Furloughed Eurostar staff become French teachers

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News family and education correspondent

image captionManon Folligan, one of the Eurostar staff who has been volunteering with online French lessons

Eurostar staff furloughed during the lockdown are helping London schools with online French lessons.

Rail staff not currently working, including train drivers, have volunteered to help pupils learning at home online.

Only a limited number of Eurostar's services to France and Belgium are running - and about 30 staff have been helping with French lessons.

They are helping classes run online by teachers in three secondary schools.

The schools, based near the Eurostar terminus in St Pancras and its depot in east London, have organised about 100 students into small online groups, with rail staff providing conversation classes for pupils and their accompanying teachers.

The French-speaking staff, including train crew, customer services, control room and finance staff, have been unable to do their regular day jobs during the lockdown - and are volunteering with online language classes.

David Dogue, a French teacher at Sir George Monoux sixth form college in Walthamstow, says it is a very useful chance for his A-level pupils to talk to native French speakers.

image captionEurostar staff, unable to do their day jobs, have been using their language skills

"The opportunity to speak with someone from outside the school helps boost their confidence, while they're dealing with the challenges of having to study from home," said Mr Dogue.

Mary Walsh of Eurostar says the scheme, running since April, is making use of language skills in the workforce to help schools which might not have access to French speakers.

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