TEACHERS at a secondary school in Sheffield are leading a drive to encourage more students to take GCSEs in their first languages.
The Home Language Accreditation Project (HoLA), which launched last month, is now being rolled out across the city and staff at King Edward VII School in Broomhill are helping to implement it.
Sheffield is one of the most diverse cities in the country, with more than 100 different languages being spoken.
It is hoped that, by encouraging more children to take qualifications in their mother tongues through the HoLA project, GCSE results will improve and Sheffield will rise up the league tables.
Latest figures show that the city is below the national average in terms of GCSE results, ranking 137th out of 150 local authorities – sliding down from 132nd last year and 126th two years ago.
Just 49.4 per cent of 16-year-olds in Sheffield achieve good grades in five GCSEs, including English and maths, compared with 58.2 per cent nationally
Eight secondary schools in the city are also ranked in the bottom 200 in the whole of England.
Coun Jackie Drayton, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for children, said: “Learning a community language is so important because not only does it help children understand their heritage, it also provides a foundation for further learning.
“We are very lucky to have such a rich cultural heritage here in this city and it is about time that the wonderful home languages which often get taken for granted are being given formal recognition in this way.
“And if this in turn helps boost literacy and attainment levels in the city that can only be a good thing.”
Clare Allison, project manager for HoLA at King Edward VII School, added: “Every child should be able to take a GCSE in their mother tongue. An individual’s language is at the heart of their identity.”