Russian nursery can stay in EYFS

Sue Learner
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Russian bilingual nursery school has won its two-year battle with the Department for Education and can now operate purely in Russian and still work within the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The EYFS framework states, 'Parents may choose to have their children educated primarily in their home language and choose a provider specifically for this reason. As part of the learning and development requirements, providers should be able to support children to develop their communication, language and literacy skills in English.'

As children move into the Key Stage 1 curriculum, it says, 'English will be crucial as the language they use to access learning'.

This presented a problem for Azbuka nursery school in Richmond, London, which has an ethos of 'language immersion'.

Maria Gavrilova, who runs Azbuka nursery school, said, 'The children are immersed in the language environment with their classmates and peers on a daily basis. We don't learn Russian; we learn through play, in Russian.

'So when EYFS came to our nursery school, we experienced some problems. The policies forced upon us were a requirement to introduce English in all areas of learning, thus effectively killing the whole idea of language immersion for children.

'This was particularly true when considering the hours we operate - just a few mornings a week - and we want to maximise the teaching effort to the children.'

Ms Gavrilova added, 'Most children at our nursery are bilingual already, also attending English nurseries and often having one English speaking parent as well.

'The reason the families choose to come to our nursery is to immerse in the Russian side of their development and help to maintain their bilingualism.'

Ms Gavrilova said that the nursery school had won its case with the DfE and had become 'one of the first "language" nursery schools in England to be working within the EYFS framework, importantly without a need for applying for exemption'.

'This is a really big achievement, not just for us personally but for all language settings and for education pre-school policy in England today,' she added.

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