Language teacher with 20,000 primary pupils

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The Independent Online

He is part of an initiative at one secondary school in the North-east which has the potential to deliver, almost singlehandedly, the Government's pledge to give every child from the age of seven the right to learn a language by the end of the decade.

Many in the education world thought Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary at the time, was being far too ambitious when he announced that every child would have that right as part of a review of language teaching three years ago. Primary schools just did not have enough staff to deliver the pledge, they argued, even if he did set in motion a training programme for teachers.

Mr Butler's school, Monkseaton High School in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, a specialist language college, struck on an idea. All you had to have was the lesson plan - which could be delivered by CD-rom to any primary school in the country.

If the school did have a trained language specialist, they could develop and adapt the units. Elsewhere, teachers could start learning the language alongside their pupils. Most of the schools do not have trained languages staff, and beginner's notes for teachers are supplied on the CD-rom.

As a result, Monkseaton is now supplying lessons in French, German, Spanish and Mandarin to schools around the country.

Its latest venture is to deliver lessons in English to schools where a majority of pupils do not have it as a first language and have been struggling to learn it.

The Monkseaton plan started off with the school promising to help out all the primary schools in the North Tyneside authority. Neighbouring South Tyneside became interested, and the project mushroomed.

Mr Butler became a primary adviser to North Tyneside, and linked up with Jane Dawson, who had been teaching languages in the primary sector and now works with South Tyneside.

Other authorities got to hear of it and now the programme is being used by 1,203 schools. They have also written to every school in the country asking if they would like to take it up - thus leaving the primary sector with no excuse for failing to deliver on the Government's pledge.

n John Prescott has thrown his weight behind Tony Blair's plans to reform secondary schools, but strictly on his own terms.

The Deputy Prime Minister agreed yesterday that state schools could set up as "trust" schools if they wanted to but warned no school should be pressured into cutting ties with its local council to become a trust.