One way of raising the profile of community language speakers in a school is to hold an event which celebrates the school's cultural and linguistic mix. This is what we did at Southend High School for Girls Language College when we held our first community languages fair.
The idea came out of a survey to gauge the level of linguistic diversity among our pupils. In what is considered to be a predominantly white English-speaking community, we were surprised to discover that more than 20 languages were spoken by our pupils at home. And what a variety there was- Greek, Hindi, Punjabi, Russian and Yoruba, to name but a few.
We felt that this cultural and linguistic diversity needed celebrating and the idea of a community languages fair was born.
All community language speakers were invited to organise and run a stall promoting their language, culture and traditions. They were encouraged to rope in any willing family members to help, and were given free rein to organise their stalls however they wanted. They did not disappoint.
The event was a real onslaught on the senses - Indian drums, Russian pop music, Bollywood films, Greek food, Indian nibbles, origami, henna tattooing, Chinese calligraphy, saris and bindis - a veritable cultural melting pot and a true sense of celebration.
The event was timetabled during an afternoon session in the refectory.
Different year groups were invited to visit the fair at allocated times and bring along families and friends. We also invited our local chamber of commerce to run a stall that promoted languages in business.
The success of the event was entirely due to the enthusiasm and participation of the whole school community. This, coupled with the superb organisational skills of our language college administrator, ensured the event was a triumph, definitely one to be repeated.
Penny Bowman Primary liaison and community co-ordinator, Southend High School for Girls, Essex