In Holly class, Matilda, aged six, calls the register. “Ciao, Tyler,” she says. “Presente,” he replies. “Ciao, Arthur,” she says next. “Ciao, Maestra Matilda,” he says. The class collapses into giggles: Matilda is taking the register as part of today’s Italian lesson. Her teacher, Stefania Cellini, helps the children count aloud to check everyone is there. Even though these year 1 pupils are only five or six, they easily count to 28 in Italian. “You are all bravissimi,” Cellini says.
If there’s sports day, Sats or a school trip, languages are the first thing to go
This language lesson is not a one‑off. Here at John Rankin infant and junior schools, in Newbury, Berkshire, all pupils receive one hour’s Italian teaching a week, starting in year 1, funded not by the UK, but by the Italian government.