Sibford School
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Sibford School: Where international students excel in the English language

In the heart of Oxfordshire, nestled amidst 50 picturesque countryside acres, lies Sibford School — a beacon of educational excellence since its founding in 1842. As a co-educational, independent school catering to students aged three to 18, it has long been celebrated for its commitment to fostering holistic development and providing a nurturing environment.

Sibford offers more than just education; it provides an immersive experience that can be best described as “a language school in a boarding school setting.” This unique approach sets it apart from other institutions, as it recognises that language is the key to unlocking academic potential.

Transitioning to an English-speaking academic environment can be challenging for international students. To bridge this gap, Sibford has a specialist English as an Additional Language (EAL) department that serves as a lifeline for those eager to succeed academically and socially in their new surroundings. What truly distinguishes Sibford is its Intensive English Course — an offering not found in any other UK school.

Sibford School

Sibford School’s experienced teachers support students in acquiring essential language skills for academic success. Source: Sibford School

The Intensive English Course is designed to empower students who require a boost in their English language skills before embarking on the rigorous GCSE Years 10 and 11 or Sixth Form (for A Levels) curriculum. It provides a comprehensive foundation in the English language, equipping students with the core skills necessary to attain a strong intermediate level of proficiency. Upon completion, students join their exams classes — for example, Physics — to allow them to become familiar with the subject-specific vocabulary.

Just ask student Shin, who came to the UK in Year 11 and hardly understood a single English word. “The EAL department at Sibford has helped me a lot with my English, not only for my academic subjects but also everyday English. Today, my English is good enough for me to begin my A-level studies,” Shin says.

In addition to EAL lessons, students explore a diverse array of subjects, including mathematics, physical education, textiles, food nutrition, and business studies. This curriculum also encourages them to apply their newfound language skills in a variety of real-world contexts.

It’s all part of the school’s holistic approach to learning — something Shin can attest to. “The Intensive English Course consists of English classes every day and also other more relaxing subjects like cooking and textiles,” she says. “We learn the basic grammar and vocabulary but also about life in the UK, the history and the culture of the country. These lessons make it easier for us to adapt to a new school system and a new country.”

To ensure each student can thrive, the EAL lessons are tailored to cater to various learning styles. Never feeling like they’re falling back, this boosts one’s confidence in all aspects of the English language while facilitating a student’s integration into the wider school community. A recent innovation that has proven helpful is the option for students to supplement their timetables with lessons in subjects they plan to study in the coming year. This not only aids in language acquisition but also offers a smoother transition into more advanced coursework.

Sibford School

The EAL department helps international students quickly adapt to the foreign language learning environment. Source: Sibford School

That’s not all. Here, individualised support through its 1:1 sessions addresses the specific needs of each learner. They serve as a crucial tool for breaking down complex academic terminology. It’s something Melvin, a Year 13 EAL student from China, is grateful for. “The EAL lessons are interesting, and it helped me for the IELTS test,” he says.

“The EAL teachers are nice and kind. When I am confused or misunderstand something, they are patient and explain things clearly to me. They have rich teaching experience, whereby they can explain the difficult grammar and vocabulary in a clear and simple way to me, which is helpful.”

Meanwhile, Year 12 student, Rita, commends the school’s overall environment and the EAL department’s role in easing her transition.

“Sibford is a very good school with a good environment and excellent learning atmosphere,” she says. “During my years here so far, I have received a high-quality education, which has helped with my studies. The EAL department helps international students quickly get used to the foreign language learning environment. The EAL teachers are well-trained and give a lot of attention to students. They know exactly what each student’s strengths and weaknesses are and put effort into improving our language skills.”

Interested? Contact the school here for details about joining this academic year, or in 2024/25 and beyond.

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