Multilingual Learners

Mission Statement & Aim

Trinity Academy Leeds is a multilingual and multicultural school serving a diverse community in the heart of Leeds. We are an inclusive academy fostering the sense of belonging for all young people and staff. At Trinity Academy Leeds we operate from an asset-based approach where the teaching and learning process leverages multilingual students’ linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Our high-quality curriculum simultaneously supports and challenges all students so that they can further develop their subject knowledge and language at the same time. All teachers plan and deliver lessons with the appropriate level of various strategies which promote language development within a subject area. Language is expertly interwoven and taught explicitly across the curriculum so that all lessons are accessible to the students, regardless of their current level of English. We unite all students’ families and communities to ensure that the multilingual students’ identities and languages are affirmed and extended. 

The academy is committed to:

  • offering a broad and ambitious curriculum to all multilingual students
  • ensuring that full academic potential is realised for all students and is not limited to being based on the students’ level of English
  • encouraging the development of the learners’ first and home languages
  • supporting multilingual learners who are new to English through planned sessions focusing on the functional as well as curriculum based language
  • promoting and developing the families’ agency to support their children’s learning
  • ensuring that all staff engage with high-quality professional development to enhance their knowledge of language pedagogy and hone their skills for teaching multilingual learners
  • affirming, extending and celebrating multilingual skills and promoting linguistic diversity amongst all students.


The students at Trinity Academy Leeds speak over 50 different languages. 70% of 720 students in Year 7, 8 & 9 are multilingual or EAL (English as an Additional Language) students. This is significantly higher than the national average of 20% in state-funded primary and secondary schools but in line with the linguistic diversity represented in the academy’s locality of Burmantofts and Harehills.

The academy uses the Government’s definition of EAL learners:

‘A pupil is recorded to have English as an additional language if they are exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be other than English. This measure is not a measure of English language proficiency or a good proxy for recent immigration.’ (DfE Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics July 2020).

At Trinity Academy Leeds, however, we use the term ‘multilingual learners’ (MLs) because we believe it is more affirming and inclusive as opposed to the EAL initialism which very often focuses on students’ English language deficits while ignoring the strength of their native languages.

We use The Bell Foundation English Language Proficiency Scale to record a student’s level of English:

A: New to English

B: Early Acquisition

C: Developing Competence

D: Competent

E: Fluent

A small group of 11 students in KS3 have been identified as students who are New to English or at the Early Acquisition level. Time-limited and purpose-specific interventions are offered to these learners. These sessions are linked to mainstream classes, focused on the students’ acceleration of language acquisition and further development of their subject knowledge. Additionally, approximately 100 students in Year 7, 8 and 9 have been identified as learners requiring ongoing support to access mainstream curriculum. We do recognise that a student’s language is in continuous development. We provide systematic and effective language development opportunities for all students through a language-aware curriculum.  

We also offer an Induction Programme to all students who join the academy throughout the academic year.  

Teaching & Learning

At Trinity Academy Leeds multilingual students are fully integrated into the life of the academy. All multilingual students, regardless of their level of English, benefit socially, educationally, and linguistically from being engaged in all that the school has to offer. This is exemplified in all students attending Involve once a week (co-curricular clubs), 3 Empower trips a year (a bespoke career pathway) and having multiple opportunities to participate in sports and performing arts clubs. 

We believe that multilingual students should attend mainstream lessons during which the tasks are designed to develop the students’ knowledge and language. Mainstream lessons provide an environment where the language is presented and practiced purposefully and meaningfully. The language demands of each task are identified and planned for so that language development is systematic and happens in all curriculum areas. All curriculum areas are an ideal platform to practice all four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. 

Our bookletised curriculum allows for proactive and adaptive planning to continually support language development within content areas. Booklets are co-planned with the Curriculum Leader for Multilingual Learners so that the key vocabulary is amplified, language functions are made explicit and content is made accessible.

The Curriculum Leader of Multilingual Learners provides day to day support and collaborates with individual departments and teachers so that all multilingual students can access mainstream lessons and develop their academic knowledge as well as English language proficiency. Regular, evidence-based training sessions are offered to all staff with the view of developing successful and sustainable pedagogy for all multilingual learners. Each faculty area has a representative who meets with the Curriculum Leader of Multilingual Learners each fortnight to review the sustainability of learning and curriculum for MLs. 

Teachers are skilled and are employing a vast array of strategies which allow access to the mainstream curriculum, such as but not limited to:

  • Explicit vocabulary instruction (above)
  • Using full sentences when providing answers
  • Use of visuals to reinforce meaning
  • Use of graphic organisers to plan extended talk and writing
  • Structured talk and oral rehearsals
  • Reading aloud to students
  • Think alouds and modelling writing
  • Focus on root words and suffixes
  • Use of sentence stems and frames to model speaking and writing.


