as well as Litterhitters, which won best play and best original creation, in a Scotland-wide competition organised by the Alliance Francaise.

Ms Gordon is co-ordinator of the Comenius project, a European-wide conservation programme with partner schools in France, Sweden, Cyprus, Poland and Turkey. "Elation and exhaustion sum up my reaction to winning this award," she said. "The play is a modern spin on a Greek tragedy and, indeed, I felt that the gods were trifling with us on many occasions.

The award judges said: "The pupils have experienced a growing confidence in using French as a result of the project and have been motivated to develop their French skills further through exchanges with their partner school in Grenoble."

Sir Trevor, who is patron of CiLT, also presented an award to Heriot-Watt University for its project which provides final year undergraduates with genuine interpreting opportunities. The judges praised the Heriot-Watt project, saying that "young learners think more positively about the value of languages in a work context".

Students from Edinburgh University interpreted during a formal multilingual debate at the parliament in a recreation of the project. The debate on the importance of language skills, attended by more than 500 senior pupils who are studying at least one language, was held in the Edinburgh building's main debating chamber and was hosted by George Reid, the parliament's presiding officer.

The European Award for Languages is a Europe-wide initiative supported by the European Commission, recognising creativity and innovation in language teaching.

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