ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION PREP & PRE-PREP • AUTUMN / WINTER 2019
AU T U M N • W I N T E R 2 01 9
P &EP E PR -PR E PR
SOLO STUDY The debate on homework
Schools for mini equestrians
EXCLUSIVE SUPPLEMEN T Brought to you by Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School
READING SPECIAL AUTUMN'S NEW TITLES
The world can be a noisy place. That’s why children at St James practise ‘stillness’ and pause before and after every lesson. We see them calm down, refocus and head off to their next class buzzing with renewed energy.
For parents, peace of mind comes from knowing your child will thrive academically and creatively in a warm, happy environment. Our pupils get great results. They just don’t get stressed about it. Please get in touch today to find out more about us or to arrange a visit.
Our new nursery is now open. Call 020 7348 1793 or email email@example.com to join one of our weekly tours
AU T U M N • W I N T E R 2 0 1 9
CO N T E N TS upfront
12 WHAT'S ON
Fun family events for autumn
14 SCHOOL NEWS
Out and about in the world of education
18 SOLO STUDY
What is the right age to start homework and should children get it at all? By Carly Glendinning
25 LANGUAGE LOW-DOWN How should childcare professionals introduce children to a second language?
33 WHAT WE WEAR
Knighton House School on why they've ditched school uniform in favour of dungarees
37 PLAY BALL
The Head of PE and Games at St Nicholas Preparatory School on the joy of sport
38 THE WORLD OF WORK Beaudesert Park School on teaching younger children about careers
42 PONY MAD
P.E. lessons no longer just consist of cold afternoons on the hockey pitch, says Zoë Delmer-Best
47 STEM'S THE WORD
CENTRE SECTION Exclusive Supplement Brought to you by Prince's Gardens Preparatory School
James Allen's Prepartory School on encouraging girls in STEM subjects
59 COUNTRY LIFE
Why rural schools are the escape children need, says the Headmaster of Pitsford School
60 TESTING TIMES
The Founder of At The School Gates on the emergence of a whole new sector 4
E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E P R E P
Carly Glendinning EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
EDITOR I A L A SSISTA N T
EDITOR I A L IN TER N
GROUP A DV ERTISING M A NAGER
GROUP SA L ES DIR ECTOR
SPECI A L IST CONSULTA N T
COMMERCI A L DIR ECTOR
A RT DIR ECTOR
MID-W EIGHT DESIGNER
M A R K ETING M A NAGER
FINA NCE DIR ECTOR
Jerrie Koleci DIR ECTOR S
Greg Hughes, Alexandra Hunter, James Fuschillo PUBL ISHING DIR ECTOR
For advertising enquiries please call 020 7704 0588 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ZEST MEDIA PUBLICATIONS LTD
197-199 City Road, London EC1V 1JN 020 7704 0588 ZEST-MEDIA.COM
Au t u m n b o o k s
66 TOP AUTUMN BOOKS
Andrea Reece rounds up autumn's new reads to excite readers of all tastes
74 OLIVER JEFFERS Q&A
The much-loved children's author and illustrator on his new book
Zest Media Publications Ltd. cannot accept responsibility for unsolicited submissions, manuscripts and photographs. While every care is taken, prices and details are subject to change and Zest Media Publications Ltd. take no responsibility for omissions or errors. We reserve the right to publish and edit any letters. All rights reserved.
80 NADIYA HUSSAIN Q&A
The Great British Bake Off winner on anxiety and her debut children's book
S c h o o l’ s O u t
Pendle Harte goes glamping near Shrewsbury
94 ACTION HERO
The Wye Valley is the perfect family getaway, says Amanda Constance
F R O N T C OV E R St Dunstan's College is a co-educational independent school for ages 3-18 stdunstans.org.uk
AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
IS YOUR CHILD FUTURE READY? > CREATIVITY & CODING CAMPS FOR CHILDREN AGES 5-12+
CON T R IBU TOR S
Dr Lisa Freedman Journalist and education consultant
Dr Lisa Freedman, BA, MA, PhD, is an experienced education consultant and analyst, who writes regularly about English education in the national press. She talks about pre-testing on page 60.
