Valuing the community at Manor Court Community Primary School – Gold EAL Quality Mark success!

Welcomed by the bunting of international flags outside the school – and within it a group of multilingual parents singing the praises of Manor Court Community Primary School – there was an immediate feeling of positivity and inclusivity when I arrived in the Somerset market town of Chard last week. The school prides itself on being a community school; what I saw and heard on this EAL Quality Mark accreditation visit evidenced what that means for new arrivals to the school, ‘home-grown’ children, parents/carers and members of the wider local community – and what makes this a ‘Gold’ school.

As chair of governors, Matt Reed, and head teacher, Luke Talmage (an ex-pupil himself), explained to me, the school seeks to position itself at the heart of the Chard community – providing the best education for all pupils, whatever their strengths and needs, but also contributing to the wider community as well.  During lockdown, the school building was used as a hub for the local COVID support group and passers-by stopped to look at the themed display in the school entrance which staff changed regularly. The school’s positive partnerships with the local Forefront Community Church and with local charity ‘Diversity Voice’ (which provides interpretation and translation services) illustrate their commitment to community cohesion.

About 25% of the pupils in this Somerset school are learning through English as an Additional Language, with first languages including Portuguese, Polish, Urdu, Romanian and Spanish, to name a few.  Pupil mobility is high but this is not perceived as a challenge as leadership is strong, with EAL processes and resources well developed. There’s an effective model of collaborative EAL leadership here, with Alan Clode (Deputy Head Teacher/Inclusion Leader) and Sonia Gomes (HLTA/EAL Lead) sharing the role and supporting staff and pupils effectively.

At Manor Court, cultural diversity is positively embraced and this flavoured the corridor and classroom displays I saw on my visit – lots of world maps, whether the display was about carnival or the Romans, and positive acknowledgement of a range of cultures, especially the children’s own. The EAL leads, class teachers and support staff know their children well and the prior knowledge they value extends to multilingual skills; in classrooms, lists of key words translated into first languages were accessible and there is a central bank of EAL resources for all teachers to draw upon too.

Another reason this school has been awarded the Gold EAL Quality Mark is because staff realise EAL isn’t just about pupils in the early stages of English. Expectations are high and there’s a ‘language awareness’ reflected by clear vocabulary in displays and sentences in Maths books. There’s an interest in developing English across the curriculum and across the fluency levels – and there’s clearly immense pride in the progress and attainment of all their EAL pupils.

Catherine Brennan

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