When children at the Dog Kennel Hill School in London enter Fátima Duerden’s classroom, they joke that they are walking into Spain. It’s not just the lilt of the Spanish language spoken inside that sets it apart from the rest of their south London School. The walls are decorated in Spanish posters and books, their teacher is known by her first name, Fátima, as in a Spanish classroom – and with help from technology, pupils learn alongside Spanish peers.
"I make sure we set up at least two Skype sessions a term with our partner schools in Spain,” says Duerden, who trained as a teacher in Portugal, her home country, and now works as a Spanish teacher, modern foreign language and international coordinator at Dog Kennel Hill.
"It gives children a chance to discuss a topic they are learning with a native speaker. The children respond very positively because it’s interactive and it gives them a chance to use vocabulary and grammar in a real-life context."
It’s a type of primary school lesson which may become more common across England, as changes to the curriculum make foreign languages compulsory across key stage two. From 2014 onwards, students aged seven to 11 will be required to reach a high standard of written and spoken communication in one of seven languages, including: French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Latin and Greek.
Although there are obviously a few issues with introducing foreign language teaching into primary schools, I really do think it’s a step in the right direction…I wish I’d been taught a language at that age!