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English as an Additional Language learners share 'what makes a great school'

English as an Additional Language learners share 'what makes a great school'

At St Mary's School, students can receive extra language support in English as an Additional Language (EAL) classes. In these classes, each student is supported to develop her command of the English language, enabling her to pursue subject studies to the best of her abilities. Following their Cambridge University Press course, Year 9 recently undertook a writing exercise last term, answering the question, 'What makes a great school?'. We were delighted to see so many answers reflect our own Mary Ward founding values, including promoting justice, celebrating diversity, pursuing cheerfulness, and respecting the self and others. 

One of the most important factors that students cited for creating a great school was the teachers. Emily stressed the importance of a 'good learning atmosphere', for which helpful and supportive teachers were key. Upe similarly argued that a great school has teachers who motivate everyone and communicate well. For Trinity, a great school is one where 'teachers support students not just academically but personally'. Karise also wrote that a great school should 'encourage a great relationship between teachers and students' by listening to every student. Moreover, this relationship can even help to motivate students: 'If the teacher is nice to students and teaches great content, the students will have a great impression of the teacher. They might even start liking the subject too.' 

All of the students highlighted the importance of good learning resources in schools. Selina gave a well-stocked library as an example, while other students argued for the importance of extra-curricular clubs. For Emily and Selina, these activities should be varied to support 'relaxing' and health, and to provide academic support. Trinity promoted clubs that allowed different year groups to mix and where 'the older year groups can mentor the younger ones'. 

Many students also believed that a great school motivates students to learn. For Trinity, an ideal school makes learning fun and motivating, and is tailored to the different needs of its students. For Emily and Upe, the right amount of pressure is key to academic success as the 'environment should be slightly competitive (not too much) and friendly'.

For many students, a sense of school community was key. A great school for Karise relies not just on teachers, but on supportive parents and students: 'what makes a great student is how they treat others'. For Upe, a great school community is a 'diverse' and 'inclusive' one. Indeed, while some students placed more emphasis on academic results, and others on pastoral care, all agreed a great school is one 'where the students are happy and comfortable'.

We could not agree more with these foundations for a great school and will continue to make our school an inclusive, supportive and motivating environment.

You can find out more about our EAL at St Mary's here.