Close

Download our FREE smartphone app today!

Get the app

Twitter

26/02/21

Check out the live events that HAB students can sit down and enjoy with their younger siblings. https://t.co/AUeciYDGlP https://t.co/10YDLH6aF8

25/02/21

Have a look at the brilliant FREE audiobooks available on the website https://t.co/WffFvXitQI https://t.co/6Mr3emR4tR

25/02/21

Retweetd From Harris Fed Languages

Bravo to these delicious looking entries from students (and a teacher!) 👏😋 https://t.co/Kd0lnbAkZN

25/02/21

Retweetd From Harris Fed Languages

Bravo students from 👏😋 https://t.co/KAwglFmnhh

24/02/21

Competition time! TAKE PART in ‘Show Your Shares’ on social media. Celebrate the joy of reading together with images of everyone sharing reading and stories. , 4th March 2021. Find out more https://t.co/BYdPnzMrt1 https://t.co/04HXDFBOD0

23/02/21

It's time to get ready for on 4th March! https://t.co/a4sxxeuv8S https://t.co/LYhua22ZER

17/02/21

Congratulations ! 🎉🥳

11/02/21

Maria arrived from Poland in Year 7 knowing little English. Five years later she achieved Grade 8 in both her English Language and Literature exams. Read about Maria's language journey, and how we support students though our provision. https://t.co/2FLMMeK2ee https://t.co/IZJ3jtA99E

05/02/21

Bintu, Year 13, has received offers to study at , and . "I found the feedback from really helpful for my personal statement and am part of which really helped me too." ! More at https://t.co/oRObPcWkzD https://t.co/2de5VJuwBu

04/02/21

HAB Angels, our team, is working on a series of challenges such as chanting, dancing, flexibility, balance and strength. Last week they filmed the HAB Angels chant - here is a sneak peek edited by Mr Creasy and Ms Palmer. https://t.co/j761QcnG55

27/01/21

Retweetd From Ms Valentín Lucas

Year 12 Spanish students at have attended a fantastic study session on the film “Volver” organised by the . I was so proud to see how confident our students were in contributing their responses in Spanish! https://t.co/7utbBrvQY7

27/01/21

Retweetd From Rennie & Manor Tenants Hall - Galleywall Road SE16

Thank you for your kind donation to our food network. We are non referral, all you need to do is contact us to arrange a time to collect a parcel. Bags contain fruit, pulses & milk. https://t.co/Hc8oNIwgqi

26/01/21

Retweetd From Ms Valentín Lucas

Thank you Dr Laura Arroyo Martínez for delivering an insightful virtual lecture on “El papel del pueblo en La casa de Bernarda Alba” and well done to our Year 13 Spanish students for being online on a Monday evening to broaden their knowledge of the play. https://t.co/RTSABxbny2

25/01/21

Protect your child when they are online. FREE online webinar for parents, Thurs 28 Jan, 6pm, run by Digital Awareness UK. One-hour web session just for HAB parents and carer. Find out more and sign up at https://t.co/Cka7mzdbwA

21/01/21

Literacy for Learning conference, Thurs 21st - Fri 29th Jan. Loads of great sessions! has secured free admission to this event for all Harris staff, parents and students. See the programme and sign up at https://t.co/ddHxnTe77v

20/01/21

Six of our girls will be attending a three-day online Model United Nations conference hosted in Prague this Friday-Sunday, to discuss topics relating to women, human rights and security. Find out more at https://t.co/ZI3P4Tm2vh https://t.co/by82BKd4Ea

20/01/21

Retweetd From Dr Hellen Hay

Want to know more about ? Watch the video and come along to the meet-up TOMORROW, 5.30pm to find out how you can support our girls! https://t.co/7v27cw2YEB https://t.co/nCs6dWuRq8

20/01/21

Are you a parent/carer of a girl at HAB? Come along to our Friends of HAB online meet-up for parents, this Thurs 21 Jan, 5.30pm. All HAB parents very welcome! We'd love to see you there. Find out more and register at https://t.co/xVnUh0AI8F

18/01/21

Retweetd From Dr Hellen Hay

WOOP WOOP!! 👏👏👏 Well Done EMMA - teacher training, a great way to get out of chores 😉 https://t.co/TYwQaxADtP

18/01/21

We are so of Emma Donald, one of our Maths teachers, who won the overall ‘Transforming Lives' award for trainee teachers in the Harris Federation Transforming Lives awards. Find out now Emma "followed her dream to become a teacher" at https://t.co/F7LhR7PLtS https://t.co/WTfS4DHIXy

Harris Academies
All Academies in our Federation aim to transform the lives of the students they serve by bringing about rapid improvement in examination results, personal development and aspiration.

Central Office

Bexley

Bromley

Clapham

Croydon

Greenwich

Haringey

Havering

Merton

Newham

Southwark

Sutton

Thurrock

Wandsworth

Westminster

Latest News

Posted on February 10th 2021

Maria's Language Journey to English Fluency

Maria joined HAB in Year 7 when she came to England from Poland knowing little English. Five years later she achieved a Grade 8 in both her English Language and Literature GCSEs. 

Maria 2In this article Maria tells the story of her language journey, and we show how we support students where English is an additional language.

At HAB, students who are new to English, or are at early acquisition stages, are taught general English language skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing), as well as more academic language skills required for the different subjects across the curriculum.

The students’ academic and pastoral needs are continually assessed and monitored to maximise progress by individually-tailored academic and pastoral support in small group, or one-to-one settings. EAL classes are set up according to the students’ language levels and skills, following careful consideration of the students’ timetables and needs for support.

