Wilkommen nach Manchester

Tes Editorial

After just a handful of lessons, 11-year-olds Lee, Tommy, and Hayley are chatting away in conversational German. "Hallo Lee, ich bin Tommy. Wie alt bist du?", "Hallo Hayley. Ich heisse Lee, ich bin elf jahre alt," they say, their brows knitted in concentration.

Though their fluency is basic at present, the pleasure which speaking in another language brings is clearly visible in the faces of pupils from Abbott county primary school in Manchester.

Already they have done some number work - counting from one to 12 - they have learned how to greet each other at differing points of the day, they have started to learn colours. And with each 45-minute lesson, their confidence visibly grows.

The single storey 180-pupil school is just five minutes away from the centre of the city in an area which exhibits all the signs of urban economic deprivation - wasteland, high-rise blocks and a few recently built-terraced houses.

Many of the children currently living in Collyhurst are waiting to be rehoused, and turnover of pupils at the school is fairly high and their levels of attainment are very mixed.

At key stage 2 its national curriculum test results were slightly below national averages this year: "We have had a lot of absence, one teacher has been away on a long-term basis and we have had a lot of supply staff in. We would expect them to be within national averages normally," explained headteacher Heather Riley. At key stage 1 the results were very good.

"Our situation is quite unique. We have some children who are here for one year, others are here for a term, some have been here for one week. But the staff are wonderful, they are so keen and committed and they wanted to have the chance to offer the pupils something more."

Mrs Riley said she had created about one hour a week for her staff to work on subjects like PE or dance in the wake of the Dearing review. Like most heads, she said finding the time had been quite taxing.

The decision to offer German was made possible when the school received European Lingua funding for educational visits. It is part of a cluster of Manchester primaries who now offer the subject to pupils in preparation for their transfer to Mostyn Brook high school where it is the main language studied.

Year 2 teacher Jane Mercer went to Chemnitz, East Germany, on a 10-day visit over the spring half term for basic language training. The school covered the cost of a supply teacher for three days.

"I have basic experience of French and German. I've not studied either subject since O level 12 years ago and the course gave me greater awareness of the language so I could teach it to the children," she said.

"The children really love it and we felt it would give them the opportunity to build up an awareness of the language at an early age. Even our Year 2 pupils get some instruction. They listen to some songs and have learnt to say "guten morgen" to each other.

"Because we only have up to one hour a week available, we are taking things one step at a time. Some of the children are picking it up quite quickly, while others do find it difficult. We hope it will give them confidence when they go on to secondary school and most of all we want them to enjoy it".

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