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 and enriched by our Christian ethos and cross curricular bilingual approach. 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 also learn to speak, read and write in French.
Children join our school with a wide range of home languages which we believe contributes to the richness of our community. Our innovative curriculum and approach to communication allows all children to make progress whatever their starting point in either English or French.
Early Years Foundation Stage
In Reception (4-5 years) children enjoy a creative and language rich environment in which adults model spoken English and French and encourage the children to begin to communicate bilingually. They explore high quality resources in both English and French and the role play areas encourage play in both languages.
We introduce children to a wide range of vocabulary and grammatical structures through the use of authentic songs and storytelling.
Alongside their language development, children are introduced to a wide range of aspects of culture from the English and French speaking worlds.
By the end of Reception all children develop confidence in singing and communicating in French spontaneously.
Key Stage 1
In Years 1 and 2 (5-7 years) children move to a more formal curriculum. English, maths and science are taught in English and we expect children to make excellent progress.
All children also have a daily French lesson which introduces them to the French written word. In Year 1 the focus is on reading and phonics using our unique approach which combines the use of colour coding of sounds and British Sign Language. This multi-sensory methodology is highly effective in enabling children to read aloud with confidence, fluency and an authentic pronunciation.
In Year 2, children develop their skills further by writing from memory and reading independently.
Geography, Art and PE are taught exclusively in French following an immersion approach called CLIL (Content Language Integrated Learning). These lessons incorporate the use of mobile learning technology to enhance the curriculum experience.
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
“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.