Since 2008, St Catherine’s has been involved in an exchange programme with CPI Panxón, a school in Galicia in NW Spain, and in 2013 another Spanish school, CEIP Mallón, joined our little club.
The primary objective of the exchange is to allow our children to use their Spanish in a real life situation, sending and receiving cards, letters and videos. The children also learn first-hand about life in another culture, seeing similarities with their own lives.
The National Curriculum states that children have to study a foreign language at KS2. Children have to learn about the culture of the country, learn songs, games, stories and rhymes, learn about grammar and how to communicate in the chosen language. The Spanish exchange allows the children to extend their knowledge of all this and further encourages them to use their language in a meaningful, authentic environment. It gives them the impetus to go on studying a language further along their educational path, recognising the real value of being able to communicate with other people.
Over the course of the years, many of our families have made lifelong friends in Galicia, going back for family holidays and carrying on firm friendships. The children have been instilled with a love of language and an enthusiasm to learn about other cultures and countries.
Throughout the life of the exchange, approximately 220 children and their parents have been to Nigrán, 600 Year 5 children have shared a classroom with the Spanish pupils and over 150 Spanish children have visited St Catherine’s.
When the Spanish children come to St Catherine’s, the Year 5 pupils have a whole week of different activities, to celebrate our love of Spain and things Spanish. St Catherine’s pupils from Reception to Year 6 are involved with our Spanish week, with stories in KS1, carousel activities in KS2, Spanish Café and Welcome and Farewell Worships.
Our Year 5 families organise a week full of extra curricula activities and become fully immersed in the exchange programme, returning the generous hospitality shown by the Spanish families in Nigrán. We could not carry on with this venture without the unstinting support of our families.
On Tuesday a group came in from BBC Primary Languages to visit the Year 6 classes. They are trying to update the content of the BBC Primary Languages Website and are trialling new materials and soliciting feedback from primary pupils. The Year 6 children were asked about their trips to Spain and what more they would like to know about the country. They were then asked about video and online games, and which settings and characters they prefer. The session ended with a craft activity.
The children gave sensible, articulate feedback and were as polite as ever.
They are looking forward to trying out some of the games in future.