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Britannica: Quality, Development, Curriculum and Language

Issues

With the school having reopened its doors and settled into the start of yet another academic year, the Budapest Business Journal spoke with Neil McGarry, principal at Britannica International School, Budapest, about the mix of students on the roll, how their English-language learning progresses, and why parents chose the establishment.

Neil McGarry, principal at Britannica International School, Budapest.

BBJ: On average, how many of your students are either native English speakers or speak some English when they join the school?

Neil McGarry: Approximately 10% of our students are native speakers. However, this has increased significantly over the last five years from 3% in 2015. There are many European students who have lived in the United Kingdom recently and who are currently relocating to Hungary. We are not sure whether this is down to Brexit. This has led to an interesting new group of students who, technically, are native speakers but who are classed as non-natives as both parents are from outside the United Kingdom but returning to Hungary.  

Most children have a minimum basic level of English but this varies greatly as the student’s progress through the school. When they are young and first entering education, between five and eight year’s old, we are able to support and develop students who do not speak any English on arrival. After this point, we are cautious and always look at the best interests of the child. Are they able to integrate effectively and pick up a sufficient amount of English to be able to access the curriculum and ultimately be successful? Every child is an individual and we always make decisions based on their needs and what is best for them.  

BBJ: For those who have no English when they join, what is the process for learning the language?

NM: It is a mixture of immersion in class and specialist support from our EAL (English as an Additional Language) team to gradually build their vocabulary and knowledge.  

BBJ: How quickly do most non-native speakers pick up the language?

NM: The children pick up the language very quickly and we find that in most cases they can be fully involved within the mainstream within 12 months. Every child is different though, so there is no hard and fast rule in this area.

BBJ: What exposure are the children given to native speakers? Are there school trips to the United Kingdom?

NM: The children have the opportunity to mix with native speakers in most classes every day and the majority of staff are native speakers. We have occasional trips to the United Kingdom and even had one to the United States a few years back .

BBJ: What other foreign languages do you teach at Britannica?

NM: Spanish, German and French. Students also study Hungarian between years one and nine.

BBJ: Why do you think parents choose Britannica?

NM: The parents choose Britannica for a number of reasons. The main ones are the high standard of teaching, the quality of our development of student’s English skills and the opportunity to study the British curriculum. We are also extremely proud of our family-friendly atmosphere and personalized approach to learning. Every child is valued, appreciated and individually catered for. A final reason is, obviously, our wonderful location in District XII up in the Buda Hills.

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