Teacher Talk

'Occasionally, we get translators in, but often they don't know the more unusual languages' Nina Williams is the acting deputy head at Medlock Primary School in central Manchester. Medlock's 400 pupils speak a total of 29 languages because they come from a culturally diverse catchment area
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The Independent Online

Which languages do Medlock pupils speak?

Which languages do Medlock pupils speak?

Those from Pakistan speak Urdu; those from Algeria and Egypt speak variations of Arabic; we've got children from China, Gambia, Nigeria and Afghanistan who speak many different dialects; and some Iranian pupils who speak Farsi. One child speaks Portuguese, another Spanish. It's like having a miniature world in one school!

How do you cross the language barriers?

The children help a lot. Those who have been here for longer translate. Today, I worked with two boys from Afghanistan - one helped me to translate to the other. Occasionally, we get translators in, but often they don't know the more unusual languages. We've got two teachers who speak Urdu, one who speaks Mandarin, one Spanish, and I can have a bash at French. We do a lot of sign language. The English children are supportive and make an effort to be kind to new pupils when they arrive. Their respect for each other is fantastic.

What benefits does this diversity bring?

Whenever we have a festival or investigate something in RE or geography, there's always someone in the class who can act as a resource. The children learn a lot from one another, and the teachers learn about other cultures, races and religions, too.

What has changed since you arrived?

We have had training to ensure that our lessons appeal to different learning styles. We now know, for example, that the brain reacts better when lessons are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Last week, we were awarded the Artsmark Gold (the national standard for schools excelling in creative learning) for the second year running.

What support are you able to tap locally?

We are part of the Manchester Schools Improvement Network (MSIN), which shares resources and gets funding for activities. Our Kiwi Club on Saturday, where teaching assistants help children to organise an activity such as pottery classes or horse riding, is financed by the Children's Fund, which all MSIN schools can access. The network has increased opportunities for sport - community coaches teach football, and we hold tournaments at a local secondary school. All of this motivates the children. They can learn at the same time as having fun.

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