Hackney Primary Schools

Inspiring Teaching and Learning in Hackney Primary Schools: engaging the whole community

The children have benefited enormously, confidently plunging themselves into new areas of learning in a supportive school environment.

“The visits to their partner school in Alcañices see the Year 5 children return feeling more mature and self-assured having experienced a different culture, language and location affording them the opportunity to apply their skills in a real context.” says Andrew Ferguson, class teacher at Parkwood Primary School. Andrew (right) can be seen below learning alongside a pupil in his class. He even had to do the speaking tasks with a partner for his end-of-year assessment!

At the Viridis Federation of 3 schools, Orchard, Hoxton Gardens and Southwold, there are Language Captains in every class in each school who monitor the daily language enhancement delivered by their own class teachers. “This is a great opportunity to give pupils some responsibility for their own learning,” explains the Subject Lead Dawn Alexander-Joseph. “With 3 schools, myself and the other Spanish teacher cannot be in each school to support the teachers all the time, so the pupils do that for us and we meet up with them weekly to review progress.”

Both these stories illustrate the importance of a whole school approach to language learning. To paraphrase an ancient report on English, ‘everyone is a language teacher’. Ways have been found to involve all teachers and pupils in this language adventure. At Parkwood Primary, they are also about to embark on language lessons for parents so that they can support their children. Displays of work around the school, on their websites and newsletters maintain the high profile of Spanish within the school community.

Both have received Erasmus+ funding to help skill their staff and to cement their partnerships. Both have developed relationships with their receiving secondary schools. Jacqueline Smith, Head of Languages at Skinners’ Academy reports that: “The progress of pupils from Parkwood has been great. They have a solid basic knowledge of vocabulary and a new-found confidence in speaking. Now they are able to structure simple sentences and can use the present tense effectively.” Both engage fully in the borough Hispanic Week, work closely with the Consejería de Educación and happily receive Spanish visitors.

Underlying the work is a clarity about the outcomes expected every year. They track progress and ensure progression through Key Stage 2, sharing the year 6 outcomes with the secondary schools. These samples of work below from year 3 to year 6 in Viridis demonstrate the progress that is expected in just one skill – writing.

Parkwood pupils with their partners in Zamora.

Both Dawn at Viridis and Raquel Tola Rego at Parkwood know that language learning is not confined to classrooms. They continually strive to reach outwards and look for ways of bringing languages alive. Both have active partnerships with schools in Spain. Both take pupils to visit their partners.

What these schools do demonstrate is that languages can be at the heart of the primary curriculum, can contribute to other subject areas – in fact Parkwood is part of a trial project to teach Art through Spanish – and that language learning can genuinely be a “liberation from insularity and provide an opening to other cultures.[..] foster pupils’ curiosity and deepen their understanding of the world” (PoS 2013).

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