How the Lycée International de Londres brings out the best in children from a young age.
Laure Berr, Head of the Primary section at Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill (Lycée Churchill) in North West London, answers all our questions about early years education at Lycée Churchill including how forest days and bilingualism benefit the pupils.
What are the benefits of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) programme at Lycée International de Londres compared to a bilingual nursery?
Lycée Churchill offers a dual-language setting that is unique in London. The two languages are spoken and used in parallel, as in a bilingual family. Our teachers all have a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and share international experience. They are native speakers of English or French, which is key for children to become bilingual.
How do you manage to teach French and English at the same time?
Each class is taught by two early childhood specialised teachers, one English-speaking and the other French-speaking. Some activities are mainly led in English, others in French, and the children have one-to-one interactions with both teachers. Eighty percent of all the teaching done in early years is based on playing. Still, the children are prepared for the years ahead. They are taught phonics and problem solving, including how to read in both languages. And they’re part of the wider school from the start. Every week, older pupils come and read stories to early years ones. They all love it!
If no one speaks French in our family, does it still make sense for us to sign up our child to the Lycée Churchill?
Completely! We welcome families with no connection to France and no French speaking tradition. We are proud to have students from 45 different countries – and a very diverse staff as well. There is no prerequisite to join Lycée Churchill. We are a non-selective international school and make sure that families of all backgrounds feel welcome right from the start. That’s why all the children get the opportunity to meet their teacher before starting school. On their first day here, they feel very confident.
How quickly do non-French speaking children learn French?
Because all class activities revolve around language learning, pupils pick up French vocabulary very quickly. Often, parents are surprised to hear their children start singing French songs. Becoming bilingual, however, is a long term project and we don’t expect children to express complex emotions and ideas in French in a matter of months. Their progress is tracked through the whole primary section curriculum and we make sure that their French skills improve year-on-year.
On top of being a bilingual school for early years, you offer forest activities to your pupils. Tell me more about that.
We run at least one forest day per week in the wooded part of our campus. We do treasure hunts, observe nature and engage in hands-on activities such as building a bug hotel. Children are given the opportunity to carry out their own projects. In general, they are very keen to protect the environment and we give them plenty of opportunities to do so: our primary section children run their own Green Committee and even grow food on the campus.
Wellbeing is at the very core of the Lycée International de Londres’ ethos. How does that translate in the early years?
One of our teachers is certified in hygge, the Danish principle of peace and comfort. It’s not as strange as it sounds: Hygge goes further than making your house feel cosy and welcoming, although our classrooms do feel very homely (that’s “homey” to North Americans) thanks to lampshades and soft lights. Applying hygge in the classroom means that children are taught empathy and are made conscious of their progress. They receive encouragement from their teachers and they get positive feedback from the rest of the class when appropriate.
Is this philosophy implemented beyond the early years?
Of course! It imbues the whole curriculum at the Lycée Churchill. Some of our Primary section teachers are trained in positive discipline and looking to bring out the best in each student and encourage them to fulfill their potential. Dogtor George,our therapy trained dog, provides unconditional love and listening; children may attend art therapy sessions as a group, students may become “playground buddies”; so many ways to express their and understand feelings.
What’s the role of the playground buddies?
From the age of 7, volunteer pupils are taught how to initiate games with other children who seem lonely, how to listen to them, how to resolve conflicts and in which situations to call out for an adult.
How popular is the training?
Very popular! We have 15 playground buddies dedicated to their classmates’ wellbeing.
Other initiatives, led by students, are popular: the Green Committee, where students are committed to make our school even “greener”, our Diversity Club, where students express their interest in different cultures and religions, and our Charity Club which leads several actions to support charities across the world. At Lycée Churchill, pupils are encouraged to be forward-thinking, principled, and joyful world citizens.