Girls at Newcastle High School for Girls have started weekly Zumba classes with a difference – the sessions will be conducted entirely in Spanish.  The launch of weekly Spanish Zumba is one of the ways Newcastle High will be celebrating European Day of Languages on Saturday 26 September, designed to encourage lifelong language learning across Europe.

The classes aim to strengthen Spanish teaching in school by giving it a purpose, supplementing traditional classroom learning by introducing Spanish into other activities and more widely into use in daily school life.

Zumba 2

During the summer, Newcastle High organised an outward bound course in Spain which combined language learning and cultural immersion with practical and fun outdoor activities which were taught exclusively in Spanish.

The School also runs exchange programmes and international work placement schemes to provide girls with direct access to the language in real life situations.

Newcastle High adopted Spanish as its principal modern foreign language last year.  Now all girls are taught Spanish from Nursery to GCSE and will in future take the exam a year earlier in Year 10.

Newcastle High’s approach to education means that it continues to search out exciting ways to infuse new life into foreign language teaching and is why the School continues to attract an increasing number of girls to study Modern Foreign Language A Levels in contrast to the national picture where there are declining numbers taking MFL to A Level.

UK school children lag behind their European counterparts in France, Spain and Germany where most teenagers are fluent in not just one, but often multiple languages with English the primary modern language.

In addition to weekly Zumba, throughout the autumn term at Newcastle High, a series of events will be staged to celebrate the European Day of Languages culminating in a Careers Day on 21 November designed to show the relevance and importance of learning a Modern Foreign Language.

Girls studying GCSEs, their parents and business representatives will be invited to attend the event with guest speakers from different industry sectors discussing their personal experience of the benefits of being proficient in a modern foreign language.  An IT expert, a solicitor, accountant, even a member of the police force will share their experiences and highlight how having another language has enhanced their job prospects and provided opportunities that only a bi-lingual candidate could exploit.  One of the key messages for pupils is that regardless of the political debate about the UK’s role in the European Union, Europe is and will continue to be a huge part of their future.

Commenting on the language learning efforts, Jennie King, head of Faculty for Languages and Literacy at Newcastle High explained:

“We recognise that language learning needs to start early to ensure its long term success, that’s why we’ve started teaching Spanish, our primary language, in Nursery.  By embedding Spanish into our daily life at School we hope to build confidence in our girls and encourage life long language learning.  Hosting events and activities where foreign languages are in focus will also help to provide a context for this learning and demonstrate how being multi-lingual will expand opportunities now and in the future.

“Zumba in Spanish is just one example. It is a fun way of getting the girls completely immersed in the language, giving it a practical purpose and making it more relevant.  We want our girls to embrace a foreign language and highlight that their counterparts in France, Spain and other European countries are fluent in not just one but often multiple languages, with English a given.

“Changes to A Levels and the widespread perception that learning a language is very difficult can deter many from progressing beyond GCSE so we’re devoting a cross curriculum programme to ensure that our girls are equipped with language learning skills for life.”

The European Day of Languages has been celebrated every year since 2001 on 26 September, as an initiative of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The aim is to encourage more people to learn a foreign language.


  • There has been a 16% decline in the number of students studying modern foreign languages at UK Universities over a 7-year period between 2007 – 2014. The decline is mirrored in the number of children studying languages at GCSE and A level. (Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency)
  • Over half of people in the EU can speak at least two languages with 38% able to speak English
  • The UK ranks alongside Portugal as the 2nd worst country in Europe for people being able to speak a foreign language – Ireland has the lowest percentage of people able to speak a foreign language.
  • Countries where people are least likely to be able to speak any foreign language are Hungary (65%), Italy (62%), the UK and Portugal (61% in each), and Ireland (60%).

(Figures taken from European Commission research by Special Eurobarometer)



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