The strapline on Kensington Primary School’s website is “Inspiring children for exciting futures.” The school does what it says on the tin. It inspires children and it inspired me too.
91% of Kensington’s pupils have EAL, but it is a huge range of EAL pupils. Around 70% are from South Asian backgrounds, but it is also a school with a very regular stream of new arrivals, including East European Roma with little or no prior experience of schooling and a lack of literacy in any language.
At the heart of Kensington is a new, carefully researched, distinctive and innovative curriculum. It has four key elements: health (physical and emotional), communication, culture and academic.
The school’s 2019 Key Stage 2 outcomes were well above the national averages for all pupils and EAL pupils, but from the school’s perspective they matter because pupils leave Kensington equipped to thrive in secondary school.
There is consistency across classrooms. Whatever the subject and year group there is always a clear focus on pupil talk and vocabulary development, as strong in mathematics as it is in English. There is a focus on the different forms of individual words (e.g., learn, learning, learned, learner) as well the way meaning is constructed in idioms and collocations. All teachers are engaged in the assessment of proficiency in English and the selection of classroom strategies is linked to that assessment. All teachers understand the power of visual support.
The school has a successful parental and community involvement strategy. A new PTA has succeeded in including parents from all backgrounds. The school has managed to engage Roma parents. A thorough audit of staff language skills means that translation is possible where necessary (and where it just makes parents feel more comfortable). A Be-Bilingual leaflet (from Aberdeenshire Council) gives parents advice on developing their children’s English and mother tongue and is available in a range of languages.
Well established admission and induction procedures for mid phase new arrivals ensure pupils settle in quickly to their new environment. There is effective and early (but not too early) assessment leading to differentiated levels of support over the first two months while ensuring that the bulk of new arrivals’ time is with their peers in mainstream lessons. I talked to small group of pupils who had not been in the school very long. I was impressed that not only did they have no anxiety about school, but were also very confident about their learning and excited about being at Kensington.