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What Connects and what Divides ? Liverpool’s Hidden Culture.

‘Hats off’ to the fantastic cultural work of the language teachers in Liverpool.

Over the past month I’ve been amazed at these unsung heroes and heroines, the champions of Merseyside’s Cultural heritage and a driving force to push the study of languages into the forefront of education.

The seventeen Supplementary Language schools in Liverpool, had a showcase of culture recently at Broadgreen International School. Here the different cultures in Liverpool provided a showcase of talent in singing, dancing, cuisine and art.

I was enthralled with the Wirral Multicultural evening at Wallasey Town Hall, meeting the Mayor, headteachers, governors and leaders of cultural organisations; discussing and networking future festivals and seminars in the pursuit of our cultural goals and diversity.

The Liverpool school improvement ‘EMTAS’ Awards ceremony at the Devonshire House Hotel on Monday was a feast of delights with performances from Liverpool Malayalee Association, Chinese Poetry, dancing and a performance of young children singing in Arabic.

On Friday I was in London giving a report to the British Academy of Schools Language Awards and was proud to receive an accolade for a second year involving a project developing language skills at the Liverpool Polish School.

In tandem, South Sefton College, Litherland also received an award from the British Academy for their ‘Love Languages’ Project, which is a student-driven programme aiming to develop the student’s experience of a varied range of languages and cultures. It also aims to develop the skills and confidence of students to broaden their horizons through partnerships with schools, universities, employers and schools abroad.

Throughout Merseyside I have witnessed the brilliant work of the language teachers in both Primary and Secondary. Imaginative language studies which bring ‘Snow White’ alive on the stage in German, visits to Chateau and the pupil exchange initiatives which enhance pan-European experiences.

As part of a global economy and increasingly multilingual and multicultural society, I feel it is essential that we equip the next generation of students with vital skills which allow them to succeed. Language skills are an integral part of this.

I was amazed to see so many children at the EMTAS Awards, receive Fast Trackers Language Awards, Traveller Awards, EAL Awards, Grade A GCSE & A- Level Awards in Polish, Chinese, Bengali, Somali and Arabic.

Events like this across Merseyside, celebrate the efforts of staff and children and give well-deserved recognition for the important work they are doing.

I spend well over three months of the year in Europe, travelling, teaching, lecturing, developing projects and working through diplomatic agencies. The cost of living in Europe is not that demanding and undergrads overseas this year saw a 17% rise in UK students considering studying overseas. The US was the most popular destination, followed by Australia, France and Germany. Germany surprisingly is the most affordable study location, with costs of £4,200.

With UK universities charging up to £9,000 a year for tuition fees, an increasing option is to study abroad for a fraction of the cost.

Once a month I’m in Bruges. Language is no problem if you have a simple understanding of French or German but in the case of Maastricht University for example, 11 out of 16 undergraduate programmes are taught in English.
As an example-
Netherlands Fees-£1,500 (£4.500 for a standard degree)
Monthly Rent £357 (student flat)
Tutorial Groups-12-15 students
Teaching Hours- 14
Worst Thing- Health Insurance is a must at £80 a month
Value- Excellent, you get lots of education for your fees!.
“It’s like Cambridge, with warmer weather, and the fees are £1,500 a year”.

With so many Primary schools taking up a modern foreign language now, it’s well worth seeing through that particular language to a higher level, and using it to advantage in todays competitive jobs market. There is strong evidence to suggest that the UK is suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills at a time when global demand for language skills is expanding.

With the evidence I have seen in Liverpool this month, the children of Liverpool are indeed one step ahead in the game, and there is a hidden culture that certainly connects.

As we move towards a New Year, I would like to think that some of our readers may take up the pursuit of a language, renew its acquaintance or support a younger member of the family to see how language learning translates to employment.

Harald Jaeger…..the man who opened the Berlin Wall.

Liverpool University’s £500m upgrade facilities will be host to a very special guest on Tuesday 21st October 6pm at the Eleanor Rathbone Building, when Harald Jaeger, the man who opened the Berlin Wall gives a fascinating interview.

When hundreds of East Berliners showed up at the Bornholmer Strasse border crossing on a cold and grey November evening in 1989, demanding to be let into West Berlin, Lt Col. Harald Jaeger asked for guidance from his superiors.

By the time the crowd grew into a thousand and became more demanding it became clear to Jaeger that he would get no guidance from his superiors.

If you are interested in this story; this significant world event, an event that gave individual freedom, an event that started the slow disintegration of Communist Europe, meeting a classic Stasi intelligence officer and talking to the man who opened up the Wall in which a ‘class enemy’ gained a victory. Then book a ticket for the event on

The excited East Germans did converge on the border crossing that Jaeger commanded with him unaware that hours earlier Politburo member Gunter Schabowski had announced to the international media that the ruling Communist party had ‘declared East Germans were free to travel immediately’.

The dramatic decision took all by surprise. Jaeger, the highest ranking officer at the time, having spent 30 years in the East German army and overseeing the building of the Wall in 1961, gave his people the order to ‘raise the barrier’.

The decision to open the Berlin Wall border crossing almost 25 years ago began the process of German unification that left former Stasi officer Harald Jaeger unemployed.

On Tuesday Harald will deliver a talk recounting his experiences and subsequent reflection.

This is the only UK stop on his world tour, a tour which should be ‘very, very interesting’.

6pm Eleanor Rathbone Building L697ZA

Council starts consultation on libraries – let your voice be heard!


The first of a series of meetings encouraging Liverpool residents to have their say on the future of 11 community libraries is set to take place this week

The first public meeting will take place from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday 25 September at the Lee Valley Millennium Centre, Childwall Valley Road, L25 2PR. This is an opportunity for the libraries team to talk about why certain libraries in that particular area are at risk and also for people to ask questions and have their say on the proposals for the service.

A report into the proposed library service identified 11 libraries which could be at risk of closure if alternative and viable ways of delivering services from these buildings cannot be found.

A number of discussions are already underway with interested parties about taking over the running of some of the venues which are Breck Road, Dovecot, Fazakerley, Kensington, Lee Valley, Old Swan, Sefton Park, Spellow, Walton, Wavertree and West Derby libraries.

Assistant Mayor and Cabinet Member responsible for libraries, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “The scale of the cuts facing us is extremely challenging and we want to make sure we’ve explored all the options available.

“We understand that libraries are hugely valued by the local community, and these meetings are a vital way in which members of the public can express their views and also find out from the team involved why certain proposals have been made.

“I hope as many people as possible are able to attend either Thursday’s, or one of the later meetings so that we can work together as much as possible to shape the future of Liverpool’s library service.”

Further meetings will take place in the forthcoming weeks and will be announced as the soon as the dates and venues are confirmed.

Under the proposals, 95 percent of people will still live within two miles of a library and the Home Library Service and the RNIB Talking Book Service will not be affected.

The city council would continue to run Central Library – which is used by 45 percent of library users – and seven community libraries: Croxteth, Norris Green, Toxteth, Childwall, Allerton, Garston and Parklands

Liverpool has 19 public libraries in total. The 11 libraries at risk of closure if alternative and viable ways of delivering the services from these buildings cannot be found, are:

  • Breck Road Library
  • Dovecot Library
  • Fazakerley Library
  • Kensington Library
  • Lee Valley Library
  • Old Swan Library
  • Sefton Park Library
  • Spellow Library
  • Walton Library
  • Wavertree Library
  • West Derby Library

They are potentially at risk because of a number of factors including below average use, high running costs, their proximity to another library and the potential of the service being provided by another organisation or group.

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