The Origins of ISMLA

The idea of an association that would promote language learning and support language teachers in the independent sector was born during a train journey shared by Daphne West, Head of Languages at Sherborne Girls and Peter Such, Head of Languages at Sherborne School in the early nineties. Networking led to a working party which held its inaugural morning conference at Dulwich and included Peter Hamilton, then Head of Modern Languages at Westminster, Anthony Earl and Peter Kino, the then Head of Languages at Sevenoaks. They are regarded as ISMLA’s founding members.

The reasons for wanting to set up such an organisation at the time were:

  1. A.L.L. represented above all the concerns of state school colleagues, and that dictated the emphases in conferences and publications.
  2. Many small independent schools needed a forum to learn from each other, have ideas, and be bolstered up.
  3. Increasingly, independent schools were providing the nation‘s linguists, and that, unfortunately remains true; over 30% of language undergraduates come from private schools.
  4. These schools have develop cultural and literary interests which maintained schools cannot always provide. Some staff have a toe in university-type research.

The association developed quickly, producing a bulletin and an annual conference; and some sporadic area meetings. Excellent and successful conferences have been held at independent schools all over the country, the first one at Dulwich College, on 18 September 1993 and the best attended frequently being the London based ones. The Committee always held the view that conferences away from London were highly desirable every other year, even if attendance was thereby reduced.

The association has a national profile, and is consulted by government bodies. The onus to do our national duty is even stronger.