Planning to develop pupils’ multilingual skills

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At Ysgol Pencae, pupils’ Welsh and English skills are developed in order to ensure that they are fully bilingual by the time they attend secondary school. The school’s older pupils are also given opportunities to learn French and Mandarin.

Number of learners: 210
Age range: 4-11
Date of inspection: January 2017

Information about the school

Ysgol Pencae is situated in the suburb of Llandaff in the city of Cardiff, and the catchment area serves pupils from the western area of the capital city.

The school’s numbers are consistent, with 210 pupils at the school from the Reception class up to Year 6.  A number of Welsh-medium and non Welsh-medium nurseries transfer children to the school for the Reception class as the school has no nursery provision. 

Over the last three years, approximately 2.5% of pupils have been eligible for free school meals, which is significantly lower than the average for Wales.  Sixteen per cent (16%) of pupils come from Welsh-speaking homes, and the remainder of the pupils come from homes in which either one or neither parent speaks Welsh. 

Approximately 11.5% of pupils are on the additional learning needs register, and approximately 2% are from ethnic minority backgrounds. 

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Pupils’ bilingual and multilingual skills are developed effectively as they are immersed in the Welsh language in the Reception class.  This gives them a firm foundation to be able to communicate and apply their linguistic skills in more than one language later while at the school, for example French and Mandarin.

Description and nature of the strategy or activity

Advantage is taken of every opportunity to promote pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the importance of appreciating and respecting the languages, cultures and traditions of other countries by conducting specific activities throughout the academic year, for example within international days and weeks.  Languages are taught through simple activities that promote occasional use of language frequently.  An effective example of this is when two students from a university in the Basque Country visit the school annually for half a term in order to investigate procedures for teaching and learning a language in a school whose medium of instruction is a European minority language.  Advantage is taken of this opportunity to promote the Basque language as they teach pupils for short periods each week during this half term.  Pupils benefit greatly from this experience, not only by communicating in more than one language, but also by developing their translanguaging skills in a language other than Welsh or English.

This is developed further by a teacher within the school teaching French to pupils between Year 3 and Year 5 for specific periods every fortnight.  Parents join with members of the wider community at the school to hold a French club each week, and share direct experiences with pupils about being born and raised in France.  Different aspects are earmarked, for example fruit and vegetables, school and interests, in order to enrich pupils’ experiences further.

As part of the transition activity with the secondary school, all primary schools invest in specific provision by employing a specialist language teacher to teach French for an hour a week in all primary schools that feed into the secondary school.  The result is that there is consistency in the secondary school pupils’ standards of French in Year 7, and it is also a medium to promote modern foreign languages for the future. 

The school has developed a robust partnership over time with the Confucius Department at Cardiff University.  As a result of this, a Mandarin teacher, who was born in China, teaches Year 5 pupils for an hour a week, in addition to holding a Mandarin Club for more able and talented pupils in Years 5 and 6 for half an hour each week.  Initially, pupils’ oral skills are developed through a variety of fun activities, for example singing songs and taking part in language games in order to immerse children in the language.  Following this, listening activities are conducted in order to develop pupils’ reading and writing skills.  Pupils decode Mandarin symbols confidently in order to read letters and simple words initially, before reading simple phrases and sentences in contexts that are of interest to pupils, for example school, and farm animals.  The aim of all of this is to develop pupils’ curiosity towards foreign languages and foster the skill of being able to communicate with increasing confidence in a language other than Welsh or English.

Pupils have recently sat the ‘Young Children’ Test’ in order to measure their progress in Mandarin.

What effect has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

All pupils speak Welsh and English very eloquently and attain consistently high standards, and the school’s older pupils communicate confidently in French and Mandarin.  The school considers that its more able and talented pupils make excellent progress in the variety of linguistic experiences that they receive both within the school and beyond and, as a result, they transfer to the secondary school with sound linguistic skills.

How have you shared your good practice?

The school takes advantage of every opportunity to promote pupils’ multilingual skills in the local community and beyond and, as a result, shares good practice inevitably.  The school has shared good practice, in addition to strategies and activities for teaching language, with other schools in the cluster and the consortium.  In addition, it is developing further partnerships with Cardiff University and beyond, by taking part actively in a case study with the Open University.