The school with 42 languages

Martine Clark

Martine Clark is the executive headteacher of Byron Court Primary School and a satellite provision at Ashley Gardens. She’s also the vice chair of the Brent Schools Partnership, which is working to provide school to school support and professional development opportunities for teachers and support staff in Brent. Byron Court is a designated Teaching School, and as such Martine leads the Brent Teaching School Alliance (BTSA). In recognition of this role, Martine has also been appointed as a National Leader of Education. Her particular areas of expertise are Leadership and Management, Teaching and Learning, Literacy, Modern Foreign Languages, Art, and EAL.

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Byron Court has the advantage of being located in a desirable neighbourhood of  Wembley. As an ‘outstanding’ school (Ofsted 2012) we are able to attract excellent and creative teachers, ones who are committed to providing our pupils with a solid education as well as extra curricular opportunities that enable all children to succeed and gain confidence in their abilities.

"Our Parent Support Advisors’ work enables the many different nationality groups to be integrated into our school quickly."

Our large staff, many of whom are also bi-or-multilingual, including myself, celebrate the diversity and added value our pupils and families bring to the classroom and our school. Our pupils’ life experiences enrich the curriculum and provision within the school. International events are hugely supported and all stakeholders are able to experience a wealth of cultural knowledge, arts and crafts, as well as sampling exotic cuisine, without having to travel too far and wide. In short, it is a world within a school.

We also extend our global connections through a British Council-supported project, and over the past two years we have formed strong relations with schools in Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia and Spain. Much work has taken place between the partners, including the publication of a children’s cookery book to exemplify international delicacies.

Our Parent Support Advisors work closely with our English as an Additional Language (EAL) families (often in their home language), especially those who are new to the country. This enables the many different nationality groups to be integrated into our school quickly, and to understand our high expectations and how they can help their children to meet their targets. They are invited to attend coffee mornings, afternoon teas and talks on a variety of aspects of school life and the curriculum. We also provide adult learning for those wishing to learn Maths or Computing.

Our rigorous systems ensure that all newly-arrived pupils in the school are assessed within three weeks of their arrival so that targeted support can be put in place. We have an Inclusion Team, with an EAL Leader, who will work with the class teacher and Support Staff to implement interventions such as one to one support, group work, Talking Partners and Five Minute Boxes, to accelerate the pupil’s command of English. We also pair new EAL learners with others who speak their language, which helps them to settle into the routines swiftly.

Termly tracking is imperative if pupils are to be supported effectively, and these meetings involve the Year Team staff, as well as the Inclusion Team and all the senior leaders of the school.

"We are able to support pupils within groups of children who speak the same language, which decreases the pressure on our resources to some extent."

We have also focused many staff insets on supporting pupils with EAL. We’ve also taken part in accredited pedagogical learning with PAN EAL and currently with the Institute of Education and our Brent Teaching School Alliance (plus other strategic partners). The depth of this level of learning has and remains a significant support in helping to raise standards in such a diverse community.

Although the percentage of EAL pupils has risen significantly over the years at Byron Court, the needs are somewhat easier to manage; we are able to support pupils within groups of children who speak the same language, which decreases the pressure on our resources to some extent, and makes learning support more efficient. Additionally, we now also teach Spanish from Reception, which enables pupils who do not speak English to shine equally amongst their peers, building confidence in speaking and listening.

Most importantly, we believe that every child can achieve and that not speaking English from the outset should not be a barrier to a successful education. Indeed, I did not learn English until I was seven and although EAL support was a bit of a novelty in the 1960s, I managed to secure an ‘A’ for English at A Level and joint honours degree from London University in French and Dutch. I have since thoroughly enjoyed teaching children English and take pleasure in observing both how our pupils develop their knowledge and understanding of the English language, and how in our environment they become confident learners that know their contribution is a significant and valued one. I uphold our motto: ‘Believe it, achieve it’!

If you would like to visit the school and observe some of the practices we have in place for pupils who have English as an additional language, you are most welcome to contact Trudi Mooteealoo [email protected] - director of the Brent Teaching School Alliance.

Do you have many EAL pupils in your school? Share your experiences below.

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