All the latest news about learning Spanish in Hackney

Research into the impact of the Hackney Languages Initiative

Hackney took the brave decision in 2013 to agree with Headteachers that all schools would teach Spanish as their first foreign language. This was in preparation for the introduction of languages as a national statutory requirement in KS2 from September 2014. From the start, secondary schools were involved and participated in the project. They continued to offer several other languages in addition to Spanish, including French, Turkish, German, Mandarin, Latin and Arabic.

The first full cohort of primary pupils who had studied 4 years of Spanish at KS2 transferred to secondary school in 2018. As Spanish was becoming embedded into each primary school, it was crucial to see what impact this was having on attainment at KS3. Lecturers in the Modern Languages Department at Kings College, London, were approached to carry out research into this initiative.

The research was carried out throughout 2020 as part of the AHRC-funded Language Acts and Worldmaking Project by researchers from Kings College London, The Open University and Westminster University.

It aimed to evaluate the impact on:

  • pupils learning Spanish at primary level
  • the level of success of secondary teachers in building on prior learning
  • transition arrangements

Presentations of the report were made by Dr Ana Maria Sousa Aguiar de Medeiros and Cathy Baldwin who are part of the Language Acts and Worldmaking Project Team. 

Three Hackney schools receive prestigious award from Spanish Government

The Spanish Government has awarded three Hackney schools with the prestigious ‘International Spanish School’ status for their excellent work delivering Spanish learning across the curriculum.

The schools, including Parkwood Primary, Skinners' Academy and William Patten Primary School used the Content and Language Integrated Learning approach (CLIL) designed to teach a language through the medium of another subject.

All three schools trialled the project in different year groups from year one to year seven by teaching Art in Spanish, this included studying 19th Century Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla and visiting his exhibition at the National Gallery. The schools worked together and shared ideas. Raquel Tola Rego, the teacher at Parkwood, acted as the Consultant and worked with the other schools, thus supporting transition through curriculum sharing.

Award from Spanish Government.jpg

The award was presented by Dr Gonzalo Capellán, CEO of Spanish Education in the UK and Ireland (2nd from left) and Jesús Hernandez, Primary Adviser at the Spanish Education Department. (1st from left) at the Tomlinson Centre in Hackney.

The Headteacher at Parkwood Primary, Paul Thomas received the Award and explained: "The Art through Spanish learning is part of the school's philosophy to provide real-world learning and to enable the pupils to have enhanced and outward facing experiences." Next to him is Raquel Tola Rego and to the right Jacqueline Smith, Head of Languages at Skinners’ Academy.

During the course students produced their own work as well as drawing on the style of Pablo Picasso and Fernando Botero, examples of which were displayed at the Sorolla Festival at St Cross College, Oxford University.

Spanish Awards.jpg

Hackney Spanish Teachers Win Embassy Awards

Three Hackney primary teachers of Spanish swept the board at the competition run by the Spanish Embassy Education Department in London. The competition was to produce engaging lesson resources which can be shared online with other teachers. Competitors presented their work at the London Spanish School on 29 November.

Jesús Manuel Hernández, the primary education Adviser at the Embassy, launched this competition to help teachers share ideas and resources. " Hackney was very well represented at this event" he told us. " Several teachers came along to the Show and Tell after school and did some wonderful presentations."

The winner for the best activity was Raquel Tola Rego, who teaches at Parkwood Primary, for her story "La cebra Luisa". First in the Creativity section was David Romero, who teaches at Colvestone and Thomas Fairchild. Second in the Creativity category was Arantxa Orts Benimeli who teaches at Gainsborough and St John and St James.

Hackney schools strike gold in the Hackney primary Spanish awards

July 2018

Parkwood Primary School and William Patten Primary School were presented with their Gold Awards by John Rolfe of the British Council at a ceremony at the Tomlinson Centre.

Parkwood Primary School Award

Receiving the Award for Outstanding Spanish Provision are the Headteacher of Parkwood Paul Thomas (right) next to John Rolfe of the British Council; the Spanish teacher Raquel Tola Rego receives a prize from Dr Capellán CEO of Spanish Education at the Embassy, with Bernadette Clinton MFL Consultant on the left.  

William Patten Award

The Deputy Head, Craig Porteous, and the Spanish Lead, Kim Evans, received the Gold Award for William Patten – seen in photo with John Rolfe

Receiving the Silver Award for Success in Embedding Spanish across the Curriculum were Grasmere Primary, Gainsborough Primary and St Paul’s with St Michael’s. Daubeney Primary achieved the Bronze Award for the High Quality of their Spanish Provision.

The Award is open to every primary school in Hackney and so far 17 schools have gained the Award. It is a way of supporting and monitoring the quality of the Spanish provision in Hackney primary schools and is used by secondary teachers as a measure of how well Spanish is being taught.

Criteria for the Gold Award include tracking pupil progress across the school and into Key Stage 3; having a good link with a partner school in Spain; gaining the British Council International School Award; delivering cross curricular work that integrates Spanish with other school subjects, such as PE, Geography, Art, Music; taking advantage of external funding and agencies to enhance the learning of Spanish outside of the classroom as well as having visitors into the school to inspire youngsters, such as Flamenco dancers and a Mariachi band. Of course, it also requires there to be outstanding lessons from excellent teachers! 

Spanish Award: Parkwood is the first Hackney school to gain the Gold!

