The EAL Academy


Fulbridge Academy

One of the great pleasures of the work we do at the EAL Academy is coming across schools with outstanding EAL practice and provision. Over the next few months we will try and highlight some of the schools that we think are models of excellence in EAL.
We were delighted in the Summer when Fulbridge Academy agreed to host our training programme in Peterborough and allow course participants the opportunity to see great EAL practice as well learn about it.
Fulbridge is an inner city primary school. Around half of its pupils are from Pakistani backgrounds and a quarter from families who have more recently from Eastern Europe. Its attainment levels in 2016 were well above the national average. However, it is not a school driven by a culture of testing. Indeed. one of the first things you notice about the school is the absence of commercially produced learning resources and the stunning quality of the displays of topics the children are learning about. They may depict the work of an author and/or a character, or may, like the display in the dining area, depict ideas around generalised notions such as food/eating. The rich social and cultural representations are life-size and striking in their content and attention to detail; they feel authentic. As well as characters from children’s literature they reference names classical, traditional and contemporary culture, such as Harry Potter, Dr Seuss, Banksy and Velázquez. The content in the displays is not overtly multicultural, but it enables pupils to immerse themselves in the depicted scenarios, thus providing access to a wide and varied curriculum and helping all children to develop deeper understandings. Topics the children are learning about are presented through a variety of media such as books, film/video, photographs, webpages, toys, props, tools, apparatus. They are also supported by corridor displays, paintings and other themed areas. As well as computers, children have access to tablets when researching or exploring ideas.
Expectations are very high at Fulbridge and work set is challenging for all. By planning activities that move from the concrete on to abstract ideas, teachers support children’s conceptual understanding and language development. Creative use of apparatus (in mathematics, for instance) visual images, and role play all give children opportunities to rehearse the language they might later use in writing or presenting. Having the same learning objectives for all pupils (not simplifying or differentiating by outcome) means that EAL learners are fully included and their work contributes to whole class learning.
Children are exposed to displays of several varieties of written language: a Victorian prayer, some sayings of Dr Seuss, the poetry of the Tip Tap Dancing Cat, wallcharts in Spanish and British Sign Language, a poster on Holistic Intelligences. Similarly, the oral language and structures children are exposed to are sometimes complex in rhythm, meaning and structure, such as the song being rehearsed in the music lesson.
When working in groups, children build their knowledge of English through interacting with their peers. However, language models provided by teachers include complex forms (pluperfect tenses, modal verbs): “At this point, I would expect you to have allocated jobs”, “you might organise yourselves so that…”
Children work largely in groups and the ensuing collective responsibility means that EAL learners are included in mainstream learning and supported in understanding and responding to the teacher’s requests and expectations. Children working in groups take responsibility for their own learning, assigning roles and tasks to each other or deciding which aspects of a topic to explore.
Pupils are fully engaged in their learning and are surrounded by models of good behaviour. Teachers are explicit about what ‘good listening’ or ‘nice walking’ looks like and pupils emulate it.
The school takes a child-centred and inclusive approach to learning and this applies to children learning EAL and those with SEND whether in the classrooms or in a PE lesson. Pupil talk and activity is much more common than teacher talk or direction. Nonetheless, teachers explain tasks and their expectations of the children very clearly.
Feedback from teachers focuses on drawing pupils out: “I need you to be more concise” or “Can you be more specific?”
The school promotes holistic intelligences as a way to plan for children’s learning. In discussing how any aspect relates to the activities they have just completed, children gain an understand these skills at the same time as acquiring them. They also develop the metalanguage to talk about them.
Routines are crucial. We saw a Children were seen to be well practised in peer assessment. When asked how she knew if she had accurately assessed a piece of work, a pupil replied “because we’ve been doing this since Year 3”.
To sum up, what makes Fulbridge special is that its EAL practice is completely integrated into school life. All the staff do it really well all the time.