The British Academy has recently announced the 2014 winners of its Schools Language Awards. 14 prizes of £4,000 each were awarded to schools and colleges – or institutions supporting them – for proposals to increase the numbers of students learning languages at higher levels. The winning projects were selected by a panel of judges from more than one hundred applications from across the UK and on the list of winners were none other than our ‘crew’ at Plymstock School for their student led business Our Way International, an innovative and pioneering social enterprise in international trade.
Robin Jackson, Chief Executive and Secretary of the British Academy said, “The aim of these Awards is to find imaginative and effective ways of encouraging more learners to take languages to higher levels, and to encourage inclusiveness in the profile of language learners. It is clear from the response that mainstream and supplementary schools around the country share our concerns and we are delighted to have received so many high quality applications. We heartily congratulate the winning projects, whose progress we will follow with great interest. We hope they will become beacons of good practice and inspiration and help to turn the tide on Britain’s language deficit.”
Our Way was launched in 2013 by a group of ambitious and motivated students with a passion for business and language. Through their young, fresh and funky approach, they have designed a business concept that brings enterprise inside the school gates, providing a platform for local businesses in the south west to not only improve their UK performance, but also to introduce their goods or services to the French market.
Since its launch less than two years ago, they have built firm relationships with businesses and enterprises in the UK and Plymouth’s twin city Brest in France, developing mutually beneficial partnerships and increasing potential trade for these businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. They are currently working with Bloomberry Juice, Sarah Drew and the Cornish Crisp Company.
Sarah Jones of Bloomberry Juice said, “We have been so impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of the Our Way students. Their drive has meant so much to us here at Bloomberry Juice. We are a very small company with limited resources on time and finance, so taking Bloomberry to international events is something we dream of!”
Using classroom French in a real setting has propelled their language skills to another level, raised the profile of languages in their school and community, inspired others to study languages, and given the students a competitive edge in the international labour market when they come to compete for jobs in the future.
Our Way has already won numerous social enterprise awards, including International Market Builders, but their ambition goes even further. They will tour other feeder primary schools in Plymouth to excite younger pupils about learning languages.
David Farmer, Head Teacher at Plymstock School, reiterates the achievements of his students. He says, “We are really pleased that the British Academy Schools Language Awards recognises the work our senior students have undertaken in the last 12 months and the opportunity it gives to our newest students.”
“Enterprise around their interests and aptitudes has been at the heart of the work Our Way has undertaken. However, the overriding passion of these talented young students has been using their enterprise as a real context to communicate their vision using a modern foreign language. This collaboration and innovation has been facilitated by staff from Plymstock School and partners RIO. In essence, their shared passions have enabled students to have unique opportunities beyond their school hours and what the curriculum can provide. We wanted to enable the next generation of our country to have a platform to develop their skills as entrepreneurs and we will watch these young people’s futures with interest.”
At RIO we have worked closely with Plymstock School to develop Our Way, encouraging their ideas and aspirations and guiding them as they developed. We are now working with the Our Way subsidiary social enterprises to come out of the original ‘Our Way International’, helping them realise their passion and potential and exploring links with other local businesses and the community.
RIO Schools Consultant Ellie Eaton says, “Working with Our Way since their creation in 2013 has been an honour and a privilege. The group are passionate about languages and the doors that it can open. They understand that their futures will be full of competition for careers, and European candidates will also be fighting for jobs. They wanted a competitive advantage, and they felt that a European language offered them this.”
“They feel it is essential to get excited by languages at an early age, because they all know first-hand how it can create extensive opportunities and enables them to discover other cultures. Thanks to Our Way, it no longer has to be just a classroom subject. Our Way International hopes to breed a new secondary school pupil who sees language as not just a classroom lesson, but a valuable tool that is fun, exciting and dynamic, offering vast opportunities and experiences.”
Young people from Our Way travelled to London to attend the ceremony in recognition of their hard work on 28th October, and sat alongside politicians, embassy representatives, and other key figures as they are presented with their award. Huge congratulations to all those involved!