> OCTOBER HALF-TERM 21ST OCT - 1ST NOV SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP Code + Innovation > WINTER HOLIDAYS 16TH - 20TH DECEMBER 30TH DEC - 3RD JAN > BOOK NOW
Helen Peters Author
Helen Peters is a London-based author and former English and Drama teacher. She writes about the inspiration behind her new book, Anna at War, on page 85.
Sophie Anderson Author
Having previously worked as a geologist and Science teacher, author Sophie Anderson is passionate about the importance of children exploring nature. She writes about her book, The Girl Who Speaks Bear, and ‘rewilding’ children on page 70.
E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E - P R E P
e m Co ! ed ew ov r n m ou ve in ha s e tu W visi d an
ho e m
Come and visit our exceptional prep school in our brand new buildings on Eccleston Square! Boys and Girls Nursery 2 - 4 Prep 4 - 11
omework is a topic that can polarise parents and teachers alike. A key theme of our autumn issue, traditionalists often take the view that it helps to consolidate skills that have been taught in the classroom. But nightly battles (that end with parents picking up the pencil to get it done) leave others questioning when is the right age for children to start, if at all. On page 18, we find out that the research as to whether it benefits preparatory school children is somewhat inconclusive. What is clear, however, is the importance of reading outside the classroom. That brings me nicely to our second theme for this issue: books. Turn to page 88 to read our interview with one of the world’s best-loved children’s book authors and illustrators, Oliver Jeffers. Also hoping to inspire young readers is winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015, Nadiya Hussain. We talk to her about her debut children’s book, My Monster and Me on page 94. And finally, we round up the best new titles for sparking their imaginations on page 80. Perfect for under-thecovers reading now the nights are drawing in.
CA R LY G L E N D I N N I N G Ac ti n g Ed i to r
AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
North Bridge House
ion New locat
Pre-Prep & y r e s r u N pstead West Ham
Opening Sept 2020
Book an open day at northbridgehouse.com/open or call 020 7428 1520
2 - 5 YEARS
5 - 7 YEARS
PREP SCHOOL REGENTâ€™S PARK 7 - 13 YEARS
FRIDAY 4 OCTOBER
OCTOBER - DECEMBER
OCTOBER - DECEMBER
FRIDAY 8 NOVEMBER
S H O U LD P R E P P U P I L S H AV E H O M E WO R K? p . 1 8 • L A N G UAG E LOW- D OW N p . 2 5
TWO YOUNG GYMNASTS AT ST NICHOLAS PREP SCHOOL
AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
PREP_AW19_Up Front Opener.indd 11
W H AT ’S O N Autumn and winter activity highlights
Me... From Friday 29 November Little Angel Theatre The world is a very big place, especially for a tiny baby penguin who is just finding her feet. Me… is the theatre adaptation of the much-loved children’s story by Emma Dodd showing at Little Angel Theatre in North London.
THE BIG MUSEUM HUNT
19-27 October • London Transport Museum
To celebrate the release of the new ‘Where’s Wally?’ book, Double Trouble at the Museum, families can explore, discover and play as they hunt for Wally around the London Transport Museum this October. Pick up your Mission Map from the Family Station and follow the fun and unexpected activities and puzzles. ltmuseum.co.uk 12
Ref lections on Nature Until 27 October Kew Gardens
You can still catch the contemporary glass artist Chihuly’s showcase at Kew Gardens until late October with a specially illustrated, colourful and engaging trail to take children around the garden.
E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E P R E P
ED PREP AW 19 AGENDA.indd 12
CHRISTMAS EVENTS AND MUSIC
STORYTELLING Until 20 November Royal Albert Hall Paul Rubinstein and Samantha Sutherland are delivering a series of sessions for children up to four years old, aiming to engage and encourage interaction between parents and their little ones using musical instruments, singing, movement and stories.
