Whitehouse Primary school in Ipswich follows Handford Hall in becoming the second Suffolk primary school to receive the EAL Quality Mark Gold Award. These two wonderful schools are, however, very different. While three quarter of pupils at Handford Hall have EAL, at Whitehouse the figure is just over a quarter but rising rapidly, especially among younger pupils. It has high numbers of East European Roma and Kurdish pupils, the latter from a range of backgrounds with the school taking the trouble to record Sorani and Kurmanji speakers separately. Getting EAL provision right has been a key factor in the school’s Ofsted journey from Requires Improvement in 2017 to Good in June 2019.
The school has a substantial number of new arrivals and excellent procedures for admission and induction based on the principle that anxiety, whether from pupils or parents, impedes learning. A structured but flexible approach enables the school to meet the individual needs of new pupils and new parents. Well-being comes first and successful English acquisition and learning in English is dependent on well being. A key part of the induction process for pupils and parents is a excellent visual guide to the school that helps everyone, including English speaking parents with limited literacy skills. Class teachers receive extensive information about the background of new arrivals, but baseline assessments have to wait until a new pupil is properly settled into school.
The school works hard to engage with new parents. Increasing numbers of Kurdish parents now volunteer in the school and there are plans to develop that presence into a formal Community Ambassadors Team, with the Ambassador role being much sought after. Attendance at parents’ evenings is carefully monitored and constantly rising. The schools listen to what parents and pupils say. Since more non-sports events were introduced to after school provision in response to feedback, EAL pupils have been much more likely to attend after school provision and to feel included.
The school’s curriculum is designed to reflect and celebrate its diversity. Teaching is consistent and built on a clear understanding of diversity. Whitehouse is a pupil centred school. Its termly pupil progress meetings look at individual pupils and groups of pupils, including EAL pupils. Progress is measured in numbers and words. Everywhere you look at Whitehouse there are relentless systems that are explicit and lead to consistency in classrooms. However, these systems have space for and welcome the human touch. The effective blend of the two is what makes Whitehouse special.