English at St. Benoit

Bilingue Anglais

Introducing St. Benoit

St.Benoit is a small public school in the neighbourhood of St. Germain des Pres in Paris, spanning from nursery through the end of primary school. Approximately 240 students aged 3 to 11 years old are enrolled across 10 classes, with an average class size of 23 in the nursery and 24 in elementary school. Classes at St. Benoit are taught by a team of 10 full-timeclassroom teachers, hired by the national Department of Education, 7 of whomare bilingual English-French. An additional supporting team of teachers, hired by the City of Paris, offer classes in music, art, sports and English.

St. Benoit is one of 4 public nurseries and 4 public primary schools in the 6th arrondissement. It competes with a wide range of schools in a neighborhood where approximately 70%of families choose to educate their children in private schools. A fifth (20%) of the student body at St. Benoit attends the school through special request to the city of Paris (demande de dérogation). For families attending St. Benoit, one of the alluresis its reinforced English project.

Origins of the English Project

St. Benoit’s English project grew organically out of teacher and parent initiatives into a structured approach, spearheaded by its director and backed by government resources. In 2008, a nursery school teacher by the name of Mme Sabatier joined St. Benoit from the Lycée Français in New York, bringing with her an enthusiasm for bilingual education. She initiated weekly English workshops for children in kindergarten, exposing them immersevely to spoken English. The approach was popular with students and parents.

Four years later, Deborah Rubenstein Benarroch, a St. Benoit parent and alumnae of Stanford University, connected the school with the university’s semester abroad program in Paris. Since 2012, up to three undergraduates from Stanford rotate throughthe school, staying for a period of three months. They spend a half day eachweek at St. Benoit speaking to the students only in English and teaching through games.

In response to growing interest in English among the parent community and an anticipated influx of families from Britain post-Brexit, in 2019 St. Benoit’s Director Mme Valette applied for and won special status as a school with reinforced English (“un dispositif d’enseignement bilingue”). The project started in the three nursery years (cycle 1 of the French curriculum) and expanded to years 1 to 3 (CP, CE1, CE2 or cycle 2) by2022. St Benoit was in the first wave of public schools to embark on this project of reinforced English. Thanks to the success of early adopters, like St. Benoit, there are now 20 public schools in Paris following a similar trajectory.

Core Components of the English Project

St Benoit’s English Project aims to teach and inspire through linguistic and cultural immersion.  The Project is composed of four key components: 1) bilingual classroom teachers; 2) certified English facilitators;3) English extra-curriculars; and 4) English immersion with Stanford university students together with the English parent-group.

1.     Bilingual classroom teachers (“enseignants à profil anglais”)  

Since the start of the English project, all new classroom teachers are required to be bilingual in English. There are currently 7 bilingual classroom teachers. Though the principal language of instruction is French, the classroom teachers use English when giving their students simple instructions at the start and end of classes, such as putting on their coat, taking out their notebooks, or going down to lunch. In addition, they work together with English assistants to co-teach in English at designated intervals.


2.     Certified English facilitators (“référents bilingues”)

In support of its reinforced English project, the City of Paris supplies St. Benoit with two certified English facilitators, for the nursery and for the primary school. The facilitators run the school libraries. In addition, in 2022, two new English assistants from the United States were appointed to intervene during classroom hours in English, for approximately 2 hours per class per week. During that time, the assistants shadow the head teacher, who teaches in French, reiterating key words in English with the goal of co-teaching the class.


3.     English extra-curricular activities

In addition to class-time,English is spoken outside the classroom in afternoon activities. The educational reforms of 2013 supplemented existing extra-curricular activities (activités extra-scolaires which run from 4:30pm to 6pm) with after-school activities, called temps d’accueil périscolaire or TAP (which run from 3:00 – 4:30pm). St. Benoit invites three not-for-profit associations to lead English after-school activities inprimary school. The English activities, offered for a small fee, are run by the Globetrotter Association, English at School, and Cap English. In addition, the school offers free after-school English reading in its library.


4.     English immersion with university students & parents

A selection of Stanford undergraduates enrolled in the university’s semester abroad program are invited to teach the children English through immersive structured play. The students talk only English. As they are not trained language teachers, they are paired with an English-speaking parent, where possible.


Over and above the specific components of the English project, an ethos of cross-cultural openness and curiosity lies at the heart of St. Benoit’s initiative. Students learn English children’s songs, and they study the traditions, history and geography of different countries, anglophone and otherwise, starting in the very young classes. This spirit of cultural openness reflects the community St. Benoit serves, which welcomes families with a wealth of different heritages andlanguages spoken at home.

What next?

St. Benoit’s English project continues to grow and will be expanding in autumn of 2023 to include classes in the 3eme cycle (CM1, CM2 and 6ieme). To support that growth, the school will be requesting an expansion of the hours of the English teaching assistants for co-teaching. Furthermore, as one of two winners of the City of Paris participatory budget scheme, St Benoit will be integrating videoprojectors into its classrooms in 2023. The supervised use of video offers achance to supplement the children’s English exposure in a way that is engaging and benefits their learning. Finally, the school is in the process of developing an English language library for use by students and teachers. English speaking parents are invited to read in English to the children during library hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you integrate a child who arrives at St. Benoit and hasn’t done English previously?

The approach to English learning is welcoming and immersive. The school does not differentiate between children by their level of language mastery. The aim is to encourage English speaking, rather than to correct grammar or pronunciation, so that all children benefit from learning,regardless of their starting point.


How do you evaluate if a teacher is bilingual in English?

All new teachers must first be interviewed in English. Only if they pass that interview are they invited to continue the application process.


What is offered to children in classes without a bilingual teacher?

The teachers who are not bilingual occasionally trade places with other teachers who are, so as to give their class access to a bilingual teacher. In addition, the Stanford-parent joint initiative targets the classes without a bilingual teacher and the English assistants spend more time in these classes.


How many hours of English instruction is my student getting?

It is hard to quantify the English instruction throughout St.Benoit, as it differs by class and according to the student’s choice ofextra-curricular activity. The Académie de Paris grants the designation of bilingual school when students are exposed to at least 6 hours of English per week. On average, students in the reinforced English grades (currently Petite Section through CE2) hear one-to-two hours of English spoken a day during school-hours. This estimate combines contributions from the bilingual assistants, facilitators, and classroom teachers, as well as the Stanford students and English-speaking parents.


How is the children’s English assessed?

The English project is integrated with the overall school curriculum, so the children’s language skills are assessed in the same way as their other competencies. Startingin primary school, a child’s learning is assessed through a standardized report card (le livret scolaire unique), which is completed each semester and available online.

Prepared in Jan 2023 by B-Lingue, a group of English speaking parents, for APEE the St. Benoit Parent Association https://ecolesaintbenoit.webflow.io/

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