Trainees from France say young children here are like little soldiers compared to those across the Channel. Helen Ward reports.
FRENCH trainee teachers think English primary children are more controlled and compliant than pupils in France, a survey by Newcastle University reveals.
It overturns the English image of a French education system so controlled that the education minister could look at a clock and tell you what a child, anywhere in France, was studying at that moment.
Marion Murray, from Newcastle University, said: "The French trainees felt English pupils were in a much more controlled environment. 'Like soldiers'
was a common perception. They found them quieter and more compliant.
"They think there is less variety in the English system because of the emphasis placed upon the core subjects."
Newcastle University is one of five institutions which piloted a postgraduate course for primary teachers who want to specialise in languages.
By linking up with the University of Amiens, exchange visits are arranged each year for students from both countries.
The 20 students from France who came to England last year were asked about the differences they found in the two systems.
The survey found:
* 85 per cent felt English pupils were quieter;
* 80 per cent felt that pupils enjoyed school more;
* 55 per cent of students felt English teachers used more rewards.
Mrs Murray, the course leader, said: "The French find our common use of rewards and praise given by our teachers surprising.
"In France, they say that the attitude of teachers is that pupils should behave and work hard. However, after spending more time in our schools, they became more of the opinion that the reward systems are quite worthwhile.
"They liked all of the support and materials available for trainee teachers."
The survey also asked teachers what they thought about the French trainees.
Seventy-five per cent said there were no difficulties but 12.5 per cent felt they were too busy to devote enough time to exchange students.
Next year, the number of initial teacher-training places for primary French will almost double to 365 in 26 institutions.
There will also be 65 Spanish and 31 German primary ITT places.
The Government wants every primary school to have a language co-ordinator, although it has said languages will not be made compulsory in the primary curriculum.
* Some 130 teachers have put their names forward to support the Government's drive to boost language learning in primary schools.
Ministers want to appoint 200 advanced skills teachers in modern foreign languages, as they offer every primary pupil the chance to learn a language by 2010.
Half of the 130 applicants have so far been accepted on to the scheme, with a further 53 teachers awaiting clearance.
An agreement to involve 17,000 pupils and 1,500 teachers mostly from London and Paris in twinning and exchange projects was announced earlier this month.
The Government has also announced it will be setting up programmes with Germany, Spain, China and Russia.
More information on language training at www.langprim.org