By Sara Berenguer, Assistant Head of Primary (EAL)
For those who think that teachers meet a couple of days before the start of school to write names on books and look over class lists, it might come as a surprise to know that this is not the case. At Regents, all teachers come together a week before the children arrive - not only to prepare their classrooms and fine tune planning, but for 5 days of in-house intensive training (INSET) to ensure that everyone is up-to-date with the very latest in strategies to promote outstanding teaching and learning.
At the start of this year, one such session was the whole school training focusing on strategies to use when working with children who have English as an Additional Language. On this theme, 130 teachers across Primary and Secondary came together for a morning of talks, activities and practical advice sessions on supporting children for whom English is not their first language. ‘It was great to be with Secondary colleagues and get to know them a bit better,’ commented an Early Years specialist.
The morning started with an overview of the personalised EAL provision at Regents provided from Early Primary through to IB, of which the whole teaching team are justly proud. Children arriving with no English go straight into intervention classes, where specially trained teachers focus on language teaching linked to the curriculum, preparing pupils for entry into the classroom with work that is cognitively, but not too linguistically, demanding. They then move into the mainstream where they are helped not only by support staff, but by the mindful strategies used by the class teachers. ‘We need to find ways of making new language accessible and scaffolding the teaching,’ stated one workshop leader. ‘Context is also extremely important,’ added another.
A carousel of activities designed to combine thought-provoking discussions with practical ideas to use in the classroom was then proposed with themes such as ‘Direct Instruction,’ ‘Active Learning’ and ‘Talk for Writing’. Primary colleagues then benefited from some in-depth language analysis with Caroline Draper whilst Secondary colleagues were led by David Puckey in looking at how display can aid EAL learners across the school. ‘There were some outstanding ideas shared and ones that we will definitely be implementing into our lessons,’ replied a group of teachers when asked for their feedback.
When attending training sessions, it can often be the case that teachers just need some reassurance that the strategies they are using are the right ones. ‘I came away feeling much more confident in terms of what we, as a department, are doing to support our EAL students,’ remarked a Secondary practitioner. In addition, not only are these sessions beneficial occasions to share excellent practice, they also provide opportunities for teachers to talk about what learning should ‘look like’ with colleagues that they don’t normally work with. As the school grows, it becomes quite a feat to provide opportunities for the whole teaching staff to get together. However, in terms of building ‘Team Regents’, photos taken during the morning perhaps speak for themselves.