Frequently asked questions
Which curriculum is followed by the bilingual class?
We are following the Early Years Foundation Stage [EYFS]/ National Curriculum in KS1 and 2. Although we will not be following the French curriculum, we are using more of an international dimension throughout our school’s curriculum.
What will the class timetable look like?
Our bilingual classes have now expanded, from Reception years right through to Year 3 and will continue throughout KS2 on a yearly bases. There will be both discrete and integrated opportunities for learning within each year group. The Reception classes ‘free-flow’ (indoor and outdoor) learning give the children many opportunities to play, learn and converse in both English and French with their peers and teachers. There will be a balance of child initiated play/ investigation and adult lead group tasks. During the rest of the day, the two reception classes will work independently from each other to afford opportunities for whole class story, mathematics, music, PE etc to be delivered in French to the bilingual class as appropriate.
The children within Key stage 1 and 2 bilingual classes will experience small group and whole class immersion activities during the afternoon session of every day; these activities will be linked to the children’s current IPC topic. The activities are delivered entirely in French and the teacher will use gestures, pictures, symbols to help all children access the language. French grammar and phonics are also key lessons within the afternoon sessions whereby the children are encouraged to read and write in French.
Will my child learn to read and write in both languages?
Within the Reception classes, there are certain parts of the timetable which are commited to consistently teaching in English; we recognise the importance of phonics teaching, and so ‘letters and sounds’ phonics sessions, as well as guided reading/ writing activities will be in English. During Key stage 1 children will begin formalised French reading and writing learning and will then have gained additional confidence once they approach Key stage 2. This builds on good practice seen in other bilingual settings.
What will happen if my child has never spoken French before?
As in any class, all children will bring a unique set of skills and experiences. Good practice which is already embedded to support children who have English as an additional language is used to support children new to French (for example, use of gestures, song, action-rhyme, pictures). We initially have a strong focus on simple communication, for example; routines and language of the classroom. The bilingual stream teachers assess each child’s level in French termly, focusing on competence in spoken language and the understanding of common words, phrases etc; close liaising with parents is additionally essential in order to track each child’s level of progress.
What will happen if my child comes from a French speaking family?
Differentiation is an integral part of our provision, we are able to confidently support competent French speaking children as part of the normal timetable. All bilingual teaching staff are either French natives, from French speaking families or have studied French at degree level. These pupils are challenged with additional French learning e.g. story telling, an option to attend our French club in addition to visits to the visiting I’Institut Français. There is a CNED programme which we would be able to host at the school if there were the required demand.
What languages will the adults working in the class speak?
We will require that our bilingual stream teachers are fluent in both French and English. We have made links with teacher training universities where students specialise in French, so even student teacher with placements in our school will have a very high level of French (for example, we have links with the MFL specialist PGCE course at the Institute of Education). Teaching Assistants who work in the classes will also be fluent in French and ideally native speakers.
How will the provision compare to the French System?
There are many similarities between the Early Years Foundation Stage and the Cycle 1 of the French school system. The curriculum of the Ecole Maternelle has a focus on oral expression and communication, self-awareness is encouraged as well as group activities; these include arts and crafts, music and games. In the final year of the Ecole Maternelle (Grande Section) which is the equivalent to Year 1, the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic are taught in preparation for Cycle 2 of Primary school.
Discovery based learning, first hand experiences and sustained shared thinking are important elements of both the EYFS and the Ecole Maternelle curriculum. In both systems the role of the practitioner includes closely observing children’s learning and structuring and extending their learning through play. Mirroring of the French School System will continue throughout KS1 and 2.
How can I support my child’s language learning?
It is clear that children spend only a proportion of their time in school, so the experiences and support that they receive outside of school is crucial in their success in school (and life!). Experience in other bilingual settings has shown that those children who are supported well at home have a greater chance of success in language development through opportunities such as play dates with bilingual peers, French babysitters, French clubs out of school, trips to French speaking places and reading French books. As part of our extended school provision French clubs and activities will also be available in school. French grammar homework for Year 2, 3 and so on will also be sent home.
Each term we provide parents with a topic map of what their child will be learning about in school and how they can support that. The Bilingual stream curriculum map will mirror the Classic streams map in addition to clearly highlighting the French vocabulary and grammar that will be taught throughout the topic.
We can facilitate opportunities for parents in the bilingual class to interact with each other and for family learning, however it is crucial that any parent considering the bilingual class is committed to supporting their child’s education and actively seeks out opportunities to do so. As with any area of school life, parents are a massive influence on the success of their child.
Will there be links with other bilingual providers?
Yes! We have been very busy establishing links with a variety of different providers over the last year. We have already established links with other bilingual providers, including Wix, Hotham and La Fontaine primary schools. We are now looking at developing stronger links with secondary education providers and as such our children in Key Stage 2 have already made some visits to Lambeth Academy, where they have introduced a very successful bilingual stream in Key Stage 3. We already have opportunities to visit France in KS2 as part of our ‘school journeys’ and are looking to build on these experiences by taking part in ‘twinning’ projects with schools in France that we hope to visit. We have already had visits from French Schools in Paris in 2013, a school from La Reunion in 2014 and have been pleased to welcome French students to gain teaching experience in our Bilingual stream. We additionally have a link with a school in Senegal.
Will there be links with the other class?
We are absolutely clear that this initiative will benefit all children in the school, so that even children in the non-bilingual class will access French provision, and we would we envisage this would be to a much greater extent that if they were not in a school with a bilingual stream.
How will the curriculum be enriched?
We are keen that our provision develops the cultural aspects of language learning, to put this content into a context. We have already started to plan how we can incorporate reflections of Francophonic culture in our bilingual curriculum. As the bilingual classes progress through the school, there are a range of French clubs available during lunchtime and after school. Extension clubs are offered to native and Able and Talented French learners and they have a more academic slant. In addition, there are a range of activity and story-based clubs that are run in French, providing opportunities for further speaking and listening practice. Our extended curriculum will reflect the cultural bilingual provision of the school, for example with French film clubs, music, cooking etc.
We also host French lessons on-site led by French Between the Commons. These are fee-paying and again, there is a choice between academic or more informal lessons. In addition, we are working closely with L’Institut Français as we prepare our bilingual pupils for their internationally-accredited DELF examinations.
Every year, we take part in the South Ken Festival in association with L’Institut Français, travelling to the Insitut theatre to see bilingual plays and films and welcoming French authors and illustrators to work with the children in our school. We are also members of the Bibliothèque Quentin Blake located at L’Institut Français, allowing us to constantly refresh our reading resources in addition to those found in our class libraries and main school library.
All of our bilingual classes all take part in our French Home-School Reading Scheme (beginning in Summer Term in Reception Leopards) The books are recorded and uploaded onto Dropbox so that non-French speaking families can access them with ease. In the Year 3 Penguins, this is supplemented with the issuing of French Guided Reading books; our chosen scheme is Ratus, published by Hatier.
What will the admissions criteria be?
Our bilingual class learners who will be admitted according to the published Wandsworth admissions criteria, as well expressing a preference for being in the bilingual class. We will be making it clear to all interested parents how crucial parental support is, but there will be no requirement for parents to be native speakers.