Make the link
There is no better way for teachers in the UK to make the French language zing into life for their pupils than by introducing them to regular contact with their peers abroad. Even the very young can benefit, as Nacell (National Advisory Centre on Early Language Learning) case studies illustrate. See www.nacell.org.uk.
Older students can collaborate on projects with their French counterparts, or gain a deeper insight into Gallic culture by going on an exchange visit. Teachers, too, can pursue personal and professional development through international projects and exchanges.
The first step is to find a partner school in France. Many fruitful relationships start in a modest way through personal contacts, or within the context of a town-twinning arrangement. If these options are not available, here's some help from the British Council and other bodies:
* A good place to start is Windows on the World (www.wotw.org.uk), a resource specifically for schools and colleges seeking international links.
You can search its database for establishments across the world that meet your needs, or register your details for others to view. Another site is Global Gateway (www.globalgateway.org.uk), which, as its name suggests, encourages partnerships and curriculum projects with an international dimension. To establish a link in Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Caribbean you can try the Department for International Development (DFID) Global School Partnerships programme (www2.britishcouncil.orgglobalschools). Closer to home is the forum operated on European Schoolnet (www.eschoolnet.org) for teachers seeking partners for school projects.
* A French link could be part of a Comenius cross-curricular project involving several schools from different countries. For details see www2.britishcouncil.orgsocrates. If you already have a partner, why not apply for a Franco-British Council School Partnership Prize? The deadline is May 14. This year, up to three awards will be made to primary, secondary or special schools that wish to collaborate with a French partner on an environmental project. Visit www.francobritishcouncil.org.uk.
* Language colleges can take advantage of a Specialist Schools Trust (SST) programme, which fosters links with French schools that are developing a Section Europeenne. Run jointly by the French Ministry of Education and the SST, it is financed on the English side by the Department for Education and Skills. See www.lc-se.net
* The Lef vre Trust provides funding for exchanges of pupils aged 13-18 between London and France. Applications on behalf of students in disadvantaged circumstances are given priority. See www.britishcouncil.orgeducationschoolslefevre.htm.
* Virtual links can be established in a variety of ways. The European Schools Project (www.europeanschoolsproject.org) promotes telecommunication between primary and secondary schools in 26 countries, including France and Belgium. Montageplus (www.montageplus.co.uk) offers a programme of interactive curriculum projects around the world. Schools website ePALS (www.epals.com) provides discussion boards, password-protected chatrooms and monitored email accounts and boasts it is used by 4.5 million students and teachers in 191 countries. Penpal exchanges are possible at Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections (www.iecc.org), while eTandem Europa (www.cisi.unito.ittandemetandem) is designed to help learners improve their language skills by communicating via email, telephone or other media with a partner overseas.
* Sixth-formers could go on a placement abroad, perhaps with a partner school. Alternatively, Acorn Educational Exchanges (www.halsbury.comnewacornaee.htm) organises week-long work-experience trips to France several times a year. Half-board accommodation is provided in a hotel or youth hostel or with a host family.
* A spell abroad allows staff to brush up their own French and make friendships that could lead to collaboration. The Teachers' International Professional Development programme (www.teachernet.gov.uktipd) provides opportunities, with funding from the Department for Education and Skills, for short-term study visits to countries worldwide. Teacher Exchange Europe (www.britishcouncil.orgeducationteacherstxeurope.htm) is for modern linguists who wish to exchange their post with a colleague from France, Germany or Spain.