School Consultancy in Guangzhou
Guangzhou? Where is that? This was my first thought when I was invited to work with the Nord Anglia British School of Guangzhou on a school consultancy.
Guangzhou is a large bustling city in the south of China; the third largest city, in fact. The climate is sub-tropical and the January weather was very warm and sunny during the day. A real treat to escape the UK weather for a few days! The winding Pearl River runs through the city towards the coast. There are many high-rise, modern buildings, which are brightly illuminated at night, clustered along tree-lined streets with frequent open spaces and pedestrian areas. The wide highways do a reasonable job in keeping the traffic flowing (not always the case in China!) with complicated junctions and interwoven flyovers and underpasses.
Nord Anglia British School
The school itself is situated on a beautiful lake out of the city centre. Rather bizarrely, it sits behind one of the most dilapidated theme parks I have ever seen. I can only begin to imagine the health and safety issues. Apparently, it is a local government commitment that every child should visit the park, so there are many school parties. I guess risk assessments are not high priority in the Chinese system!
The school is huge; eight form entry in Y1 and 2 with an early years, primary and secondary department. Their facilities are amazing - music, art and dance studios, a wonderful library and a coffee shop! Frequent trips to this were essential in battling the jet-lag. The cafeteria runs like clockwork and serves delicious food in vast quantities with several choices and a weekly special; Vietnamese beef pho while I was there with the noodles cooked to order.
Their context is interesting and unlike many other international schools. Most of their pupils are Chinese with growing numbers of Korean children and a minority of English speaking children. This, of course, means that EAL practice is at the centre of everything.
I was at the school for 3 days. These were very well-planned and intensive to say the least. The programme included various training sessions with different emphases, a learning walk and planning sessions with each year group. One of the key areas was to develop effective learning sequences in English with a sharp focus on reading based on high quality literature and providing the building blocks to enable quality outcomes. Much of the discussion centred on providing scaffolding and using the expertise of the EAL team.
The EAL team is well-staffed and each year group has an allocated member of the team. They support planning, work in class co-teaching and also deliver what they call ”extraction classes” for children at the early stages of English acquisition.
Everyone was so eager to develop practice and do the best possible for their pupils, and I could see suggested strategies being employed immediately which will enhance what is already in place.
The final Day
On my final day, due to a very late flight out of Guangzhou, I was able to spend some time sight-seeing. I visited the Guangdong Museum which was fascinating; it has exhibits on the history and culture of the province as well as the geography and flora and fauna. The exhibits were interactive and interesting with enough written information, but not too much. China has such a rich and diverse history and culture and this visit made me realise how little I really know.
I walked along the Pearl River and the area around my hotel which is dominated by the Canton Tower. This is lit like a rainbow at night and can be seen from all over the city. What strikes you is the orderliness of the city. Yes, as in most Chinese cities, there is a lot of people and a lot of cars, but I did not experience the somewhat chaotic atmosphere of Beijing or Shanghai. Pedestrian areas abound and streets are edged with flowers and plants and, although the roads are busy, the many crossing points controlled by lights, ensure that crossing the road is safe. Ranks of yellow bikes are available at frequent points - Guangzhou’s version of London’s Boris bikes, although, as a tall lady, I think I might have trouble riding one! One of the most noticeable aspects is the cleanliness of the streets. As I walked, I saw many workers with broom and dustpans sweeping up what little rubbish there was.
Altogether an interesting, exciting and enjoyable trip; Guangzhou is a wonderful city and I met so many lovely, welcoming people. Plans are afoot for a return visit later in the year and I look forward to seeing how the school has moved forward and to visit a little more of Guangzhou.
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For more information on our international services, please click here. You can also find Ros on Twitter @FocusRos, or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818. If you are an international school and you would like a consultant to support you in your development of the English curriculum, please head to our International Consultancy page.