Festive activities for all the family
DINO SNORES FO R K I D S
7 December Natural History Museum This sleepover is an opportunity for children aged seven to 11 to explore the Museum after dark whilst taking part in fun, educational activities – all with a festive touch. nhm.ac.uk
W I NTE R WO N D E R L A N D
From 21 November Hyde Park Wrap up warm because the Bavarian-themed Christmas fair returns to Hyde Park for another winter featuring rides, market stalls and festive treats, plus an ice rink and circus shows. hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
WETLANDS Until 31 December Wetlands Centre
n Saturdays and Sundays families can visit the Wetlands Centre, Barnes, and experience a number of animal-based activities such as feeding the birds, pond dipping and birdwatching. wwt.org.uk
Children’s Book FESTIVAL 2019 16-17 November Knole Park, Kent oin iconic children’s writers and illustrators including Jacqueline Wilson, Sarah McIntyre and 2019 Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell at Knole Park for the Children’s Book Festival. nationaltrust.org.uk/knole
A N AU D I E N C E W ITH FATH E R C H R I STM A S
14-21 December Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath Meet the legend himself at Kenwood House this December as Father Christmas tells festive tales amidst the yuletide decorations. english-heritage.org.uk
AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
ED PREP AW 19 AGENDA.indd 13
SCHOO L N EWS Top Story
S E A S T H E DAY Pupils at Taunton Prep School have become the youngest team to complete a relay swim across the Channel. Having started their rigorous training schedule in September 2018, the team of 12-yearolds completed the 22-mile crossing in under 13 hours. Braving rough seas, the team swam overnight to raise money for The Neonatal Unit at Musgrove Park Hospital.
NEW HEAD Cumnor House in Sussex has announced Fergus Llewellyn as the new Headmaster with effect from July 2020. Fergus is currently the Headmaster of the renowned St Andrew's Prep School, Turi, Kenya, where he has been since August 2015. The Board set out to find a candidate with the expertise, experience and empathy to sustain the Cumnor ethos, but equipped to introduce changes which will ensure that Cumnor pupils are prepared for the future.
FA I T H I N ENGINEERING St Faiths, Cambridge, has opened a ÂŁ2 million STEM centre called The Hub. Pupils from the age of seven can expect to spend one hour per week studying engineering, encouraging the development of lateral thinking skills. The school wants to dispel the myth that engineering is just a hard hat on a building site.
R O W YO U R B OAT
Winchester House has launched its new 2020 vision with Mastery Mornings for Years 7 and 8. These inspiring workshops are an opportunity for children to master a craft and work with experts in a particular field. For the Year 8s there is an academic focus whilst Year 7s receive an introduction to new skills and experiences.
Students at Lambrook School put on their explorer hats and spent a week canoeing around the Stora Lee Lake, Sweden to raise money for the Teenage Wilderness Trust. Camping during the nights and canoeing an average of 9 kilometres a day, the students finessed their survival skills and team work, collecting firewood and cooking for themselves throughout the trip.
G R E E K DAY Pupils at St Dunstanâ€™s College Junior School celebrated their annual Greek Day in September. Year 5 pupils took part in a range of activities and lessons throughout the day learning about the rise and fall of Ancient Greece. Pupils got to try on armour from the times including shields and Greek helmets. The day ended with a playful battle re-enactment.
E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E P R E P
ED PREP AW19_NEWS.indd 14
Fast Food The Royal Society for Public Health has released a report calling for a ban on fast food shops and billboard advertisements within a five minute walk of schools. Two thirds of members of the public asked agreed with the prospect of a ban.
NURSERY NEWS Annette Elstob has started as the new Head of Rolfe’s Nursery School, the Ofsted ‘outstanding’ Notting Hill nursery. Miss Elstob completed her PGCE in Primary education, with a specialist focus on Early Years, at the University of East London, Stratford.
More suppor t
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has said more needs to be done to support pupils transitioning from primary to secondary school. According to a new report, some pupils risk falling behind due to the emotional challenges faced when leaving small-community primary schools.
A report in The Times revealed that the average uniform for children attending prep school is over £1000. At one school in Chelsea, dressing a girl costs nearly £1,300 according to the newspaper. However not all independent schools had these prices - one school in Hampstead requires a yellow shirt retailing for £9.50.
