At Ditcham Park School, we are really proud of the opportunities our pupils have to practise their language outside the classroom. Over the last three years, we have run three very successful trips to Salamanca and Nice and have a new pen pal link with a school in Northern Tenerife, which has enabled pupils to write to each other, exchange photographs and learn a little more about each other’s culture.
Thanks to the state-of-the-art cinema setting of our South Downs Hall we hold Foreign Cinema Evenings welcoming pupils, parents and their friends. We are always on the lookout for plays and activities that promote languages such as visits from the European Theatre Company, and trips to local language events. Regular assemblies throughout the year on the theme of languages help raise our pupils’ awareness of the importance of language learning and how this may be relevant to their lives in the future. Recently, we celebrated the International Day of the Mother Tongue in which our bilingual pupils spoke in their native language. The languages we heard ranged from German, Dutch, Welsh, Russian, Polish, and of course, French and Spanish.
During Curriculum Challenge Week, held in the last week of the summer term, pupils have written and filmed a tongue-in-cheek re-enactment of the French Revolution, made video reports and created their own version of El Colacho (Baby Jumping Festival held in Spain each year) and given presentations about the school in French and Spanish.
At Ditcham Park School, we recognise that language learning needs to be engaging to the digitally competent pupils we teach today. We also want to make our pupils competitive in the global job market and equip them with a fundamental understanding of the mechanics of language that will enable them start any language from scratch in future. We constantly update our resources in line with examination changes and use the Active Teach programme, an electronic facility that supplements learning with short video clips of native speakers, games and other pupil-friendly resources. We also use the websites Quizlet and Atantôt with games, races and competitive scoring that provide an enjoyable and effective way of learning a list of foreign words! Pupils can also supplement their learning via language magazines specifically designed for young people and extra reinforcement for vocabulary learning via DVDs. Languages are now only optional in state schools, and we are fortunate at Ditcham Park School to be able to provide our pupils with the opportunity to learn both French and Spanish from Middle Juniors to Form 5, culminating in the eBacc. Our specialist language staff teach each year group from Juniors to Seniors, allowing for seamless progression, with teachers knowing pupils well both personally and academically. Our Gifted and Talented pupils are supported with extra lessons as are those who need extra reinforcement and explanation, and we work very closely with learning support in this area. As the Italian film director Federico Fellini so eloquently said, ‘A different language is a different vision of life’, a philosophy very much at the heart of what we believe at Ditcham Park School.