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  Screen capture from Behind the scenes at the Tamil Academy

Behind the scenes at the Tamil Academy

England's schools are frequently criticised for their lack of dedication to teaching languages. Campaigns like Speak to the Future emphasise the importance of improving Britain's ranking, but in today's multicultural society it is increasingly important that children from immigrant families have access to support, not only in English, but also in their native language.

The Tamil Academy of Language and Arts (TALA) Supplementary School in south east London runs Saturday classes for Tamil children. TALA aims to help pupils achieve at mainstream schools by boosting their level of English across the curriculum, as well as maintaining and building on their own cultural identity.

As Herbans Junega, Chair of the Society of Indian Teachers and Associates, says: "The confidence in achievement in your own language has a knock-on effect on other subjects. If you feel confident in your native language it will have a positive impact on your other subjects in the curriculum."

Siva Pillai, Director of TALA, outlines how the programme is run: "TALA is open to Tamil children born in the UK and those who arrived in the UK in their early childhood. Pupils are taught by experienced teachers who provide support right up to Key Stage 3 and GCSEs, as well as teaching traditional Tamil dance and music."

And as education consultant Dilly McDermott explains, TALA aims to integrate parents and pupils as much as possible, encouraging integration not exclusion: "Parents feel confident about going into schools and conversing with teachers and participate in some of the events within the schools.

"It's giving the Tamil parents and the children a greater sense of pride in their language. It serves so many different purposes but one of them is to enable young people to be able to work through the system."

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