Science Stars Felsted Prep School pupils have won the chance to name a star after four groups from Years 7 and 8 won awards in the Chelmsford Schools Science and Engineering Competition. They were presented with the Anglia Ruskin University Award after gaining a sweep of titles for their innovative projects. The front runner for the name of the star is ‘Felsted Prep Super Star’.
AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
ED PREP AW19_NEWS.indd 15
PICTURE YOURSELF AT
James Allen’s Preparatory School
PORTR AIT OF A JAGS GIR L
PORTR AIT OF A JAGS GIR L
Enthusiastic karate student, budding skier, gymnast…. and humane.
Committed ecologist, charity co-ordinator, cellist.. and humane.
LEADING INDEPENDENT GIRLS’ SCHOOL 4–11 YEARS OPEN MORNING SAT 5 OCTOBER (NO NEED TO BOOK)
FIND OUT MORE AT WWW.JAGS.ORG.UK JAMES ALLEN’S GIRLS’ SCHOOL 144 EAST DULWICH GROVE, LONDON, SE22 8TE | 020 8693 0374
JAGS.indd 1 JAGS_Absolutely Prep ad_210x297_JUN 19.indd 1
10/06/2019 07/06/2019 12:08 17:43
P L AY O N
NEW APPOINTMENT Barrow Hills School has appointed Sarah Poyntz as their new Director of Teaching and Learning. Sarah will be working with the new Head Philip Oldroyd to review the best practice for learning and teaching across the whole school from nursery right up to Year 8. Sarah, her husband and Labrador puppy Django live locally in Aldershot.
Cheam School has announced that its recently established Foundation is now funding its first dedicated Music Bursary for a child aged 8-13. The Cheam Foundation was launched in 2019 in order to offer life-changing bursaries to as wide a crosssection of children as possible. The launch of the Foundation was a significant moment in the history of Cheam, as the school looks to both expand its bursary provision and support the ongoing development of the school’s facilities.
D I S COV E RY CENTRE S PAC E D O U T A new app has launched which allows children to take an educational trip to space through augmented reality. AR-kid: Space is an immersive app which teaches kids about space with the help of a robot guide called ‘Cosmo’ - children can even walk virtually on the moon. The Co-founder of AR-kid: Space, Bruno Samper, said, “If we can combine education with technology we can make screentime more positive.”
The British Museum and Samsung have reopened the award-winning Samsung Digital Discovery Centre (SDDC) after a significant upgrade, and announced a new digital learning programme that brings together museums and technology. The Virtual Visits programme means schools that are unable to visit the Museum can still experience the collections, and the expert staff, via live steam.
S AV I N G L I V E S Trials of first aid lessons will start in English schools this month with the classes becoming compulsory in 2020. Children will be taught basic skills such as how to make a phone call to the emergency services and how to put someone in a recovery position. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the new health curriculum would give every child "the chance to learn life-saving skills".
TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT HEALTHY EATING IS AS IMPORTANT AS TEACHING THEM ENGLISH AND MATHS The Great British Bake Off’s Prue Leith
AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
ED PREP AW19_NEWS.indd 17
S OLO STUDY
What is the right age to start homework and should children be doing it at all?
A L L I M AG E S F E R M L I V I N G
Wo r d s C A R LY G L E N D I N N I N G
E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E P R E P
omework can be an emotive subject. For some, that feeling of Sunday night dread (when you’d left it to the last possible moment) never properly leaves us. Still creeping up in waves of panic like an irrational fear, or returning to us in nightmares. For others, one too many excuses about peckish dogs brings back memories sparking guilt or regret. When our own children start school, the nightmares can quickly turn into nightly battles that often end with us picking up the pencil in order to get it done. Attention spans are short after a long day at school and homework takes time away from family life. In this country homework commonly starts in reception, taking the form of reading. From Year 1 and into Year 2, children are usually expected to complete one to two tasks per week. But parents are questioning if this is too early and ultimately if homework is necessary at all. It’s a hot topic at the moment due to a new framework that was introduced in the state system in September. Ofsted has said its inspectors will not assess how homework is being done because schools should decide whether or not they set it for their students. This marks a huge departure in the inspection regime, which previously looked at homework as part of the way it approached the teaching, learning, and assessment of children. Independent schools are of course free to set their own policies about homework and the approach is varied. Queen’s Gate Junior School in South Kensington takes the view that homework can be of value, if it’s set in a constructive way. Mr James Denchfield, director of the school says: “It befalls good schools not only
“FOR SOME , T H AT FEELI NG OF S UNDAY NI G H T DREAD ( W H EN YOU ' D LEFT IT TO T H E LAST P OS S I BLE MOMENT ) NEVER P ROP ERLY LEAVE S U S” to teach well but also to nurture essential learning skills, such as independence, selfmotivation and retention of information,” he continues “homework is at its most beneficial when it asks pupils not just to review what they have learnt but to understand why they have learnt it, as they make the leap from specific task to general rule. Well-conceived, purposeful tasks, which draw on pupils’ creativity and demand lateral thinking are the most satisfying to undertake and are the ones which leave the greatest impression in children’s minds.” The King Alfred School in Golders Green, north-west London takes a more progressive stance.
