Innovative secondary language projects


The European Language Label recognises innovation in the teaching of languages across the continent. This year, seven UK secondary projects were among the winners. Imke Djouadj and Eva Oliver take a look.

A total of 10 education projects from across England and Wales have been awarded this year’s European Language Label, which recognises innovative and effective practice in language teaching and learning. 

The awards were presented at a ceremony at the European Commission’s UK office in London earlier this term and included seven secondary-based projects. 

The European Language Label is part of a Europe-wide programme, funded by the European Commission. To date, more than 1,500 projects in 30 European countries have been recognised for an award, 180 of them within the UK. Kathryn Board, head of languages strategy and delivery at CfBT Education Trust, which manages the UK side of the initiative, said that this year’s winners “raised the bar in terms of imagination, passion for languages and achievement”.

She added: “I was particularly impressed to see how many winning projects involved exceptional young people taking charge of their own learning and developing schemes for sharing their love of languages with younger pupils.”

The winning projects represent the rich diversity of language teaching and learning practice across England and Wales. The seven secondary projects are profiled here.

MFL Student Leadership Team

The beauty of this project, run by Brookfield Community School in Chesterfield, is how it builds on students’ leadership skills and their capacity to share their enthusiasm for languages with younger students and adults alike. 

The MFL Student Leadership Team project encourages year 13 students to become modern foreign language ambassadors, leading teams of trained and qualified Language Leaders (year 11 to 13 students). All students work together in the organisation of activities within their school and local area to champion the study of languages. 

Each Language Ambassador runs a team of 12 to 15 trained Language Leaders, no small feat for 6th-formers, who must combine this project with other academic commitments. Examples of activities they work on together include a primary languages festival, acting as consultants during open evenings and producing a presentation to deliver to younger students about the benefits of studying languages at the next key stage.

What makes this project special is how involved the language students are, acting as role models for younger students. In recognition of this aspect of the role, Language Leaders are trained through the Sports Leaders UK course and around 30 of them become fully accredited every year. It is also sustainable, as new students pass through the cycle of learning about languages (and therefore have the potential to become the language student leaders of tomorrow) all the time. 



Mini-assistants: Cornwall-Finistère

This project from Cornwall Learning has been going strong for an amazing 21 years and was awarded this year’s Outstanding Contribution Award. 

Sixth-formers from Cornwall are placed in primary schools in Finistère in France. The students are there for a short placement of up to two weeks each year before Easter. During this time, they have the opportunity to work in the classroom, where their main role is to share their linguistic and cultural knowledge and become, if you wish, a mini-ambassador of all things British for the duration or the project. Examples of special activities that mini-assistants have become involved in include organising special English assemblies, sharing sports, games, cooking and music. A number of French pupils also visit Cornwall to promote French language and culture in Cornish classrooms.

The scheme is run with the support of a number of staff who volunteer their time and skills to co-ordinate the organisation, including briefing participants along the process and finding host families for students to stay with during the duration of the project. This year, 78 students from across Cornwall took part. 


Physical French Phonics

This project helps secondary school children at two Berkshire schools, The Holt School and The Piggott School, improve their ability to pronounce new words in a foreign language. It aims to help them both pronounce accurately and increase their own confidence.

Physical French Phonics is a sound, action and spelling system, which helps secondary pupils in developing strategies to decode French pronunciation independently. The system identifies 26 sounds of the French language, which either don’t exist or whose written form is different in English. 

It begins by ascribing an action to each sound with a representative image. Each word group is introduced by first identifying the sounds within them, blending them to produce the whole word, practising their meaning, and identifying the different graphemes that make up the spelling for each word. A phonics chart is displayed in the classroom for reference. 

The project grew out of a classroom strategy to help students remember some sounds in French, and it has now evolved into an extremely useful tool to help both secondary pupils and primary teachers become more confident when pronouncing familiar and new words. 


