For primary language learning to expand in Liverpool, more teachers need to be trained. "It's the only way forward," says Jan Rowe, course head of the PGCE modern languages option at Liverpool Hope university college. "We're hoping to develop a pool of teachers who can train others so that non-specialist teachers can also teach French in the classroom."
Liverpool Hope has 20 students on its PGCE primary modern languages option.
They do a block of experience in Liverpool primaries for around six weeks in October and November, involving some French or Spanish teaching. "Going into a normal primary environment would be problematic for trainee teachers because there wouldn't generally be anyone already teaching primary languages. Here, in Liverpool, they get a very rich learning experience," says Ms Rowe.
Three months later, trainees go to France or Spain for a four-week placement, organised by the British Council for the Teacher Training Agency's primary languages project. Meanwhile, French, German and Spanish trainee teachers spend four weeks in English primaries as language assistants.
Unlike most modern language assistants working overseas, the Liverpool Hope students do not teach English. Instead, they go into primaries to teach numeracy in French, or art in Spanish. "This is the first year we've done the placements. It's fantastic. It not only develops language skills, but gives students the opportunity to reflect on two different systems," says Ms Rowe.
The placements scheme was launched nationally in 2001 and now sends 500 trainees abroad each year.
Many language graduates do not want to work in a secondary school, so they avoid becoming teachers. The new specialisation in primaries provides them with an alternative career path - and creates a new pool of potential recruits to the profession.