The Bilingual Primary School, a free school in Brighton, is the first state funded bilingual English / Spanish primary school in the UK.
Its basis is as follows:
The Bilingual Primary School, Brighton & Hove is brought to you by the Bilingual Primary School Project which was founded in 2010. BLPSP is made up of a group of parents, educators and teachers who are passionate about bilingualism, bi-culturalism and bi-literacy. Some of us are bilingual or have bilingual children and we see how disadvantaged children in England are, in terms of language learning. Our proposer group is very committed to the success of the school and aims to work closely with it into the future. Others wish for their children to have the advantage of becoming fully bilingual.
The Times Education Supplement reports:
Oscar is five years old. His mother speaks Spanish and English at home but his father only knows English. “Sometimes I don’t understand the teachers,” he says. “But I just listen to what they’re saying and then I know what they’re saying.”
This knowing without – or rather before – “understanding” is partly how this type of language learning works. You may not understand “Ponte el abrigo”, but if you’re rushing to go out to play and your
teacher is standing by the coat pegs you may know she wants you to put your coat on. But at the Bilingual Primary School, Spanish is also taught in discrete lessons and some lessons use more English than others – there is no straightforward translation for the maths method of “chunking”, says Gopal.
There is research suggesting that children attending bilingual schools have an advantageous rather than an impediment in terms of language development in their mother tongue. However, others dispute this. Let's see how the pupils at this school in Brighton get on with their English results.
There is also plenty of research to suggest that we are behind other countries in learning foreign languages. There are also neuroscientists who believe that attending bilingual primary school will help childrens' brain to develop in such a way that Alzeimer's in later life is less likely.
Plenty of parents are confident that the Bilingual Primary School in Brighton will produce better results for their children than an ordinary primary school. Maybe they are right and we will see chains of popular bilingual free schools opening across the country. Maybe they are wrong and English results will suffer. We will find out. Making room for pioneers and for innovation is the route to progress.