Kingsway Community Trust is a small multi-academy trust in Manchester with three inner city primary schools: Cringle Brook, Green End and Ladybarn – all judged as outstanding by Ofsted with EAL prominent in the reports. Lisa Vyas is the Executive Head and a National Leader of Education.
Two thirds of pupils in Cringle Brook have EAL and more than half do in the other two schools. The largest group in each school is pupils of Pakistani heritage, roughly a half of pupils in both Cringle Brook and Green End and a third in Ladybarn . Over 30 languages are spoken in each school.
Ofsted has been to both Cringle Brook and Green End relatively recently. The Cringle Brook report says: “Pupils demonstrate an edifying respect and tolerance of each other and their differing views. A pupil told the inspector, ‘It is very important to have lots of different faiths and languages. If we didn’t, the world would be very boring.’” Other quotes include:
“A sizeable number of pupils who join the school are new to English and/or recent arrivals in the country. The achievement of these pupils is rapid and substantial, a testimony to the impact of the driven and successful leader and intervention teacher with responsibility for these pupils.”
“The teaching of the many pupils who are new to English is superb. The strategies employed to ensure the rapid and sustained acquisition of English are meticulously planned and executed. Consequently, pupils secure solid foundations to their learning of English and acquire grammatical security which greatly enhances their reading and writing skills. “
The verdict on Green End is:
“Support for pupils with English as an additional language is exemplary. This ensures that they settle into school quickly and make outstanding progress…Specialist teachers and teaching assistants are highly skilled in ensuring pupils and children in the early years, with little or no English, are always fully engaged in learning activities. Teaching staff do this through their highly focused one-to-one work, small-group teaching activities and in providing support in class. On several occasions during the inspection, pupils with English as an additional language were observed making accelerated progress in class. Work in books confirms that all such pupils make outstanding progress over time.”
The schools’ success with EAL pupils is built on outstanding teaching and learning and high expectations, underlying which is professional thoroughness: from the first language assessments for most new arrivals to specific interventions for both early and advanced EAL learners. There is regular monitoring at all levels of the progress of EAL learners and monitoring of classroom practice to ensure that appropriate differentiation and high expectations are in place. These are schools in which talk matters. Parallel talk is a key strategy in EYFS and has been instrumental in developing children’s language and understanding there.
The EAL tracking system for new arrivals is aligned the with new proficiency scales and explicitly links the pupils’ development in English to specific classroom strategies. EAL task bags for new arrivals correlate with their EAL steps/scales and are used in class as ‘dip ins’ to reinforce key language and literacy skills through hands on activities such as sorting, sequencing and labelling, reminding teachers of the importance of these strategies in the process.
Professional development is a big element in the way EAL is done. The EAL Leader, Rumana Asif, team teaches with all newly qualified teachers in the three schools. It’s the fastest way to fill in the biggest gap in initial teacher training. All teaching assistants have a good knowledge of EAL issues and bilingual teaching assistants are adept at pre-teaching language and content to pupils. Rumana is keen to promote a good for EAL, good for all approach across the Trust and that is reflected in the teaching and the resources used. She credits Lisa Vyas with raising the profile of EAL and setting high expectations for these pupils and urges all headteachers to do the same.
Like all schools, these three have particular challenges. There are large numbers pupils of Pakistan. Nationally this group performs worse than other large EAL groups, both in terms of attainment and progress at Key Stage 2. Yet EAL outcomes are well above the national average at these schools. An interesting group are the children of Saudi parents studying at local universities. That provides plenty of educational capital, but it is also a very transient group.
The Trust is outward looking and keen to share its practice. Earlier this year Rumana ran training for colleagues in Manchester primary schools. The evaluations are stunning but the most interesting thing about them is the participant job titles: they are mostly senior leaders and consultants.
It seems to me that Kingsway Community Trust are making and winning the big argument about EAL. EAL does not mean a few a pupils with limited English. It is not an issue effectively approached with separate provision or special software. As we say at the EAL Academy, EAL is an approach to school improvement that focuses on classroom language, outstanding teaching and learning and high expectations. It is quite simple and it is a joy to see it done so well.