Head of Lower School, Karen Thomas says: “At The King Alfred School we’ve chosen not to set homework for our Lower School students in order to remove undue pressure for our children and their families. Using enquiry as our main pedagogical approach we create enough exciting opportunities in the school day to trigger their curiosity and open the door to learning both in and out of school. We like to keep parents fully informed as to what is happening in the classrooms in order to enable rich conversations at home. Our oldest students have home learning projects in order to prepare them for their transition to the Upper School which is AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
“O FST E D' S 2 01 8 R E PO RT STAT ED T H AT HO M E WO R K I S A ' H U G E ST RE S S ' FOR FA M I L I E S I N T H E U K”
something they themselves requested.” Ofsted’s 2018 report stated that homework is a “huge stress” for families in the UK. Of the parents they collected feedback from, a third felt that it is not helpful for primary school-age children – an opinion that was at the centre of a high profile Twitter debate at the end of 2018. The fray in question started when comedian Rob Delany wrote: “Why do they give seven-year-olds so much homework in the UK and how do I stop this?” Football presenter Gary Lineker typed back, agreeing that children “should be allowed to play and enjoy home life with their
parents without the divisiveness of work they have plenty of time to do at school.” However, Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan weighed in with the opposite opinion. He wrote: “As a nation, we’re falling so far behind educational standards of countries like China, it’s embarrassing.” The consensus around the world is indeed varied. In Finland, a country that consistently tops global education rankings, children start school at age seven and the homework they receive is minimal, and in some schools, they don’t get any at all. In the New York private system (a city famed for being enslaved to
the rat race) homework also starts much later. Most schools begin with play-based learning, only bringing homework into the equation at third or fourth grade. But this is not the case in other highpressured societies. Having previously taught in London, Sophie Helsby is a Grade 1 teacher in an independent school on the outskirts of Tokyo. She feels that the parents in Japan put too much focus on their child’s future success. She says: “In the school I work in, we have to set homework weekly. The parents actually want it and they always ask for more,” she continues, “we do enough at school to support their learning and we want kids to come to school energised and well-rested. I always tell parents that their children need time at home to relax and play, but they don’t really understand that here.” Academic results are of course a huge factor for parents when they are looking for a school that will be best suited for their child. But thought about whether homework contributes to higher success rates for younger children tends to vary. A 2001 meta-study by the National Foundation for Educational Research concluded that there was “a positive relationship between time spent and outcomes at secondary level” but “evidence at primary level is inconsistent”. Conor Heaven, a former teacher and Digital Learning Leader at TT Education argues that while homework can have “zero impact”, there’s a difference between homework and home learning. He says: “even from the youngest ages, the one most important thing that should happen every week without fail is reading,” he continues “there are primary schools that have got rid of homework completely. They have seen that they don’t gain any value from it, but reading absolutely would still carry on in this scenario.” Like or loathe the idea of homework, one thing for sure is the importance of books for young learners. Not only does it help with language acquisition and literacy skills, but it expands children’s imaginations and their understanding of the world. And bedtime stories may just be the antidote to those nightmares about hungry dogs. AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
Eaton House Schools has a rich traditional heritage coupled with a modern outlook. We offer a nurturing pathway for both boys and girls within separate schools to some of the top academic London day and boarding schools across the country and our pupils win many scholarships. Our main entry points are at 3+, 4+, 7+, 8+ and 11+ years.
