An Introduction to Language and Learning at Hamstead Hall Academy
How do you tell people what you know, develop new understandings and gain knowledge?
You do it through language.
How do young people today demonstrate what they have learned?
They do it through language.
Language and learning are inseparable. Without language, there is no knowledge, there is no learning.
Therefore, the aim of our work is: to enable all pupils to become more literate users of language for success at school and in life.
Hamstead Hall Academy is a richly diverse community. Over fifty per cent of our pupils have English as an Additional Language. Many of these are advanced learners of English, a small group are beginners. Across the school, our pupils have over thirty First Languages. We are committed to maximising students’ achievements and to preparing them for productive, fulfilling lives after their time with us. Their success in a variety of situations rests largely on their ability to communicate their ideas clearly in English. However, the way a successful historian communicates ideas clearly is slightly different to the way a successful scientist or designer or mathematician communicates ideas clearly. Therefore, we cannot limit ourselves to teaching simply the knowledge of particular subjects. We also have a responsibility to teach the particular language of each subject; its genres, its technical terms and its structures. As our young people develop an understanding of genre and register, they establish control of both the language and the knowledge.
This innovative approach to teaching and learning has been developing over the last three years and continues still. It involves developing teachers’ knowledge about language as well as that of pupils, acknowledging the success that can be unlocked for all our students. Recognising this, a team from The Open University visited our school in 2015 to film lessons and to conduct interviews. Professor Caroline Coffin, who led the Open University team, explained why she chose Hamstead Hall,
“I had been searching for a school that could demonstrate a commitment to the fundamental relationship between language and learning. Hamstead Hall Academy fitted the bill. It recognises that grappling with how language works and making that visible to both staff and students can unlock the world of academic knowledge. Crucially, it gives students the language skills and resources (a ‘language repertoire’) for critically interrogating that world and displaying their understanding of it.”
Hamstead Hall Academy is at an exciting period in its development and we are proud to be at the forefront of transformative work. Most importantly, though, we are proud that all of our students are becoming more independent, successful learners.