May 2018

Parkwood HPSA photo

“Pupils can construct full sentences to describe themselves and others and make confident use of the appropriate verbs and adjectives. Their reading aloud demonstrates an excellent grasp of Spanish phonics. They can hold conversations, posing as well as answering questions”.

This a quote from the observation of the Spanish lessons at Parkwood Primary School to judge if the school meets all the criteria of the Hackney Primary Spanish Award, Gold level. To gain the Gold Award, a school needs to show evidence of outstanding teaching. This was certainly seen in action!

Another aspect of the Gold Award involves the building of a strong relationship with a partner secondary school. This has been developed with the Languages Department at Skinners’ Academy where year 9 students visit to run lessons for year 2 pupils and show them how to make guacamole. Year 4 pupils attend language events at Skinners’ and find out what a year 7 languages lesson is like. The progress of ex-pupils from Parkwood is also being tracked in Key Stage 3.

On an international level, regular contact is maintained with a village school in the Province of Zamora in Spain where the year 5 pupils make an annual visit. Pupils take part in Skype sessions and the exchange of work and letters. The school has achieved the Intermediate level of the British Council’s International School Award and is working towards the Full Award. The school is waiting to find out if their bid for Erasmus+ funding has been successful. This will give the school funding to send several members of staff on a course in Salamanca to improve their own Spanish.

The Spanish teacher, Raquel Tola Rego, supports other teachers in Hackney schools and is happy to receive visitors, be they local or teachers from Spain wanting to find out about English primary schools. She has also spoken at national events about her work, including at the House of Lords and the Spanish Day run by the Spanish Embassy.

Paul Thomas, the Headteacher of Parkwood stated: “I am delighted that the excellent Spanish work in Parkwood has been recognised. Staff, pupils and parents have worked hard to make this such a success. Next year, we will develop the Spanish further by linking it with Art where we will develop a curriculum which covers the requirements of both subjects. This will be in addition to the existing Spanish lessons. The pupils have now suggested that the whole school should produce some sort of Spanish sculpture using recycled material. So, that will be a new challenge!”

Photo: (left) Arantxa Orts Benimeli (middle) Raquel Tola Rego (right) Bernadette Clinton

Erasmus+ Funding for staff CPD

September 2017

Two more primary schools have successfully bid for Erasmus+ funding for staff to develop their linguistic and cultural understanding of Spanish and deepen the link with their partner schools. These schools are Holy Trinity and Betty Layward.

They join 5 other schools which have already won the funding - St John of Jerusalem, William Patten, Shoreditch Park, Queensbridge and the Viridis Federation.

This is part of the European Union Erasmus+ Key Action 1 programme. The Viridis Federation has also gained significant funding through the Key Action 2 programme.

The next deadline for applications for Key Action 1 funding is February 2019 and for Key Action 2 is March 2019.

Please contact if you'd like further information.

13 Hackney Primary schools gain the Premio Español Primaria (Primary Spanish Award)

July 2017

The Award was launched in September 2016 to provide a framework within which schools can develop their Spanish provision; to recognise and celebrate good and outstanding practice; and to provide evidence for secondary schools as to the quality of the provision.

Clear criteria was set out for each level of Bronze, Silver and Gold.

John Rolfe of the British Council presented the Awards at a ceremony on 7 July 2017. "I think that the outstanding work being carried out in Hackney provides a beacon for other areas of the country. I am proud to be involved and for the British Council to be a sponsor of the Award."

We salute the schools which gained the Award in this first year and look forward to the other Hackney primary schools joining them next year. The successful schools:

Bronze Award

  • Queensbridge
  • Millfields
  • St Mary's CE
  • Randal Cremer
  • Shoreditch Park
  • Tyssen
  • St John the Baptist CE
  • Harrington Hill
  • St Scholastica's RC
  • Holy Trinity CE

Silver Award

  • London Fields
  • Parkwood
  • William Patten

Spanish App Produced

February 2017

William Patten Primary School in Hackney has launched a Spanish App designed for primary aged children learning Spanish. It also offers the means for non-Spanish speaking parents and carers to support their children in learning Spanish.

The App is a free resource which features the children of William Patten using Spanish words and phrases from their Spanish lessons in performances, role plays and speaking and listening tasks. The user of the App completes a number of quiz-like activities, using the vocabulary modelled by the children in each film clip. On hearing vocabulary pronounced by a Spanish speaker, the user of the App can record their own pronunciation of the focus vocabulary and compare it to the original. There are also opportunities to use the focus vocabulary within the context of short written passages.

The William Patten Spanish App can be used by children from reception age plus.  It can also be used as a teaching resource to teach and consolidate specific vocabulary in lessons through the app's film content, with children being able to learn from other children. Activities from the App can be chosen as a whole class activity through the interactive whiteboard.

The William Patten App is the result of a successful collaboration between the school and one of its parents who has a background in App design. It is a free resource and is available to download now from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

MFL Policy

December 2016

Each school is required to have an MFL or Spanish policy. St Scholastica's Primary Headteacher has kindly agreed to share her policy.

Premio Español Primaria

October 2016

This is the start of the 4th year of the Spanish First Language Initiative. All primary schools should now be teaching Spanish across the whole of KS2.

Hackney Education has produced this Award to enable monitoring of the quality of the provision and to recognise and celebrate excellent practice.

Criteria for each strand of the Award are clearly set out in this booklet.


Anushka Sonpal, MFL Consultant

Bernadette Clinton, MFL Consultant