United by diversity – St Matthew’s Primary School praised by Ofsted for embracing multiculturalism

Pupils and staff at St Matthew's Primary School in Ipswich celebrate a 'good' Ofsted report.

Pupils and staff at St Matthew's Primary School in Ipswich celebrate a 'good' Ofsted report.

Embracing multiculturalism and supporting international students is a key reason why an Ipswich primary school, where more than 40 languages are spoken, has been upgraded to ‘good’ by Ofsted, its headteacher has said.

Pupils and staff at St Matthew's Primary School in Ipswich celebrate a 'good' Ofsted report.

Pupils and staff at St Matthew's Primary School in Ipswich celebrate a 'good' Ofsted report. Pictured: Headteacher Sue Todd with pupils Omari and Alicia.

More than half (60%) of the 412 pupils at St Matthew’s Primary School are from minority ethnic groups, with 40% in total speaking English as an additional language.

The primary school was rated ‘requires improvement’ by the education watchdog in June 2013, but a swathe of improvements, including strong leadership and better teaching, resulted in a ‘good’ rating after an inspection last month.

But inspectors also heavily praised the school’s willingness to celebrate different cultures and provide dedicated support to children born to non-British parents.

“Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is the glue that bonds this diverse and harmonious community together,” Ofsted concluded.

Since July last year, 30 new pupils have been admitted to the school. Of these, 26 had no previous schooling in the UK.

Headteacher Sue Todd said the school has become more diverse in recent years but said integrating everyone has not been a challenge.

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“Our diversity makes our school unique and special,” she said.

“We have many different nationalities here and a wide social-economic mix and yet everyone gets on really well together.

“Children come and go throughout the year, so we need a really strong, sound ethos. It is like a little world. If everyone behaved like us, there wouldn’t be half the trouble in the world, I think.”

Some 44 languages are spoken by pupils, whose families originate from Asia, Africa, South America and across Europe.

Mrs Todd said: “The children all get on really well together and we do lots of things to promote diversity. In our entrance, we have got Christian ethos that we are a church school, but we have also got clocks from all the different continents that the children come from, and their flags, and we try to recognise that.

“We do things to celebrate differences as well.”

In reception, around seven in 10 pupils speak English as an additional language.

“They pick up English really quickly and they often interpret for their parents,” Mrs Todd added.

“Some speak two or three languages: they have got a local dialect, a home language and English. They are really clever and put us to shame.”

British values are also actively promoted in the classroom, with children learning about the Magna Carta and the rights and responsibilities of living in modern-day Britain.

The Ofsted report said: “Pupils who speak English as an additional language make good progress. When they first join the school, they are carefully assessed and extra help is tailored to their needs. Once they have a rudimentary knowledge of the language, they generally make rapid progress. Typically, they are enthusiastic learners with a strong work ethic who have a love of learning and want to do well.”

Mrs Todd is now targeting an ‘outstanding’ rating at the next inspection.