Evaluation of Wix Primary School:In what way has the introduction of the bilingual stream been a recipe for success?

  • Awarded to: Gabriela Meier
  • Funding Awarded to Exeter: £ 22,009 (total funding of £ 49,429)
  • Dates: 1 March 2011 - 2 July 2012
  • Sponsor(s): Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Two-way immersion education in England: Did the implementation of the bilingual stream turn the struggling state school around?

Main findings
The project helped answer the main research question (above) insofar as I could show that the bilingual stream indeed contributed to school improvement at Wix Primary school, which had been struggling in the past. First of all, the bilingual stream put the school on the map as an innovative and pioneering school, and thus improved its reputation. This attracted more families who took an active interest in their children’s schooling, and a number of staff who saw the school as a career destination rather than as a diving board to continue elsewhere. Thus it attracted parents and staff who were ready to invest in the school and a virtuous circle was set in motion. It is important, however, to note that the bilingual stream did not achieve this alone, indeed the school improvement, depended on certain conditions: 1) open-mindedness on behalf of the staff; 2) Long-term vision; 3) good communication between the two leaders; 4) a whole-school approach; 5) a school ethos based on a caring attitude and high expectations.
These findings are based on data collected in May/June 2011 in both schools and in all three streams: 146 parent questionnaires (return rate 25%) and 34 staff questionnaires (return rate 55.7%), 158 children’s letters about their school (return rate 97.5%), as well as 27 interviews with staff and parent representatives and with 23 children (7-8 years old).

Bilingual education in England – Contributing to ‘the movement’
The idea of bilingual education (learning a subject through a second/other language) has found a considerable following, and the project substantially added momentum to a trend that was budding in 2011 and has blossomed into a movement by the end of 2012. An important contribution that the funded project made was that it connected existing and prospective programmes, and enabled stakeholders to meet, learn from one another, network and develop new ideas through 1) a workshop/conference and 2) through a web-based network (bilingual immersion education network www.bien.org.uk) (described below).

Outcomes

  • A research report is available from the BIEN website.
  • The Bilingual Immersion Education Network (www.bien.org.uk) was set up and has 128 members (Feb 2013). These are mostly teachers/head teachers from existing or prospective bilingual projects in England. It also includes policy makers, such as officers from local education authorities, embassies and cultural representations, and from the government funded Teaching Agency.
  • A conference for teachers, including workshops was organised as part of this project in conjunction with Wandsworth Council.  The one-day conference took place at the Wandsworth Professional Centre on 19 March 2012. There were 58 participants mostly from schools, but also from local authorities, embassies, universities and other educational organisations.
  • A number of articles and reports has been produced based on the funded research:

Meier, G. (2012) Wix Project: Summary report. Available from www.bien.org (under publications)
Meier, G. (2011) Conference report. Available from www.bien.org (member site).
Meier, G. (2012 in press) Enseignement bilingue et l’amélioration scolaires: les conclusions de l’experience Wix Primary School / École de Wix a Londres (traduit par Laurent Batut). In Synergies Europe no 7.
Meier, G. (2013 accepted) ”C’est entreaide qui s’organise entre eux”: Towards a Social Theory for Bilingual Two-Way Immersion Programmes. Tagungsband. Mehrsprachigkeit als Chance. Luxembourg.
Meier, G. (2013) ‘ A bilingual stream in an English school: Added value for children, schools and society. In Language Education’ journal, No 165: 10-11.
Meier, G. (2013) ‘ Bilingual education: Added value for children, schools and society. In Education Journal Wales-Cymru No 30: 8-9.
Meier, G. (2013) A bilingual stream in an English school: Added value for children, schools and society. In The Weekly Children's Services News Bulletin.
Meier, G. (2013) BIEN Newsletter No 1. Sent to BIEN members, and available from www.bien.org.uk. This contains information about the funded research project, and practice reports from 3 bilingual projects other than Wix.

Acknowledgements
My thanks go above all to Esmée Fairbairn Foundation who provided funding for this project (project 10-2001). I also acknowledge the contributions the University of Bath and the University of Exeter made towards the project. Furthermore, I would like to thank Wix Primary School and École de Wix who enabled the research and trusted me to collect data in their schools. I am also grateful to all the staff, parents and children who gave their time and shared their insights with me. I would like to thank Wandsworth Council to co-host the conference which allowed networking and joining of theory and practice. Lastly, I am indebted to many kind colleagues who volunteered to be on the advisory committee or supported the project in other ways.

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