Sydenham Primary School’s Second Gold EAL Quality Mark

The best place to start explaining what is so special about Sydenham is the front door. Walk through it and behind the desk is a UK born Panjabi speaker who welcomes everyone and talks in Panjabi to the 25% of parents whose home language it is. You walk out of the front office into the hall. Immediately on your left is writing by pupils in Panjabi and Hungarian. The tone is set. This is a multilingual school that is very proud of its diversity. The celebration of what its pupils can do is ubiquitous.

Sydenham is a school designed to promote empathy and to place talk at the heart of learning.

A parent told me that she was “amazed by the kindness and thoughtfulness of the children.” A Russian boy is looking after a Ukrainian new arrival because that is the Sydenham culture. The picture below is a of a book made by two very grateful Polish parents and shown to me by a long serving governor who emphasised the school’s capacity to thrive in a context of constant demographic change.

In every classroom I saw pupils having purposeful conversations in small groups or pairs, both as a key part of the learning process and in preparation for writing. They have been taught to use talk effectively for learning. Vocabulary development is explicit in displays and teaching. It is implicit in structured classroom talk activities and the always considerate social interactions you see around the school.

Do visit this school, if you can. The supportive local Warwickshire Ethnic Minority & Traveller Achievement Service rightly recommends it as an example of outstanding practice. Sydenham is the second school to seek Gold EAL Quality Mark reaccreditation successfully and one of the happiest schools I have ever seen.

The last words need to go to parents and pupils: the Turkish parents who are delighted that their young daughter can now correct their English (which was pretty good in the first place) and the pupils who told me that their school is a place where “you always find friends” and “teachers want to hear your opinion.”

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