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 use some elements within our teaching of reading and writing in French as well as taking on an international dimension throughout our school’s curriculum.
What will the class timetable look like?
Our bilingual classes have now expanded all the way through school, from Reception right through to Year 6. 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 for these foundation subjects such as Science, Geography and History are delivered entirely in French and the teacher will use gestures, pictures, symbols to help all children access the language. From Year 2, another key part of the afternoon is the teaching of phonics and reading and then grammar and writing in Key Stage 2, as the children are encouraged to read and write in French more year upon year.
Will my child learn to read and write in both languages?
Within the Reception classes, there are certain parts of the timetable which are committed 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 to access more reading and writing opportunities as they grow their vocabulary in French through their IPC topics. However, the formalised French reading and writing learning does not begin until Year 2 when the children have secured their learning of English phonics. This is then developed further in Key Stage 2 as key grammar concepts are introduced to build the children’s confidence in reading and writing in French. 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 and an option to attend our Extended French club. In addition, as part of the LabelFrancEducation family of schools across the World and close links with our partners at the French Institute, there are lots of opportunities to access cultural activities and competitions throughout the year. There is also a possibility of starting 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. In every class, there are native Teaching Assistants who are fluent in French.
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 through the use of French reading, writing and grammar schemes of work.
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 to every year group. French phonics, reading or grammar homework, from Year 2, will also be sent home.
Each term we provide parents with a topic map and list of vocabulary 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?
We have been very busy establishing links with a variety of different providers over the last few years. As part of our LabelFrancEducation award, we now have access to a wealth of resources and opportunities to make links with bilingual schools, like our own, across the World. Extra funding and support has also been provided over the last few years from the French Institute, where they have regularly given us opportunities to take part in free workshops, cinema visits, author visits and exciting competitions. As our children have now come all the way through our bilingual stream into Year 6, a key priority is looking at developing stronger links with secondary education providers. We have taken children to experience french teaching in local secondary schools such as Lambeth Academy and St John Bosco College and are now seeking reassurances from Secondary providers that there will be some continuation in the French learning completed with us. We also 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, a school from La Reunion and written letters to a school just outside Paris and have also been pleased to welcome French students to gain teaching experience in our Bilingual stream. We will continue to provide real-life experiences that can enhance the children’s learning and give them a strong sense of purpose in the learning of a foreign language.
Will there be links with the Enterprise stream class within each year group?
We have always been 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. Whole school celebrations such as Epiphany, Francophonie Week and Bastille Day are just a few of the annual events that we celebrate all together in special lessons, assemblies or events. As well as this, the children are exposed to language right across school in our bilingual signage as well as hearing French regularly spoken in the corridors. Furthermore, we use the wealth of French speakers at our disposal to support the Enterprise stream in their MFL learning, where possible.
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. Through teaching our IPC we have incorporated reflections of Francophonic culture in our bilingual curriculum in lots of creative ways. Teachers and Teaching Assistants are also providing lunch-time and after-school clubs for every year group across the school. From French cinema or choir clubs to a French newspaper club, we have provided a wealth of different opportunities for children to enjoy using the language they have learnt in a different contexts. 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 particularly for our younger children. Extension clubs are also offered to native and Able and Talented French learners and they have a more academic slant. We work closely with L’Institut Français every year to provide children with the opportunity to take the internationally recognised language proficiency exam the DELF. (See below)
Every year, we also take part in the South Ken Festival in association with L’Institut Français, travelling to the Insitut theatre to see bilingual plays or 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 take part in our French Home-School Reading Scheme, where children are encouraged to take a French book home to enjoy and practise their reading. Over the years, many of the books have been kindly recorded by Teaching Assistants and our native parents and uploaded onto Dropbox so that non-French speaking families can access them with ease. We are consistently looking to improve our content here and find more accessible ways for our children to access French at home, and directing parents towards excellent online resources such as Culturetheque and TV5Monde has been essential.
The DELF – Celebrating your child’s French
The DELF is an optional diploma awarded by the French Education Ministry to prove the French language skills of non-French candidates. It is an excellent way to celebrate our children’s successes in French. For four years now we have been entering our children for the DELF exams and we are very proud that we have maintained a 100% pass rate so far. Last year, we put forward, for the first time, children at an A2 level (roughly equivalent to a foundation level GCSE) and we hope to continue this success in the coming years. Proudly, we are also an examination centre ourselves with four members of the teaching staff qualified to administer the tests.
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.