Maria attended four EAL lessons per week throughout Year 7 during her timetabled English lessons together with two other students, who were equally new to the country and the language.

The progress she made by the end of Year 11, not only in English, but across most subjects was quite remarkable and will hopefully assure other new arrivals across the globe that literacy skills in the first language eventually transpire and lead to successes in the newly learnt language likewise.


Reflecting upon your arrival to the UK and your first day in school, what do you remember?

I remember my last flight from Poland, which dictated that I will no longer live there. I felt terrified, excited, and curious, all in one, about how different my life will be from now on.

Upon arrival to London I was surprised by the architecture; my 11-year-old self expected huge skyscrapers only a few meters from one another, like in New York, however, in reality most buildings rarely reached the sixth floor.

Anyway, fast forward to my first day of school. I was extremely nervous. I arrived with this ‘expect the worst but hope for the best’ sort of mentality to give myself a little courage. I still remember sitting by the school reception, my whole body trembling as I would obsessively glance at the clock and feeling relieved with every minute that had passed, as it meant that there was still no one there to collect me.

I was so scared about the next thing that would happen that I wished I could sit in that chair for the next hours until the school day ends, but of course that did not happen.

Instead, I was taken to EAL on the seventh floor where for the next three hours I did some tests in English and Maths so it could be decided which sets would suit me the most, but at the time I barely had any idea of what was going on.

Although, I had learnt English in Poland before moving, it came to me as a shock, how little I could actually comprehend whilst doing work, asking for help, replying to questions, or just simply having a conversation.

For the remaining half of the day I was placed in a Set 2 class, where I had Science and Maths and it was pretty uneventful, mainly because I could not understand 95% of the vocabulary the teacher was using, but thankfully, they knew that. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t at least try to understand the topics - I was determined not to fall behind with work, so I always tried my hardest to learn new words in every lesson.  

Maria 1

Maria with Principal Ms Iles-Smith at the HAB Prize Giving celebrations at Clothworkers' Hall, London.


What did you find particularly challenging due to the language barrier?

A very challenging aspect was staying patient and trusting the fact that you are indeed getting better each day, even if you are struggling to believe it.

I was very impatient with my progress for the following reason: in Poland I always had very good grades because I had a very high standard for myself and after moving to England, I subconsciously wanted to maintain that standard from the onset, knowing it was practically impossible.

I am aware that not everyone deals with this problem, but for me, going from a model student in Poland, to a student that can barely get a 1 on a test, was mentally crushing, draining and frustrating. I wish I could have given myself more time to adapt, then I would not have had to deal with this challenge.


How did you manage to overcome it?

I was well-aware that this will be my life and no matter what I do, I will still have to learn English sooner or later. It was not a 'take it or leave it' situation, so giving up was never really an option and I kept trying relentlessly, until I saw some good results.

A few months later I realised that my efforts were paying off, as I was moved to Set 1, the top set in Spanish, and after a year in Science too. This validated the fact that I must have done something right in my method of learning and pushing myself. My hard work being recognised not only motivated me to keep at it but also boosted my confidence in believing that I will be able to catch up with the others.


Commendable progress with the various subjects over the years then?

Following my move to the top set in Spanish in Year 7 and in Science in Year 8, I moved to the top set in Maths in Year 9. I achieved a Bronze Award in Year 10 for the 2018 Maths Challenge and won the Prize Giving Award for Art in Year 10 as well as taking an early GCSE in Polish. In Year 11 I decided to do triple Science and further Maths for GCSE.


What kind of support did you find most helpful at school?

What I found most helpful was the fact that I could take an iPad mini to my lessons. If I didn’t understand a word, I could simply type it in and translate it as opposed to wasting time and searching for it in a dictionary and miss important parts of the lesson, or if I didn’t have a dictionary, simply leave the lesson not knowing the definition and later forgetting about it altogether. Being able to quickly translate words was one of the most important aspects of effectively and efficiently learning new vocabulary.


Sport played an important role in contributing to your successful transition process. 

My first few years were very stressful due to the pressure I would put on myself to do well. However, throughout secondary school I was a competitive fencer. Training and practice helped me clear my mind of any worries and I could focus on something different besides academics.


Would you say being multilingual has benefited your life overall?

I know that learning Norwegian at a young age and becoming fluent at it gave me an advantage at becoming fluent in English. I am sure that this experience with languages will continue to give me an advantage towards learning new ones in the future. Moreover, I feel like learning languages is really important, not only for showing it on a CV, but for yourself. There have been some studies published that bilingual people, or people who learn a new language develop a different personality accustomed to that language, which I think is very interesting.  


How did the loss of continuity affect you when you moved back to Poland from Norway?

From Norway I can only recall good memories. I lived there for 4 years, from 2 to 6 years old. I am very grateful for experiencing life there and I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood there.

Once we moved back to Poland, most of the things I remember as stressful. It was like one day I lived in a utopia and the next I fell down to earth; I went from being careless to overly conscious, from outgoing to shy and quiet. I have some good memories, but unfortunately the bad outweigh the good. I still read in Polish from time to time though.


What are you studying now and what are your future plans?

I have taken up Biology, Chemistry and Maths for A-levels, but I am torn between applying for a degree in architecture/architectural engineering and city planning. My A-level subjects may not be the best match to the degrees, but I wanted to choose the subjects and courses that I know I will truly enjoy. One step at a time.


Thank you very much Maria and best of luck with your studies. Between your determination to bridge any gaps that may cross your path and the rich fantasy stemming from three different cultures, I am certain that your mind will continue to capture the unimaginable and engineer the impossible. 

Ms Fogarasi, Lead Teacher of English as an Additional Language