With personalised teaching and wellbeing at its core, pupils blossom academically and emotionally at the right pace for each child, growing into confident, rounded, intelligent and inquisitive young people. This adds up to the promise of a superb education for your child.
Come and visit us and discover for yourself what makes us so special.
Belgravia | Clapham
020 3917 5050 | email@example.com | www.eatonhouseschools.com
Book an open day on www.eatonhouseschools.com
EATON HOUSE SCHOOLS Celebrating 120 years of excellence
H O M E WO R K
Get in the K N O W Conor Heaven talks about ZingiTT, a new digital platform to help parents engage in their child’s education Wo r d s ZOË DELMER- BEST
s many parents will know, homework can sometimes feel like an insurmountable challenge. From practising the arts of tactical persuasion to being an on-tap thesaurus or calculator, prep can often result in all parties feeling frustrated and confused. It’s not unusual to find parents up late at night, scrolling through forums, searching for advice from others battling on the homework front. ZingiTT have created an online platform designed to help parents be one step ahead of their child’s schooling. The concept of ZingiTT was born after the widely successful TT Education group won the 2018 School Improvement Provider of the Year award. Deciding to put their expertise to good use, the team created ZingiTT to provide parents and caregivers with informative videos and guides to help them get involved with their child’s education. Conor Heaven, digital learning leader at TT Education, explains, “Parental engagement has proven to be absolutely critical in a child’s education. That doesn’t mean that the parents have to be experts, they just need to help raise the aspirations of the child in relation to education and school. It helps the child appreciate school more, meaning they are more likely to succeed in life.” Primary education is a topic Conor and his team are passionate about as many are parents of young children. They wanted to create something that was easily accessible but not time-consuming. “The last thing many working parents need is their child coming home from school asking, ‘Mummy what’s an adverbial' or 'what’s a subordinating conjunction?’ What we want to do, no matter what the background of the parent, is to empower and enable all
parents to help their children at home.” Homework can be a hot topic among parents and educators. Many parents often prefer to leave a child’s education to the professionals to avoid oversaturation of learning. One the other hand, there are parents who are over-involved in their child’s learning, questioning the teacher’s abilities and curriculum at every opportunity due to lack of confidence in the education system. Some could argue that educational guides for parents encourage every experience to be an unnecessary learning opportunity for their child. Conor Heaven clarifies that ZingiTT isn’t about micromanaging education: “It’s to help any parent who is not confident with what their child is coming home with.” ZingiTT strives to give parents a sound understanding of their child’s progression, no matter what side of the debate they stand on. ZingiTT have created a platform hosting informative videos in bite-sized chunks,
which is constantly being updated using the feedback from a 70-strong focus group of parents. The information is condensed so videos can be watched in the time it takes to make a cup of tea. Since its launch in February 2019, ZingiTT has produced over 120 videos covering subjects such as Maths, Science and Phonics. ZingiTT can also help parents who suspect their child has special educational needs, advising how to access help and get a diagnosis. Not only is ZingiTT a useful resource for parents; schools use the platform as a way to communicate with parents, advising them which videos to watch to keep informed of their child’s learning progress.
WE WANT TO EMPOWER AND ENABLE ALL PARENTS TO BE ABLE TO HELP THEIR CHILDREN AT HOME
ZINGITT IS A DIGITAL PLATFORM FOR PARENTS
AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
ED PREP_AW19_ZINGITT.indd 23
3 to 18 years old
Juniors Open Morning Come and see what we have to offer and how we prepare your child for learning
31 Jan 2020, 9.30am to 12.30pm We would love to meet you. Just call the Registrar on 01604 880306 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• • • • •
Set in 30 acres of beautiful grounds Small class sizes where every child is known Students interact more with their teachers and peers, allowing for a more individual approach to learning Facilities include a multi-million pound School building and new state-of-the-art Sports Centre Every pupil will thrive at our wonderful School and life beyond www.pitsfordschool.com
PH.indd PMC 1 Advert AW.indd 1 m18672
19/09/2019 12:04 17:57 17/09/2019
employability. Not only that, but for young children learning languages comes naturally and spontaneously. Researchers agree that there is a critical window up to age seven, beyond which our aptitude declines markedly.