The Bell Foundation

Trinity Academy Leeds has been collaborating with The Bell Foundation, a charitable organisation that focuses on improving the educational outcomes of children and young people, particularly those for whom English is an additional language (EAL).  

Recently, three of our staff members have applied to become Bell Foundation Licensed Practitioners. This accreditation will enable them to deliver highly effective, bespoke and evidence-driven in-house EAL training. Our goal is to become a Centre of Expertise in supporting multilingual learners and to extend our reach to a wider community of schools in the area, strengthening provision for EAL students. 

Also, in the past year, we collaborated with The Bell Foundation on a project where they filmed two lessons conducted at TAL. These lessons showcased a multitude of strategies and techniques employed by our teachers to support multilingual learners’ language acquisition and knowledge development. One of the lessons, delivered by Ms. Kay, Head of Y7, and a history teacher, focused on Queen Elizabeth I. Ms. Kay provided commentary on the strategies used in her lesson. The video showcasing the history lesson is available for viewing, providing insights into our approach to supporting multilingual learners and promoting effective teaching practices and can be found on: 

The Bell Foundation website: 



Bilingual Book Buddies is a collaborative programme where students, paired based on their first languages, engage in enriching reading experiences. Students in Y9, who are advanced bilinguals, act as mentors to their younger peers who are in the early stages of English language acquisition. Together, they explore captivating and age-appropriate books, honing essential reading skills such as decoding, discussion, prediction and vocabulary development. Sessions take place once a week during Team Time on Mondays.

Through structured sessions, older students learn how to effectively support their younger peers. Leveraging their bilingualism, students enhance the depth of their discussion and oral proficiency in both languages.

Next year, Year 10 multilingual learners will have a chance to gain a GCSE qualification by taking a GCSE Heritage Language exam. We want to affirm and expand students’ languages by celebrating their cultural and linguistic heritage as it fosters a sense of identity and belonging. It also provides recognition for language proficiency, which can be beneficial for future academic and career opportunities and lead to more advanced courses in marketing, tourism, education, law, translation or interpreting. Additionally, GCSE Heritage Languages exams contribute to preserving and promoting linguistic diversity within society.

Following a baseline assessment, 35 students currently in Year 9, have confirmed their readiness to sit the exam in Year 10 in the following languages: Bengali, Polish, Urdu, Italian, French, German, Arabic, Persian, Russian and Portuguese. To ensure their success, these students will participate in preparatory sessions led by bilingual teachers.

At Trinity Academy Leeds, we prioritise providing a robust induction programme for multilingual arrivals, understanding the challenges they may face in navigating a new educational setting. We also consider students’ English proficiency levels to ensure tailored support.

The induction process begins with admissions meetings attended by the Curriculum Leader for Multilingual Learners. During these meetings, essential information about the students is collected, including their educational and family backgrounds, languages spoken, and hobbies and interests. This initial information is shared with key members at school to ensure a coordinated and supportive approach to welcoming and integrating these students into our school community.

New arrivals attend a 2-day induction programme during which students:

– familiarise themselves with the school and the key routines at TAL

– are introduced to buddies who look after them during the first few days and weeks

– attend a bespoke set of sessions centered around a variety of subjects

– complete introductory sessions of Sparx Maths and Sparx Reader

– are informally assessed through a series of tasks, including reading, writing in English and their first languages, and speaking activities.

A comprehensive student profile is disseminated among the staff to ensure that we can effectively support all new starters. During the first few weeks and months all new starters are monitored carefully by both pastoral and teaching teams to ensure that the start of their journey at TAL is strong and positive.

We host regular Family Build sessions tailored specifically for multilingual families, including the families of newly arrived students. The aim of the sessions is to emphasise the significance of multilingualism and facilitate the transition into the English educational context. The meetings cover various topics such as the structure, subjects and topics studied at KS3 and KS4, preparing for parents’ evenings, understanding the grading system and strategies to support multilingual children. We do it with the aim of fostering a sense of agency and forging strong community connections.

Joanna Kolota has worked in extremely diverse settings supporting multilingual students in primary, secondary and tertiary education for over fifteen years. She has extensive experience of designing and implementing EAL strategies across the curriculum and delivering bespoke training sessions to departments and schools. Joanna has a BA in English Philology and an MA in English Literature. Currently, she is completing DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) by Cambridge English. She is a regular speaker at local and national conferences (Festival of Education, 2021, FSD Conferences Durham, 2023, 2024, a confirmed talk at  ResearchED South West, April 2024) focusing on sharing best pedagogy for EAL learners. Her upcoming book, Empowering EAL Learners in Secondary Schools: A Practical Resource to Support the Language Development of Multilingual Learners will be published by Routledge in June 2024.

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