Add Gold EAL quality mark for St Olave's Preparatory School

St Olave’s is a small co-educational school in Eltham, southeast London that caters for children aged from 3 to 11 years old, with pupils attending from beyond the local vicinity, including the other side of the River Thames!

As Lesley Ahrens, the lead teacher for EAL and headteacher Claire Holloway walked me around the school site, I immediately became aware of the school’s strong commitment to both inclusivity and human rights. The school is highly ethnically and linguistically diverse and prides itself on making sure every pupil is able to participate in the wide ranging curricular activities, and that each one develops the proficiency in English to express their learning and enjoyment.

The leadership team, staff and parents all report pupils with EAL making very good progress in learning English. In some cases, this progress is exceptional, with one older refugee pupil overcoming his wariness of his new school to make friends. He has developed a new confidence, consolidated his love of mathematics and opened up his musical abilities. Another, a speaker of a tonal language, has grasped the irregularities of phonetic system of English. He enjoys reading widely and is thriving in the lower school.

The head of the Board of Trustees is very proud of the religious, linguistic and cultural richness of the school. He believes that “diversity creates value and adds value”. He notes that the children respond very well to the core values of the school and “happily invest” in them. Parents say that the school teaches their children how to be kind and helps them feel safe and secure. These values align closely with parents’ aspirations for their children. The strength of the partnership between home and school is visible in the support for a range of celebrations and activities as well as contributions to the curriculum.

The curriculum reflects the cultural and linguistic experiences of the pupils extensively. The Black History Month newsletter reminds parents that “We must strive to incorporate diverse perspectives and experiences into our curriculum all year round.” Parents support this by giving talks on the culture and traditions of their home countries (most recently Japan and Australia) or on organising celebrations (Holi and Eid al Fitr).

Language proficiency is recorded and monitored using the Bell Foundation tool, but EYFS uses other programmes are used to pick up early on any dips in expected language progress. Oracy is a central part of lesson planning, whether pupils are actively ‘thinking aloud’ during a maths activity or using language for a formal presentation on what they have grown in the allotment.

The newly refurbished ‘sensory’ classrooms allow for a many more collaborative learning opportunities and exchanges than before. These are spaces where language acquisition flourishes. The recently trained group of Young Interpreters were full of ideas on how to make newcomers feel welcome, including using the range of learning resources available in the classroom.

Chiaka Amadi

30th April 2024