Sara McLaughlin talks about a school that lives and breathes a shared understanding of what it means to support a culturally and linguistically diverse community.
The main thing that I look for when I assess a school for the EAL Quality Mark is a sense that the whole school lives and breathes a shared understanding of what it means to support a culturally and linguistically diverse community. When you walk into Hampton Hargate primary school in Peterborough you know that this is a school that takes a lot of care to make sure that all children are proud of their identities and of their success in school. The fact that EAL children close and often exceed the attainment gap by the end of KS2 is testimony to a whole school approach which takes great care to support and develop children’s learning whilst celebrating their skills and knowledge.
Karina Hammond, the EAL Co, took me on a tour of the school. On the corridors, you will see displays by herself, as well as the Geography and Global Dimension coordinators. There are events such as EAL Day, where all children teach and learn about each other’s languages and also Languages Week, which is attended by many parents. Aeroplane Day is where the children go for an imaginary trip abroad, even bringing in suitcases, whilst the TAs dress as cabin crew and with the head as captain, they ‘travel’ on screen. Children explained to me that they learned some words of the language of their destination and also study the geography and culture of their chosen destination. Some Reception class children believed that they had actually arrived at their destination.
Parents are encouraged to participate in school life as was evident in the photographic records I was shown. There are many opportunities for parents to participate with good uptake from a wide range of families.
A very impressive group of high flying Year 6 children who had come to the school with little or no English, explained to me how they had been supported and encouraged to succeed from the start. They also talked about school buddy systems and how well this works for new arrivals, One boy explained how he picked up phrases from each of his teachers: this year his favoured expression was ‘to be fair’.
Of course, there is more to school than special events. This school works very hard to start children off well, with a strong emphasis on creative play and talk-based activities in Reception. This strengthens children’s social skills and understanding of the school culture as well as developing their English language skills. I watched children completely absorbed in role play with staff recording oral and social interactions on post it notes in the garden. Andy, the head teacher, explained that the school intake has changed recently with more children with EAL and more deprivation and fewer language skills in any language. This makes it even more important to get it right from the start, making sure that families know that their children will be supported and that use of mother tongue is welcomed and encouraged,
Further up the school, staff are aware of children’s developing language needs: as well as careful grouping and a focus on opportunities to practice the target language through curriculum activities, more advanced pupils are encouraged to extend their language knowledge. Karina showed me a range of books with carefully annotated records of children’s language development.
There are also some carefully judged interventions. Talk 4 Maths was a particularly interesting one, focussing on expressing mathematical concepts orally, using a lot of visuals.
The school is not resting on its laurels however. As the head teacher explained, with the changing intake the school will need to be vigilant to make sure that children and families’ successful induction to the school is maintained, giving everyone a good start.