High-tech French helps boys
Paul Kelley, head of Monkseaton community high school, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, said the school's ground-breaking high-tech project had brought a marked improvement in French GCSE results.
Language students have access to multimedia and video-conferencing link-ups with schools in Germany and France. They are also given BT Chargecards so they can phone fellow pupils in European schools from home, with Monkseaton meeting the cost.
Paul Kelley said the scheme had yielded interesting results with French results rising by a whole grade at GCSE.
And the performance of boys in French had improved even more than the girls. This bucked national trends - according to Department for Education and Employment figures, girls do considerably better than boys at modern foreign languages.
"What it suggests is that our combination of ingredients here is improving faster than the national average, and improving a whole grade on what we did before," said Mr Kelley.
"When you break that improvement down, the boys are the ones pulling the figure up relatively more than the girls."
He believes the boys are responding to the use of CD-Roms, the Internet and video-conferencing. "All of those are quite 'techie' - they're some of the things people suggest boys would respond well to.
"It would be both arrogant and stupid to say that we have founda solution that nobody else has. But I think the most importantthing is that there are solutions out there - solutions that make big impacts and which are not to do with changing the teachers."
From his office, Mr Kelley looks out on to his school's former central quad, now topped by a pyramid of glass and used as a study area.
It is late on a Friday afternoon and school ended an hour ago. But a group of languages students is still working on the computers. "They have stayed behind voluntarily - they're working because they like it," Mr Kelley said.
Four years ago, Monkseaton was criticised by OFSTED for its lack of up-to-date technology. Since then, the school's high-tech initiative, the Students Across Europe Project, has more than made up for it.
Monkseaton is now at the centre of a multi-million pound bid for European Union cash to extend the project to other schools and into the wider community.
"This is the infrastructure Europe wants," said Mr Kelley. "It's the infrastructure I think the Government wants. But somebody's got to go through all the teething problems and be able to say to people 'this is how you do it'."