AN IMMERSIVE APPROACH
The low-down on
L A N G UAG E S How should childcare professionals introduce children to a second language, or support those whose home language is not English?
ight percent of the total population of England and Wales speak a main language other than English, according to the 2011 census – the greatest numbers speaking Polish, Punjabi and Urdu. Huge numbers of children are growing up in homes where English is not the only language spoken. The 2011 census also showed that 19 percent of the population in Wales spoke Welsh. The evidence is clear that learning more than one language from a young age can be enormously advantageous, resulting in improved working memory, self-control and mental flexibility, a lower rate of diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and greater
Seeing her daughter, then aged three, become fluent in just a few months while attending Spanish pre-schools abroad was part of what inspired Lianne Moseley to start Spanish/English bilingual childcare business Bonitots. Within months of opening in 2015, she had a two-year waiting list and has now set up a nursery. But it is not only Spanish-speaking families who seek her out – half of her children come from homes where only English is spoken, or another language. Lianne has also worked with children for whom Spanish is a third language, and even recalls one child who spoke four languages fluently – English, Spanish, Flemish and Mandarin – “moving effortlessly between them”. She has created an “immersive” bilingual setting where most transactional interactions and play activities are in Spanish. “But we do specific activities in English,” she explains. “Partly because we have a duty to support the child’s majority language as well, but also because of the EYFS stipulations for school readiness in England, and because all assessments need to be in English. “All phonics teaching is in English for example, and I teach piano lessons in English so the children have the English vocabulary to continue music lessons elsewhere.” Home support is essential too, and Lianne works closely with parents, for example sharing key words their children are learning.
MISCONCEPTIONS While the children clearly take it in their stride, misconceptions prevail, says Lianne – that a child’s language development will be held back by learning more than one language. “Our experience, and this is borne out by studies, is that bilingual AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
or trilingual children have more words than monolingual children. Language is one of the strongest areas for all our children and that is because of, not in spite of, their bilingualism. For the children all I see are the benefits.”
CELEBRATING DIFFERENCE Sue Smith of Sweet Peas Childcare in Ely, Cambridgeshire, marks 20 years as a childminder this year, and has cared for a number of children with English as an additional language, but has never found they struggle more to settle. As with all children, she says, “It depends on their disposition and how they’ve been parented.” Her approach is to actively seek information from the parents about their culture, beliefs and family connections. She learns key words in a child’s home language. Sue says: “We celebrate where they come from, what makes them different, and make them feel valued for who they are.” She keeps her instructions in English simple and combines them with gestures, such as arms outstretched. “Sometimes there is a language barrier with the parents as well,” Sue adds. “But it’s important to find a way
WE CELEBRATE WHERE THEY COME FROM, WHAT MAKES THEM DIFFERENT, AND MAKE THEM FEEL VALUED
to communicate, because if you can’t form a relationship and have that partnership, it isn’t going to work.”
BILINGUAL WALES While bilingualism remains unusual in most of the UK, in Wales it is far more commonplace, supported by the government’s Welsh language Cymraeg 2050 strategy, which aims to have a million Welsh speakers by 2050, and includes a programme
to support and expand Welsh-medium childcare provision. Dwynwen Thomas is a childminder based in Nefyn in North Wales. She has cared for children who are Welsh-speaking, English-speaking and those growing up with both languages at home. “I get them to come into it gradually and begin by saying something in Welsh and then translating it into English so they get to hear both languages,” she explains. “I don’t want them to feel alienated because they don’t understand – I want them to feel involved. If they’re not happy they’re not going to be learning either.” She adds: “Introducing bilingualism to children at a very early age actually enhances their learning in my experience.” While Dwynwen says in order to “get on in the world” children must have both languages, beginning with Welsh is important, both for practical and cultural reasons. She says: “It’s your home language it’s something that connects you with your roots and something that you build on throughout your life.”
