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Celebrating Being Bilingual workshops at Trafalgar Community Infant School


Trafalgar Community Infant School is a three-form entry infant school near the centre of Horsham, West Sussex.

In response to our evolving cohort and local community, we have organised and hosted four Celebrating Being Bilingual workshops for parents/carers not only in our own school, but also for other schools in Horsham.

At present, in our school, we have 41 children who are EAL, and 21 different languages being spoken in school or at home, with our most common at present being English, followed by Malayalam, Chinese and Spanish.

Our aim was to welcome parents/carers into our school building, helping them to form a sense of belonging, to meet new friends, and to share ideas and resources which may help them and others who have moved to Horsham, and who have the advantage of speaking a different language, or being Bilingual. Our school has always prided itself on being a welcoming Community School, where forming positive relationships with all stakeholders is a strength, but we needed to ensure that all in our community not only felt supported, but identified themselves as being an important member of our community, on arrival.

Parents/carers and children frequently arrived in our school with little or no English, unsurprisingly with many questions about our education system, and the Trafalgar ways, so we wanted to communicate with them efficiently, and in a welcoming and supportive manner.

Our staff and children were keen to help them to settle in quickly, but also to learn from them, about their family, culture, heritage and similarities. The children of course, love to welcome new members into our school, expertly leading them around the site, and showing them where everything is!

What are the actions so far?

We liaised with the WS EMTAS team, and during an initial conversation and planning meeting, the plan took shape. We knew that we wanted to provide some consistent and clear messages about what to expect from our Education system, in terms of curriculum, school timings, meals, transition, local offers and support in the community, websites, how to prepare your child for school, and how to support them whilst on their journey through our school, and beyond.

To inform this, we asked some of our school community, what was useful for them to know before and during their first few days, and what else would have been helpful. Common themes such as where to drop off, curriculum content, and how to support their home language as well as English were identified, and therefore discussed in our Celebrating Being Bilingual meeting.

The meeting itself was advertised in our weekly newsletter, and on our school website. On Google Classroom and through direct invitations on the school gate on tours and within the first few days. We also shared the key information about the planned meeting with other schools in Horsham, so that parents/carers from other schools, but who lived or worked in our local area, could come to learn more about their town and what we have to offer.

The meeting itself took place in our school hall, after drop off, with coffee and biscuits on offer. It had a very informal feel, and although we were prepared to answer what we predicted the participants may want to know, we were also steered into even more useful directions by the brilliant questions asked, and ideas and resources shared by participants. Their knowledge and experience so far, of our area, was perhaps some of the most important aspects of the meeting, as new friends learnt from others who had navigated our Education system, but who were perhaps a few weeks or months down the line.

What impact have these actions had?

The impact of these sessions, although started in the meeting, then rippled out, as parents/carers started to talk to each other on the way into school, would help each other by answering each other’s questions, would share a warm smile and a brief chat whilst waiting on the playground, or would even meet up at EAL Saturday schools in a neighbouring Local Authority. One parent said “I have lived in Horsham for nearly a year, and I did not know that there was a Spanish school which we could access at the weekends, so that my children could retain their sense of culture and heritage, learn about important food, songs and games etc…”

In our first meeting we had only five families who attended the meeting, and this then slowly grew, with each meeting welcoming in a few new families.

One parent volunteered to be interviewed in our new school prospectus video, and spoke confidently and positively about how welcome she and her family have felt, and how her child is thriving in our care. Another parent commented that “their child didn’t smile much in their last school, but because of the warm welcome, the supportive and friendly staff, and the brilliant information workshops which we offer, they, and their child, loves school again.”

Staff have seen the benefits of using APPs such as Say Hi, to facilitate communication in the early days, for both children and their parents, and as a result, one child who came to us in Year 2 with no English or school-experience, achieved Greater Depth by the end of the year in English and Maths.

Staff understand the value of using the experiences of the children in their class or year group to build their curriculum and daily activities, such as in our termly Let’s Get Creative Art days, where each class recently explored art from an artist of interest taken from their own passions and culture.

Without a doubt, broadening our curriculum content to meet the needs of our current cohort, adapting how we embrace and communicate with our community e.g. through weekly translations of newsletters, or using the skills and expertise of staff in our school who are bilingual etc… has impacted on our strategic direction.

What are your next steps going to be?

Our next steps include offering further meetings, in our school, once again not only for our parents/carers, but for others in local school. The aim, to help to build those firm foundations and friendships, as soon as possible, leading to maximum learning for the children.

We are also reaching out and engaging with groups in our local area, to ensure that we are communicating as effectively as possible, e.g. by creating welcome booklets with the West Sussex Asylum, Refugee and Forced Migration team, which can then be translated and given to new members of our community as soon as possible.   

Top tips for other schools

Although people may be reluctant to come to meetings initially, once attended, they have spread the word themselves, and ask to come back next time. It is worth running these kinds of events, even if a very small number attend, as the impact that you can have on their lives, and the lives of all in their family, is immense. The WS EMTAS team were brilliant in designing and support these with us, so I would recommend liaising with them throughout the process.

Links to the Inclusion Framework

We referred to the Inclusion Framework to help to shape our approach and content, and to clarify where we are aiming for in the work that we do to support people who are bilingual, into our school.

Last updated 14 September 2023

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