Bilingual German & ICT

This innovative project has seen a group of year 7 pupils following the school’s ICT curriculum in German. A team of staff, including an ICT teacher, a German teacher and a German foreign language assistant, pooled their expertise together to teach year 7 pupils at the John Warner School in Hertfordshire, providing them with the expertise and linguistic skills needed to progress in their dual learning.

The lessons follow the usual ICT curriculum at the school, only in a completely different language. Pupils involved in these lessons have had the opportunity to satisfy their natural curiosity and explore their desire to challenge themselves by learning computer programming. The software used was a free multilingual development environment called Scratch, particularly appropriate to pupils aged 11 to 12. 

Once students were able to create their own games, they moved on to consider their product’s marketing strategy, including audio and video files they recorded in German. The school is now looking at developing a similar project with a partner school in Germany, where ICT would be taught through the medium of English. 


Adopt a class

Adopt a class was created and developed by staff at Routes into Languages in Cardiff. The project links an undergraduate student on a year abroad with a year 9 class, ensuring students who have not got the opportunity to participate in trips abroad and exchanges do not miss out on some of the associated benefits. 

The student visits the class that he/she will be adopting prior to their departure abroad, using this first session as an opportunity to introduce themselves, the languages they will be studying, and the course they will be embarking on abroad. Students attending the presentation also have the opportunity to ask questions. 

Following this session, the undergraduate student meets with the year 9 teacher to discuss how the project will work for them: for example, how regularly they will keep in touch, the topics to be covered in the different sessions, etc.

The programme is then put in to practice and periodically reviewed throughout the student’s year abroad. On the student’s return, they make a final presentation to year 9 students, summarising the opportunities they encountered during this year abroad.

The project has been highly successful at helping pupils to realise how choosing to learn languages opens up future study and career opportunities abroad. 



Sheffield’s Home Language Accreditation Project (HOLA) provides bilingual young people in the Steel City with the opportunity to gain qualifications in their mother tongue. The project has helped more than 30 Sheffield school children to take exams in languages such as Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Chinese or Somali, to name but a few. It is run on a city-wide basis, ensuring that all schools and communities offer youngsters the opportunity to win accreditation for their bilingualism. 

Leading the project is a consortium of partners, including King Edward VII School, Languages Sheffield, the Sheffield Children’s University and the Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service at Sheffield City Council. Because of the involvement of Sheffield Children’s University, all children studying in complementary language schools can have their hours learning their mother tongue recognised with a certificate of achievement. 


ALL/Language Perfect World Championship

This project is the brainchild of New Zealand software developing company Language Perfect. In partnership with the Association for Language Learning (ALL), they came up with an imaginative approach to motivate pupils with their language learning: encouraging them to participate in their online languages competition, the ALL/Language Perfect World Championships.

This intense yet fun competition encourages pupils to learn vocabulary, verbs and phrases from a range of languages. Pupils particularly enjoy the element of competition within the championships, whether it be pitting their knowledge against pupils from another school in the country or a school on the other side of the world, it all adds to a fantastic, motivating learning experience.

The ALL/Language Perfect World Championship has been running since 2010. This year’s competition saw 100 million questions being answered. For the UK, a student from York came first in the world for Russian and Colonel Frank Seely School in Nottingham came 37th in the world.


  • Imke Djouadj is project co-ordinator and Eva Oliver communications officer within the Languages Education Team at the CfBT Education Trust.

The European Language Label
The European Language Label is funded by the European Commission. Its UK strand is managed by the CfBT Education Trust on behalf of Ecorys, in association with embassies, commercial publishers and cultural centres.
The awards are open to all sectors. If you would like to apply for the European Language Label 2013, further details will be available next year from Imke Djouadj at CfBT Education Trust. 
To find out more about all of this year’s winning projects, visit
or email

PHOTO CAPTIONS: A love of languages: Representatives from the HOLA project in Sheffield, including from King Edward VII School in the city, as well as from Brookfield Community School and its MFL Student Leadership project celebrate receiving their European Language Labels. The HOLA project won £2,000 after being awarded the special Mary Glasgow Language Trust Award (Photographs courtesy of Sue Reeves at SuePix, on behalf of CfBT Education Trust)


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