Goldington Green Academy Lower School, Bedford, achieves the EAL Quality Mark gold award

In my capacity as an assessor for the EAL Academy’s Quality Mark – an award granted by the EAL Academy to schools showing excellence in catering for the needs of EAL pupils – I had the pleasure of visiting Goldington Green at the end of 2016 to verify the evidence provided for the quality mark.

Goldington Green’s self assessment showed that the school rated itself highly and I went there feeling that surely they wouldn’t be that good. I should have known better. Before I arrived, I was sent an impressive timetable by the EAL Coordinator, allowing me to meet a wide range of people who work in the school. These included the head, a governor responsible for EAL, the deputy, a group of children some of whom had English as an additional language, the SENCo, an NQT, and a parent volunteer.

The school has a strong emphasis on inclusion. I was especially impressed by the way everyone, from the head to the latest NQT, understands that pupils with EAL learn best through the curriculum and alongside their peers. Children are encouraged to use their mother tongue when they are able to and the curriculum is carefully planned to ensure that children’s culture and language are recognised. The school’s results show that they are managing to close the gap for all pupils with EAL by the time they reach KS2.

From the moment you step into the school you know that this is a place where all children and their families are valued. Displays all over the school show how the school respects diversity of culture, religion and languages. Children proudly showed me the huge range of projects the school has covered.

The Heritage Bag project is one such example of how the school achieves this respect for diversity. Children take it in turns to take a special bag and book home to fill with images and objects – things that are important to them and their parents – which they then share with their class. There is also a Heritage Suitcase project for parents which is developed in a workshop and then shared with the school at assemblies. I am told that there has been great competition by both children and parents of all cultures, including English, to send in interesting items.

Black Children’s Achievement Projects (BCAP) are also run regularly: as it had just been Black History Month there were some stunning displays. The school also has a twinning project with Ghana.

The children understand and respect the school’s values-based approach and even those in the Reception class were beginning to grasp ideas of peace and friendship. When I spoke to a group of pupil buddies, they talked about an awkward moment when they felt that some children were laughing at some African dancers. ‘They should have been showing tolerance,’ they said.

Parents from a wide range of heritages are encouraged to help in the school. I met a Polish volunteer who spoke enthusiastically about her work with new arrivals and also about the Polish school that she runs on the school premises at the weekends. The school website is helpful and clear about how children with EAL are supported and there are lots of photos of events where parents are involved, such as the annual multicultural week.

Finally, credit must be given to the EAL Co-ordinator’s energetic approach. Making sure that everyone understands how best to support children with EAL in the mainstream is no easy task, but I think that this is exactly what happens at Goldington Green.

To find out more, have a look at the school’s excellent website

Sara Mclaughlin


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