A high school in Leeds, UK has introduced classes to teach all students English as a second language. More than 75% of students at City of Leeds secondary school do not have English as a mother tongue.
Principal Georgina Sale said all students, including those who have English as a mother tongue will soon receive one extra 50-minute session per week, in addition to any English language or literature classes already implemented in the National Curriculum.
The move comes after disappointing exam results threatened the school with closure. Sale hopes that the extra classes will “boost fundamental English skills and improve spelling and grammar” in preparation for exit exams, adding “We hope this will allow pupils who speak English as a first language as well as our multilingual learners the same opportunity to accomplish A and A* grades”.
Fifty-five different nations are represented among just 314 students at the school, including some from Europe, South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Sale claims that there also growing numbers of eastern European Roma communities at the school.
In the last two years, the school has struggled to cope with arrivals of an extra 15 nationalities at the school, with little experience or resources in the new influx of languages. However the school has made positive progress in employing teachers who speak Czech, Romanian, Russian and German; and subsequent teacher/parent meetings have been translated into Urdu, Czech, and Polish.
The new plans have been met with some criticism as classes in other subjects will be cut by 10 minutes each in order to make room for the extra language lessons, although many language professionals are supporting the schools efforts.
Dr Dina Mehmedbegovic, from the Institute of Education in London, described the move as “excellent” and that Sale is “drawing attention to something wrong in the system.”
Despite previous hurdles, Sale maintains: "We are proud to be a multicultural school and will continue to encourage new ideas to help us to be a supportive and encouraging learning environment where all pupils are given the same chances to learn."