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Focus on: bilingual teaching provision

Tucked away in the sixteenth century Manor House building that houses our reception office is a cosy little upstairs room strewn with national flags and packed to the rafters with foreign language books, games and DVDs for all ages. This quiet pocket of calm in our busy school is where our native language assistants provide specialist teaching to pupils already fluent in French or Spanish.

In keeping with our international outlook, at Junior King’s we have a dynamic, thriving Modern Foreign Languages Department, with French on the curriculum from Pre-Prep and Spanish added to the timetable from Year 5. One of the many things that makes the department special is its particular focus on the individual, with everyone from beginners to bilingual pupils catered for. For the majority of our pupils, a setting system allows them to learn and progress at their own pace, with beginners’ sets supporting first steps in language learning and the possibility to progress when ready available. Alongside this, however, we also offer a dedicated provision to bilingual pupils in order to maintain and advance their fluency.

This year, our French and Spanish assistants are teaching five pupils each, with these children making their way up to the bilingual room in the Manor House for their one-on-one sessions while their classmates develop their language skills in their sets. With a tailor-made curriculum produced for each pupil to fit his or her needs, our language assistants take into account the unique backgrounds of their pupils, who may have come directly from a school in a French or Spanish speaking country or who may be speaking their second language fluently at home with a family member but without prior formal teaching in spelling and grammar.

The lessons are warm, fun and comprehensive, with the aim to build upon and round out pupils’ existing knowledge. As our French language assistant Mrs Bondatti explains, ‘In my lessons I aim to teach French grammar, conjugation and a wide variety of extracurricular reading and comprehension texts to broaden my pupils’ vocabulary as much as possible. I also encourage conversations in the classroom to ensure they retain fluency. The resources I use are the same as those used in schools in France and the lessons are usually on a one-to-one basis and tailored to the specific needs of each pupil, enabling me to stretch them to their true potential’.

With knowledge of modern foreign languages becoming more and more important in our increasingly interconnected world, it is wonderful to not only offer coaching to young people in two different languages, but also to have the resources to nurture and encourage fluency.