The school has a very thorough approach to policies and practice, ensuring that the whole school staff and parents are aware of good practice for EAL. Staff are able to develop inclusive and challenging teaching and learning. The SLT monitors the EAL policy and audits regularly by data tracking, lesson observations and pupil interviews. Teachers have a variety of resources available to help them develop inclusive and collaborative lessons. All lessons are mixed ability and the staff are aware of the work of Cummins, Vygotsky, Krashen and Collier/Thomas. The school has regularly provided EAL training for its own staff and is also a beacon of good practice for other local schools in Warwickshire.
The head teacher has made EAL a priority for many years and has appointed staff who are able to carry out this aim. The school has recently lost their very experienced EAL Co-ordinator but because the school already has such strong and well-established EAL practice, there will be a smooth transition to life with new co-ordinator.
Pupils work shows clearly the impact of an effective EAL culture. A Y1 new arrival had come to the school without any literacy skills in mother tongue, but nonetheless made rapid progress because of a range of scaffolds and supportive activities to help develop language skills. A Y3 pupil’s work also showed rapid progress over two terms from a relatively low starting point.
There is a particularly strong focus on encouragement of the use of mother tongue. The library has a good range of books in a variety of languages. There has been a long tradition of celebrating a Language of the Month and the children who are Language Ambassadors showed me the latest example, Hungarian. Parents also confirmed that they had been encouraged to use their mother tongue at home to support their children’s learning. There are some videos on the school website called Share a Book showing parents reading with their children in mother tongue, as well as advice in different languages. Parents from Poland, France and India all expressed their satisfaction, saying that younger siblings were desperate to start school. One parent spoke about how his rather reticent son had been encouraged to be the teacher of his class for French lessons and how this has boosted his confidence and helped gain the respect of other pupils. Parents are asked to volunteer if they have time, and the many events recorded in the school records show that this happens regularly. Recently, the school has celebrated a huge range of cultures, religions and languages, including Diwali, Eid, Vaisakhi, Ganesh Chaturthi; they have visited a Mandir, and a Gurdwara; they have celebrated Kurdish, Russian, Bulgarian, Mandarin, Romanian, Hungarian and they have held a Cultural Diversity Day.
This school has very well-established good practice for EAL, clearly producing excellent results in terms of attainment and progress. The whole school community is also encouraged to be curious about the whole world, resulting in confident and knowledgeable pupils. Those from EAL backgrounds are encouraged to be proud of their heritage as well as developing new cultural identities. Sydenham thoroughly deserves the Gold Award.