Anna-Kate Fuller is on a mission. To make learning languages enjoyable. “When children are enjoying themselves, they learn,” she says. In time gone by, learning a language was about rote reciting verbs. Many children still regard it as boring or difficult, but probably not those in Anna-Kate’s classes.
She is a franchisee for LCF Clubs and teaches French in a variety of schools and nurseries in Gloucester. When we speak she has just come from a French assembly full of songs and games and notes that the head teacher was “beaming”. Her classes are full of movement and action, for instance, the children learn about the time by forming a clock and racing around the outside to find the right hour which is sounded out on a drum.
LCF supplies a lot of the class material, but Anna-Kate, a mum of two, makes up her own songs too and translates familiar English nursery rhymes into French.
She started up as a franchisee, doing just a couple of sessions a week. Now she has a team of 20 French and Spanish teachers under her wing.
She is a huge believer in the value of learning a language and hopes that the Government’s policy of introducing languages in primary school from 2010 will create a love of languages which will carry on in later life and will counter an earlier decision to drop languages as a compulsory subject after the age of 14. The latter has led to a big fall in the number of children who have language qualifications.
The change in primary school policy means that she is having to diversify her work and focus more on pre-school and Key Stage One children. She has also combined her French classes with drama for Key Stage Two children.
Anna-Kate says that since she was tiny she has wanted to be French. “When I first went on holiday we went on a beach and there were French children there and we had to communicate via drawings. I was desperate to learn French from then on,” she says. She went on French exchanges from the age of 10 and was an au pair at 17 and still has many friends in France. She studied French and Italian at Exeter University and worked in Paris for two years for a US bank and then worked as a secretary for a French bank in London, eventually working in human resources.
She eventually moved out of London with her husband when she was pregnant with her first child and says it was “quite lonely” at first. At university she had taught French and she got in touch with the LCF Clubs to see if there was any work available. As luck would have it, they needed someone in her area so she began “very gently”, running a couple of clubs in a local school. From there, through word of mouth, she built up the business and took on school contracts for teaching French after school and covering teachers’ preparation and planning time and ran holiday schemes in village halls.
She sends out a newsletter to parents to keep them in touch with their children’s progress and to let them see how valuable the classes are to them and offers incentives for re-enrollment, for instance, entry to a draw for a bottle of champagne if they re-enroll before a certain date.
A lot of her work for her organisation, clubs4kids, is also about managing her team of teachers and ensuring they get the training they need, for instance, on things like how to put together an end of term assembly. Some of the training is done via webcast. She also discusses with the team any difficulties they have over things like managing children’s behaviour and has regular get togethers to share ideas. This comes naturally to her, given her HR background. In fact, her varied background has come in very useful for being self-employed. Her secretarial experience helps with the administrative running of the business. She says being an LCF Club teacher is ideal for mums as they can run clubs to fit around their childcare and they can choose their hours. As a franchisee, she pays royalties to the head office to use their materials and for support and also pays a yearly fee for public liability insurance [around £80].
She works long hours, but they are round her children. She teaches on Mondays from 9-2pm then on Thursday from 9-4pm and on Wednesdays at lunchtime and after school. Tuesdays and Wednesday morning are reserved for administration and she has Fridays off with her youngest child who starts school in September. She works most evenings catching up on emails and paperwork and is very clear that her children “come first”. The children’s grandparents live nearby and they help out a lot and her husband works from home, running his own business distributing fishing carts. He does her accounts at the moment, but the two hope to eventually set up as a family business running a wide range of classes, including a fun maths club, cookery and bushcraft, including making campfires. Anna-Kate has also set up an exchange programme so that secondary school children can really build their confidence and ability by being immersed in the language and culture. Last year 35 families from England and France were introduced. This year, she says she has struggled to find enough English families to meet the demand from French families.
She says that being a franchisee is ideal for her. “I can manage my work around my needs as a mum and I can work from my garden,” she says. “You can’t do that in a normal job.”