Mind your languages! The Rosetta Stone comprehensive school...

...where you can learn Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Dutch, Filipino (Tagalog), French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Persian, Polish, Portuguese,  Russian, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Turkish and Vietnamese

Education Editor

Thirteen-year-old Isaac Noble is learning Japanese – so he can speak to his mother in her native tongue.

“She came over to the UK but I didn’t really speak much Japanese to her while I was growing up,”  he said.  “She’d actually quite like to have somebody she could talk to with no effort.  That’s why I started learning.”

Sixteen-year-old Jasmin Bown, meanwhile, has reinvented the meaning of the word “gap year” so that it can mean a mid- secondary school break – rather than filling in time before you go to university.

With the help of her  school, Harrogate Grammar in North Yorkshire, she spent a year in Spain at the age of 16 – and has now slotted back into the sixth-form to study for her A-levels.

“I went away and studied there for a year and lived with a host family,” she said. “The school put some money towards my trip.”

Zsofia Hesketh, also aged 16, on the other hand, was not available for interview because she was on an exchange trip to South Korea – to boost her understanding of the Korean language.

Harrogate Grammar (it is not a selective grammar school but has just retained the title since becoming a comprehensive decades ago – it is now an academy ) is very definitely not the sort of establishment Androulla Vassiliou, the European Union’s Education Commissioner, had in mind last week when she told The Independent too many people in the UK had a “why should I bother?” attitude towards learning languages because they thought everybody spoke English.

In fact, it was one of the first schools in the country to become a specialist language college – and now its students can learn a total of 24 different languages through a deal it has set up with the language experts Rosetta Stone.

It could well be the prototype for language provision in the future as ministers seek to resurrect the standing of the subject in schools following a disastrous decade which saw take-up of the subject at GCSE level cut by half.

They have already made it a compulsory feature of the new English Baccalaureate and plan to make it compulsory for seven to 11-year-olds next September.

The 1,850-pupil school  is proud of its record at both GCSE and A-level in languages. Last year saw 235 entries at GCSE, 90 per cent of which gained an A* to C grade pass. In fact, the average German point score at GCSE was higher than in any other subject.

Harrogate Grammar also has one the highest scores in the country for a state school in the English Baccalaureate with 50 per cent of pupils getting five A* to C grades at GCSE in the five qualifying subjects: English, maths, science, a language and a humanities subject (history or geography). Its sixth-form has pupils studying for four languages at A-level: French, German, Italian and Spanish. 

It has just started an enrichment class in Chinese with the help of a native speaking teaching assistant, The class teacher is learning the language with his pupils and hopes to move towards offering the language as a GCSE option in the near future.

Jamie Gutch, head of the school’s language faculty, praises the work of the assistant teachers. “They bring the real world into the classroom because they live the language,” he said.

Other schools are now flocking to see how the scheme operates – one day recently as many as six schools came.  (The answer is the pupils all have their own iPads and can access the courses online.) Meanwhile, Rosetta Stone is in partnership with a further 60 schools, offering them the same programme.

The school is optimistic it can improve on its record once languages become compulsory in the primary sector from next September. At present, it has 39 feeder primary schools.

“It means you have pupils who are in very different stages of learning the subject – from some who are quite fluent to others who have not learnt the subject at all, “ said Mr Gutch.

However, staff at the school pointed out it would need investment to appoint trained language staff to primary schools if the plan to make the subject compulsory were to succeed.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education praised Harrogate Grammar’s “innovative approach” as an example of the kind of initiatives ministers wanted to encourage in schools.

“After years of decline, this Government is putting languages back at the heart of education,” she added. The numbers taking a languages GCSE had increased by 20 per cent – putting take-up at a “seven-year high”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Nursery Manager is required t...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before