Gold EAL Quality Mark for Great Denham
Great Denham Primary School opened in 2012 with just 100 pupils. It now has 580 on roll. The school is situated on a relatively new and aspirational housing development on the western outskirts of Bedford, from which it draws its pupils. It also attracts a significant number of families from the more culturally diverse but less affluent Queen’s Park area, as well as the children of professionals who commute into London for work.
In recent years, families from Eastern Europe have settled there, and so the pupils who are completely new to English are lower down the school. A large proportion of pupils are second, third and even fourth generation speakers of languages from the Indian subcontinent. The school knows its families well and provides a rich language learning environment to extend all the children through an engaging and immersive curriculum.
The relatively new role of EAL leader was created in response to the growing number of multilingual pupils (around 30% of the roll) and the fact that many of these children experience multiple vulnerabilities. The role is intended to empower teachers by acting as a source of information and good practice, interrogating data, matching resources to needs, and maintaining an overview of the children’s progress.
Great Denham favours a topic-based approach to learning. All staff plan collaboratively to develop ‘REAL projects’, and many of the learning objectives they devise require collaborative working on the part of the pupils. Some pupils may spend up to 50% of the week on project work. Projects are designed to challenge learners whatever their proficiency in English. As such, they plan multiple opportunities for story-telling, drama, role play and discussion, alongside other less well known strategies such as conscience alleys. Pre-teaching and over learning, the constant revisiting of language in different formats to reinforce language development also feature prominently.
Children may work in their classrooms or the many breakout spaces in the school. QR codes direct them to resources they need. This avoids time being lost to the frustration of unsuitable ‘Google’ results. Pupils may also choose to create QR codes to direct teachers to the work they have produced: videos of them working together, oral presentations, written pieces, artwork, displays, photographs, weekend activities or work on ‘take home tasks’. They point their teachers towards any work that can be formatted electronically. Work is quality controlled through peer marking/commentary as well as by monitoring and final marking by teachers.
Intended learning outcomes are in keeping with those of the national curriculum. Language development and new concepts go hand in hand, but there is the added dimension of the school fostering a strong sense of citizenship and community activism. The children gain a sense of how to make changes to the world they live in.
Covid-19 has impacted learning. Lost opportunities to play and learn together mean that the youngest pupils have not developed their language and social skills to the extent that they otherwise might have. There is direct input from staff and as well as interventions such as NELI. The school’s pastoral structures also help bridge the gap. The ‘Family’ or house system, gives younger children opportunities for close interaction with older pupils. The Buddy System pairs Year 6 pupils with children in Reception and there is also buddying of new pupils with EAL within their class groups. The sense of care and responsibility within the school is palpable.
I thoroughly enjoyed my morning there and extend my congratulations to everyone in the Great Denham community involved in earning a Gold Quality Mark.
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