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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June, 2005, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Bilingual primary school to open
Language class
The government is encouraging language learning in primary schools
The first bilingual state school in England has been approved - with lessons in French and English.

The project in the Wix School in Battersea, south London, is to be supported by the French embassy.

Pupils joining the bilingual class will follow the national curriculum but will study all subjects in both languages throughout the primary school.

The initiative is the result of co-operation with the Lycee Charles de Gaulle, a French school in London.

Both the Wix school and the Lycee Charles de Gaulle will admit 14 pupils each to the bilingual class from September 2006.

This will be repeated every year, creating a "bilingual stream" at the Wix school, alongside classes taught solely in English.

The Lycee Charles de Gaulle's primary class and the Wix school occupy different floors of the same building and have built up co-operation over a period of time.

'Immense asset'

Wandsworth Council says it is responding to parents' desire for their children to learn languages at a younger age, and wants to offer children the chance to become bilingual early in life.

Once the children leave the Wix school, they would move into the secondary school system as normal.

Wandsworth hopes to open more bilingual schools in the future, both primary and secondary.

Wandsworth cabinet member for education Malcolm Grimston said: "A second language is best learned when you are young. And if the language becomes the medium for teaching the curriculum, the skills are obtained even more naturally.

"To be bilingual is an immense asset both culturally and in employment."

The bilingual class is expected to be oversubscribed, but the authority stressed that the usual admissions arrangements for state primary schools would remain.

Admissions rules

"We are not trying to cream off the more linguistically able," spokesman Steve Mayner said.

"All applicants will have to meet the usual criteria, and the final deciding factor would be the distance of their home from the school, and whether they had siblings here."

"We expect applications from children from a variety of backgrounds. Children whose parents are French would not be given priority either," Mr Mayner said.

The bilingual curriculum is currently being developed by the head teachers of both schools.

The proposal was approved by the education overview and scrutiny committee, which will also report on the school's curriculum and admissions arrangements in September.

In response to longstanding concerns about the lack of foreign language skills in England, the government has promised that all primary school pupils, aged 7 to 11, will receive language lessons by the end of the decade.

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