EAL learners comprise more than 70% of Cauldwell School’s roll. Over the last 15 years, the headteacher, Judith Apps, has seen its pupil profile change. “We have always had pupils who speak the languages of the Indian sub-continent” she explained, “but now, we have a more varied intake, including children from homes where Polish, Bulgarian, Lithuanian and Romanian are spoken.”
Such diversity demands that teachers focus on ways to make the mainstream curriculum accessible to everyone, not only those pupils learning EAL. They plan carefully for language development as part of all children’s learning and there is an emphasis on oral work and language modelling.
To make learning as experiential as possible, drama techniques are used alongside visuals and realia. There is an emphasis on concrete representations that move towards abstract ideas. The modelling of appropriate vocabulary, structures and usage, such as comparative language, feature strongly in curriculum development because teachers are aware that this is essential for everyone. The writing process is scaffolded with the use of repetition, sequencing, storyboarding and joint writing which are used by pairs of pupils, groups working with a TA and as whole class presentations.
Working walls are used to give children independence and MYFLO (Move Your Friend’s Learning On) is used for peer assessment and helps train pupils to self-edit. Members of the leadership team support this approach by overseeing planning and by co-teaching and demonstrating strategies and approaches in the classroom. Teaching assistants are also involved in planning and all staff are encouraged to share and discuss their work.
School policy is to avoid withdrawal teaching as far as possible. One intervention that is offered is an online program specifically designed to support the early acquisition of English. They chose this program because as well as supporting English phonics and everyday vocabulary, it has content that ties in directly with the curriculum. In fact, the EAL leader was identifying content for the next class topic that the program designers could incorporate.
Display plays a key role in the school. They reflect the children’s learning journeys and home lives. There are formal displays of trophies, certificates and other prizes that the staff and pupils are proud of. The Feeling Flower, displayed in every classroom, is used to reflect children’s wellbeing throughout the day.
Parents are very supportive of the school; some have seen their children and now their grandchildren attend. One recently arrived parent was very ambitious for his Y1 and Y3 children. He had engaged decidedly with school procedures and was making sure that his children were fulfilling the reading and other tasks they bring home from school each day. To support parents, the school, in conjunction with the adjacent Nursery and Children’s Centre, contributes to the funding of ESOL classes. This provision is appreciated and seems to reinforce the parents’ identification with the school and boost parental involvement. Children are also very clear about just how much they enjoy learning at Cauldwell.
Congratulations on gaining a gold EAL Quality Mark!