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Headmaster’s Blog 30 September Mind your language

September 30, 2011

In a week where the Euro, bail outs and
Greece have all had a bad economic Press, we have been celebrating European
Languages Day. The European Union flag has been flying from our flag pole and
last week it was the German flag – in honour of the German Exchange students
who were visiting at the time.

There has been a lot of comment in the
Press recently about the drop in the number of pupils taking a foreign language
to GCSE despite the recently imposed English Baccalaureate (E Bacc)which
expects a language to aged 16 years. As I have argued in an earlier ‘blog’, I
feel that the E Bacc is too restrictive on option choice for GCSE but at
Ballard we are eager to promote the study of language and have taken up several
initiatives to do so.

At Ballard we believe passionately in
Modern Foreign Languages and so were delighted when the MFL department asked to
take last Monday’s Assembly. They presented badges to the top performing pupils
last term in French, German and Spanish and celebrated the ‘star of the week’
prize with a special draw won by a Y8 girl enabling her to have a meal at a
bistro in Lymington. It was evident that boys and girls equally were
represented amongst the prize winners and this year’s GCSE results demonstrated
a very fine performance in all three languages. With over 50% of our Y11 pupils
taking a Modern Foreign Language (and rising) we are ‘bucking the trend’ across
a country sadly renowned for its dependence on English alone.

This year, for the first time, we are
arranging a Spanish Exchange for the summer term. Traditionally we focused on a
French Exchange and recently added the German one. Links with Spain increased
when a music teacher from a Madrid school spend several weeks at Ballard. Each
year we have a Swiss teacher with us (as part of professional development in
that country) and last year two senior Spanish pupils spent the whole year with
us – and achieved an excellent range of GCSEs!

It is not only European languages which we
have been promoting. As a school we have offered Chinese for some time. Every
Saturday morning there is a Mandarin Academy based in our senior building and
there is now a well-attended Mandarin activity during the week. The group which
went to Kenya in the summer holidays and was engaged in several community
projects even learnt some Swahili! And, whilst not ‘modern’ as such, we have
been offering two Latin activities this term.

Several trips each year take our pupils and
staff to the Continent, including one this half-term to Paris to visit the art
galleries and one in the summer to the beaches of Normandy. At Ballard we
believe that such visits are made all the more valuable if they are accompanied
by an enthusiastic emphasis on learning languages. Only by doing this will our
understanding of other cultures deepen along with a healthy respect for the
nations they represent.  We may struggle
with the Euro when we cross the Channel but this doesn’t mean we should have a
similar reserve for the people, traditions and languages of the continental Europeans!

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