SOWING THE SEEDS For all its benefits, bilingualism is not something the majority of childcare providers can offer, nor is it something the vast majority of parents will expect – but it is still worth considering. Anna Neville, CEO and founder of Kidslingo, which teaches French and Spanish to 12,000 children aged 0 to 11 each week, believes it can “sow the seeds for a love of languages”. She says: “We want to instil in them that languages are something to be embraced, so they can take that on later in their education and their lives.”. From offering immersive programmes and weekly classes, to learning a few words in a child’s first language, how childcare professionals approach languages in their settings is vital in supporting the language-learning potential of the children in their care; get it right and they can tap into a multitude of advantages that will endure for the rest of their lives. pacey.org.uk AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
‘ Enjoying childhood and realising our imagination.’ “My favourite thing about Dallington School is that the teachers and students are very friendly and positive, there is a brilliant atmosphere in the classroom” - Johan “I think Dallington teaches you in a way no other school does and I really enjoy that” - Alex Dallington is a family-run co-educational independent school, with a nursery, in the heart of London.
Personal tours each day of the week, except Wednesday. Next Open Evening: Thursday 3rd October 2019 from 6 to 8 pm
Headteacher: Maria Blake Proprietor and Founder: Mogg Hercules MBE Email: email@example.com Phone: 020 7251 2284 www.dallingtonschool.co.uk USE.indd 1
without stress The Head of Bassett House on supporting every child, no matter their academic ability
t is widely acknowledged that each child should be encouraged and given every opportunity to reach their full potential at school: however, it is crucial to consider how this is to be achieved. I believe that it is important for all children to develop an inner core of confidence at school by developing skills and achieving success in a range of different areas. Some children are naturally academic so success for them will be gaining places and scholarships at some of the most prestigious and academically selective schools in the country. At Bassett House, a number of our children achieve this goal each year. For others, it means their strengths in the arts or sport are recognised, or their social and
PHILIPPA CAWTHORNE WITH STUDENTS
entrepreneurial flair is valued. The only non-negotiable as far as we are concerned is that a child is challenged, and in turn aspires to attain their absolute ‘personal best’ in every sphere. A child who feels a measure of achievement will feel confident and be able to build on this but we must guard against making children fear failure. At Bassett House we promote a growth mindset and the children know that they are not allowed to say that they can’t do something but rather that they can’t do it yet. Children are also taught that F.A.I.L. stands for First Attempt In Learning and we encourage them to take risks in and out of the classroom. Teachers also take on challenges, from learning an instrument to balloon model making,
“Children thrive when they are stretched but do not perform well when they are under excess pressure”
TA L K I N G
PHILIPPA CAWTHORNE Headmistress Bassett House School
to inspire children and show them that new learning doesn’t come easily. Success is often measured by the school a child gets into. What may be the best school for one child would not suit another and to think too early about these choices before the child has had a chance to develop is a recipe for disaster and disappointment. All of our candidates are given a long period of familiarisation and feedback in the run up to exam season, practising and perfecting techniques, allowing them to improve upon their best efforts. Failures big and small are celebrated as vital steps on the road to success. Growth is recognised wherever it is found, effort is praised, and in the end, the examination achievements of each child are viewed with pride. Children thrive when they are stretched but do not perform well when they are under excess pressure. A ‘no pain, no gain’ approach in order to win the prize of a prestigious senior school place can make adults feel justified in exerting pressure on a child, relegating emotional and mental wellbeing until after the exams are over. At Bassett House, we pride ourselves on flatly opposing the pressure - our approach is founded on our faith in our children and on our investment in them as whole beings. Bassett House School has this year been shortlisted for the Times Educational Supplement 'Healthy school of the year' award for the many new initiatives that have been introduced to ensure the positive mental health and wellbeing of the staff and children. A strong mind is needed to support knowledge and our children grow to be robust, resourceful and adaptable young people. It is the high-quality pastoral and intellectual investment for our children that leads to their success and most importantly, their happiness. AUTUMN • WINTER 2019
ABED AW19_TH Bassett.indd 29