Last November, when parents and guardians of new Year 7 students were invited to attend a meeting about assessment systems, the languages department invited the visitors into the classroom.
In addition to a glass of wine, on offer were taster lessons in French and German, computer-based language activities and games, and a careers display, which highlighted how language skills can enhance job prospects in the international workplace.
Sixty or so parents took up the challenge. Most were pleasantly surprised to see how much the focus has moved towards a more encouraging and fun approach. It was an eye-opener for them to see how much learning centres on listening and speaking. To ensure the adult learners felt fully supported, students of French and German - including some still very new Year 7 students - were on hand to help.
By the end of the evening some of the parents even felt brave enough to practise their newly-acquired language skills by singing, too.
Our young helpers were also able to demonstrate to the adults how computer-based language games are enhancing their learning and building confidence. From comments parents have made in the past, it has been apparent that many of them remember their language-learning experience as being a less than positive one. We wanted to prove that language learning has moved on and show them that every learner can develop the basic skills to enable them to communicate. We also wanted to involve parents in their children's learning and encourage them to join in language learning activities. Already, I detect that parents are more receptive to language learning both for themselves and for their children.
Curriculum leader, MFL at Admiral Lord Nelson School, Portsmouth, and secretary of the Portsmouth MFL Curriculum Development Group