The Hampshire Young Interpreter Scheme was developed by the county council’s Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service in partnership with four Hampshire schools. It began six years ago and has now been extended to more than 30 schools in Hampshire and adopted by schools in 21 other local authorities. It is also operating at the International Community School in Amman, Jordan.
The scheme is a resource for schools to draw on to help some of the 700-1,000 children each year referred to the council whose first language is not English. Over 200 school pupils aged from 5 to 16 have been trained as Young Interpreters. Together they speak more than 40 languages. Some are bilingual, others learn how to use pictures, gestures and a host of other methods to communicate with their new classmates.
Young interpreters support the induction of new arrivals, communicating with pupils, parents and carers at various points through the school day. The new pupils are less vulnerable, immediately have a relationship with another child and feel included from the first day. Parents and carers also feel reassured knowing that additional support is in place for their child at a time of great change.
School data demonstrates that the scheme is helping children’s performance, and it has been praised by Ofsted inspectors. It is an inspiring example of creativity, innovation and partnership working. Rather than simply considering basic issues around interpretation, the team who developed the programme saw it in the context of Hampshire County Council’s wider aims to improve children’s social and economic development, and promote understanding and tolerance inside and outside school.
The young interpreters gain at least as much as the new pupils, developing skills as being effective, empathetic communicators able to cross language and cultural divides. These talents and perspectives may well help shape the rest of their lives.
The Hampshire Young Interpreter Scheme is a powerful example of partnership between local government and schools. It provides a service which individual schools would find difficult to build, but the resources enable each school to develop its own interpreters, giving them the speed and flexibility to respond to changing language needs.
It brilliantly achieves the aim of being low-cost but high-impact. The scheme is largely self-sustaining, with minimal running costs for the county council. Achieving the same impact through traditional translation services would be far more expensive. It has one final virtue – the idea behind it is simple. It is immediately apparent why such a programme is of great benefit to children.