Our Bilingual Approach
St. Jérôme Church of England Bilingual School is funded by the British government and our curriculum is based on the English national curriculum. The first academic priority of the school is to make sure that every child makes excellent progress in English, maths and science. However we are confident that through our bilingual approach, our children will also learn to speak, read and write in French.
We expect children to join the school with very different levels of communication. Some will already speak English and French and may have begun learning to read. Some will speak either English or French but not both. Some may speak a different language at home and will be new to both English and French. Our curriculum and our approach to communication will allow children to make progress from their starting points.
Dr Napoleon Katsos, Cambridge University is asked what he would say to a parent considering a bilingual education for their child.
Early Years Foundation Stage
In Reception (4-5 years) children will enjoy a creative and language rich environment. They will enjoy high quality texts in both English and French and the role play area will encourage play in both languages. Staff will model both English and French and children will be introduced to Francophile cultures.
By the end of Reception all children will have developed the ability to communicate in French.
Key Stage 1
In Years 1 and 2 (5-7 years) children move to a more formal curriculum. English, maths and science will be taught in English and we expect children to make excellent progress. All children will also have a daily French lesson focused on speaking and listening.
Beyond the core curriculum, children will be grouped according to their level of proficiency in French and some cross-curricular themes and subjects such as PE will be taught in French.
All children will also have the option of joining our extended enrichment programme based around the core curriculum areas and delivered in French. Children who join this programme will develop the language knowledge and skill to study a wider range of subjects in French in Key Stage 2.
Key Stage 2
This approach will continue into Key Stage 2 (7-11 Years). French lessons will include speaking, listening, reading, writing, spelling and grammar and children will have a French reading book and home learning tasks in French. All children will continue to learn some PE and cross-curricular themes in French. Children who have made excellent progress in Key Stage 1 will have the opportunity to learn up to be taught half of their subjects in French – a truly bilingual experience.
Working with research experts
There is a growing body of evidence from all over the world about the academic, social and cognitive benefits of a bilingual education. As we have been planning St. Jérôme Church of England Bilingual School we have been fortunate to receive advice from leading experts like Dr Peeter Mehisto. We will use this expertise to develop the best possible learning environment and to monitor children’s progress very carefully to make sure they are progressing right across the curriculum. It will also allow us to develop as a centre of excellence for the teaching of language and communication skills.
Why did you decide to open a bilingual school?
There is lots of evidence that learning a second language from a young age helps brain development but, until now, in West London this has only been available in the private sector. One of the opportunities that comes with opening a new school is to offer something that is not already available to local parents, and the proposers of St. Jérôme Church of England Bilingual School strongly believe that this should be an option for all families, not just those who can afford a private education.
What are the benefits of a bilingual approach?
Young minds are much more adaptive to developing new skills. Learning is much more organic and less systematic than for older children. Learning another language is useful in itself, however, the real benefit comes in the positive impact it has on other areas of the curriculum. When young brains are encouraged to work through the curriculum in the medium of two different languages they develop stronger, more effective neural pathways, leading to more creative and imaginative modes of thought.
St. Jérôme Church of England Bilingual School will be a new kind of school for Harrow – a state funded school offering high standards across the curriculum but with an additional layer that means all children will learn to communicate in French as well as English. By working with successful schools elsewhere in England and with world renowned experts in bilingual education like Peeter Mehisto we are confident our new school will offer high standards from the start.
“Children who speak more than one language are multiply advantaged over their monolingual playmates – in communication, cognition and social interaction … Studies show that a bilingual child is better able to cope with tasks that involve attention, memory and concentration. The mental gymnastics needed to constantly manage two or more linguistic systems increases cognitive flexibility and makes learning easier.”
Source: Cambridge University’s Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/bilingualism-is-good-for-learning
“Children exposed to different languages become more aware of different cultures, other people and other points of view. But they also tend to be better than monolinguals at ‘multitasking’ and focusing attention, they often are more precocious readers, and generally find it easier to learn other languages. Bilingualism gives children much more than two languages!”
Neither I nor my child knows any French. Will they be able to keep up in class?
Yes! We have given careful thought to making sure that every child makes good progress from their starting points.
Many children in Harrow speak a first language at home that is neither English nor French. Research has shown that a bilingual approach is beneficial for these children too, and our curriculum and teaching will be organised to meet the needs of these children as well.