Suffolk gets its first Gold EAL Quality Mark

A small three bedroom house in Sirdar Street in Ipswich costs around £130,000, which is way beyond the means of most of the residents. A family arriving from Eastern Europe in search of work might find somewhere to rent if they share the house with another family or maybe two other families. As they settle down, they move on to better accommodation. That means the local school, Handford Hall Primary, has very high levels of mobility, very busy parents, children from overcrowded homes and an ever-changing demographic. It also has above national average attainment and progress scores that are well above national average. Officially, Handford Hall has the 52nd best reading progress score for EAL pupils in the country. However, only five of  the schools above it had more EAL pupils and none had the large Roma population (24% of the school roll) that Handford Hall has. So let’s say it’s in the top five.

What is behind this stunning achievement? It is certainly no test-driven hothouse. Indeed, at the heart of the school’s success is an unwavering commitment to community cohesion. Over the last ten years the school’s intake has changed enormously. The once substantial Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities have moved on as have many of the Kurdish and Syrian refugees who replaced them.

Handford Hall is a school that knows its families very well. Effective engagement with key community leaders and flexible ESOL provision that includes the shyest parent have built an atmosphere of openness and trust. The school has successfully challenged a local employment agency so that it now no longer operates Polish or Romanian only coaches to work. Parents share the journey to work just as their children share classrooms. There are home visits to ensure new parents have an induction process, not just newly arrived pupils. There is intensive Information gathering and sharing before a pupil starts. The school has high expectations of parents as well as pupils and those expectations are met in 100% attendance at parents’ evenings.

Above all Handford Hall is inclusive. Pre-teaching and overlearning are preferred to intervention packages and setting. SLT monitoring is balanced by pupils’ feedback on teaching styles. The curriculum is genuinely bespoke. It reflects pupil experience as well as offering windows into new worlds. When pupils say they want posters as reference points rather than working walls, teachers listen. Lesson study is a feature of school life and it is one of the reasons for the consistency you see across the school, particularly in the use of visual support for learning.

The high levels of support to parents and pupils come with a high level of challenge. Pupils know that they are responsible for their own learning and around the school you see a very high degree of self-regulation.

The school is outward looking, not just to its partners in the Orwell Multi-Academy Trust and nearby Ipswich schools. It runs a one day course every term to share its EAL practice. In the afternoon you learn how the school meets EAL needs and the whole morning is given over to seeing in classrooms how they do it. Don’t miss it.


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