Hola! Brighton school becomes bilingual

The first mainstream Spanish bilingual school in the country is being lined up to mentor its counterparts in the city on languages.

St Paul’s Primary became the first bilingual school in Sussex and the first primary to teach non-language subjects in Spanish in September.

Children in two school years are taught PE, art and music in the foreign language and youngsters from nursery through to Year 6 are given weekly Spanish lessons by course leader Maggie Morgan.

Staff are hoping to eventually increase the number of subjects taught in Spanish.

It is one of just six bilingual mainstream primary schools in the country.

Such is the success of the pioneering scheme that the first Year 6s to be tested on Spanish reached the equivalent of Grade C or D at GCSE.

Everyone, from caretakers, teachers and office staff, has been learning the language.

The primary is at the forefront of a proposed project to advise other schools in Brighton and Hove on how best to teach languages to four to 11-year-olds.

Their scheme has attracted praise from the Spanish Embassy and volunteers from Spanish universities as well as the partner of Brighton and Hove Albion star Inigo Calderon. Natalia Izarra got involved after Linda Dupret, the head teacher at the school in St Nicholas Road, contacted the club to ask if any of its Spanish-speaking stars wanted to help out.

Ms Dupret said: “What I love about it is the international factors – having all the different people sharing their cultural experience. The reason we chose Spanish is it is now the second most universally spoken language after English.

“Research shows that if children learn a language from an early age it helps the memory receptors link together.”

The school was picked in 2006 to join a European-funded £3 million learning project which tracked the children’s progression through the school.

Ms Dupret said she also hopes other schools – including secondaries – will help children enjoy languages by talking about the culture as well as just the words and vocabulary. She believes schools working together is more important than ever.

Ms Dupret said: “For five years primary languages in Brighton and Hove were funded. Due to budget cuts that didn’t happen anymore. We had a primary language consultant but now there is a real importance to sharing best practice.”

The school is separate from the proposed Bilingual Primary Free School due to open in Hove in September but Ms Dupret has already contacted its backers to “share and learn from each other”.

Taken from The Argus: 19.03.12