Camberwell Primary School Profile

The ACIE Newsletter, May 2002, Vol. 5, No. 3

By Helen Warnod, Bilingual Program Coordinator, Camberwell Primary School, Camberwell, Victoria and Michèle de Courcy, Institute for Education, LaTrobe University, Bendigo, Victoria



Camberwell Primary School is a Victorian government school established in 1867 in Melbourne, Australia. It became Victoria÷s first English/French bilingual government school in 1991 with an intake of sixty-three Prep children. Each year since then the school has added another year to the program with the school being completely bilingual by 1997.

Most of the children attending the school come from the local area, though, as the program has become better known, it has attracted families from other parts of Melbourne. The school now has a waiting list for entry and can only accept these families if openings are not filled by the local population.


The Bilingual Program at Camberwell Primary School is structured on two classes and two teachers, who work back to back with the students spending 50% of their classroom or homeroom time with each teacher. At each year level from 4 to 6 there are two sections and two classroom teachers, one English-speaking, the other French-speaking. To comply with the class size requirements of the Victorian Early Years Program there are now three classes at Prep to Year 3. Students move between the classroom teachers and specialist teachers.

English-speaking teachers deliver the English Literacy Program and French-speaking teachers deliver Mathematics and French Literacy. The other Key Learning Areas (see glossary) are covered through the Integrated Unit Studies (see Curriculum section ) taught by English and French teachers and Specialist classes.

Until 1999 the Bilingual Coordinator also fulfilled the role of classroom teacher. The significant demands of the Bilingual Program on the leadership team were recognised by the principal and consequently the Bilingual Coordinator took a coordination role without homeroom teaching responsibilities to allow for significant staff training, mentoring, modelling, professional development, program coordination and implementation.


French Literary Aide sharing a book with a Year 3 student.



The Bi-Literacy Program is based on the Victorian Early Years Project methodology (see websites sidebar, p.14) and is being progressively implemented across all the year levels in the school in conjunction with the Early Years Numeracy model.

At the beginning of the school year, students are grouped in Reading using internally developed reading activities. The aim is to repeat testing at the end of each school year. This internal data will be analysed for the creation of internal benchmarks for Reading.

Fortnightly meetings provide a forum for ongoing professional development and training of the French-speaking teachers. A French Literacy Aide has received some training from the Early Years Coordinator and has spent time in English Early Years classrooms for observation. The Aide is timetabled to visit classrooms in repeat literacy sessions and is available for managing a small group activity under the direction of the classroom teacher. The Aide also has a role in book maintenance and resource preparation for Early Years reading groups.

Extensive resources have been committed to the implementation of this program. The French teachers have a block of time daily for each class; one hour for the Literacy block and one hour for the Numeracy block

Cumulative assessment is passed on to colleagues at the beginning of the year about oral proficiency, reading and writing levels. Parents are given information about their child÷s aural/oral performance and examples of Reading and Writing assessment tasks in French language each term.

Math Skills

The Mathematics Support Program is in its fifth year. At the beginning of each school year students identified ”at risk’ in Mathematics are selected for entry into the French Mathematics Support Program which provides individual support by a trained teacher aide. The early introduction of the support program into the Prep area of the school has engendered significant improvement and, consequently, most students leave the individual instruction component of the program by the end of Semester One. The Teacher Aide is then timetabled in classrooms during numeracy lessons to monitor student independence and provide extra support, if required.

The French Transition Program

Students entering Camberwell Primary School post-Prep [ed. note, after kindergarten] are eligible for entry into the French Transition Program. Entrants are assessed to determine their French language needs. The Post-Prep French Transition Program provides individual support for students enabling them to learn the vocabulary required to operate within a French Immersion classroom context. The program is delivered by the French Transition Aide under the guidance of the Bilingual Coordinator. Initially students are withdrawn two or three times a week from the classroom and work on a specially developed individual program.

Key Instructional Strategies

Integrated Units are a primary feature of the program at Camberwell. The two partner teachers for each grade, one teaching in French, the other in English, collaborate on their planning of the term÷s work. This usually involves the use of a theme, around which all instruction revolves in the key learning areas (KLAs). Some examples of past themes are the ”mini-beasts’ unit (see ”The Bridge’ in this issue of the newsletter), and a unit on ”under the sea’.

A recent curriculum decision focuses on the Information strand of the Technology KLAs which integrates Information Technology in the French language throughout the integrated units. (These units were already developed by teachers into a matrix drawing on Bloom÷s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives and Gardner÷s theory of Multiple Intelligences. See The Bridge article in this issue for an example.)


In Victorian schools, the basis for curriculum design and assessment is the Curriculum and Standards Framework II (CSF II) which consists of descriptions of what children should know and be able to do at particular stages of their education, in specific learning areas from Preparatory to Year 10. Teachers are provided with a curriculum focus, outcomes, and indicators that students have achieved those outcomes, for each ?strand÷ at each level. The strands vary across the KLAs.

Evaluation and assessment is continuous and an integral part of all activities. The year level teachers keep detailed profiles on each child, collect work samples and analyses of work, complete checklists of learning outcomes and observe performance in groups and testing. The staff have developed their own French language objectives and learning outcomes for each year level, incorporating learning outcomes from the CSF.

There are a variety of strategies for reporting to parents:

  • two individual parent meetings per year,
  • an information evening early in the year (the school÷s way of reassuring parents that their children÷s academic development is not being retarded by the French program),
  • a mid-year and end of year comprehensive written report.

American readers will notice in all the above the absence of reference to formal testing. Statewide testing has recently been introduced to Australian schools but is still in the trial stage.


A Year 1 teacher shares text for an integrated unit.


The French immersion program is reviewed on an annual basis with input from all Bilingual Program staff. External evaluations have investigated parents÷ and students÷ attitudes; classroom language patterns, and the development of student skills in French and Maths. Researchers report children's enthusiastic responses to learning French which many regard as simply part of their school day. Those parents surveyed consider the program a success overall, saying its advantages revolve around learning another language and developing openness to other cultures.


There have been some tensions in the past between those parents who were taught French by a more traditional method, and who would like to have seen a more grammar based approach, and those who understand and favour a more communicative approach. It takes continual and repeated communication between the school and its community to reinforce the program and promote a positive and enthusiastic support for its continuation.

Parents are often to be found in the classroom, assisting the teachers in myraid ways. Indeed, without the extra hands, the Early Years Literacy Program can be rather difficult to manage for a single person, involving as it does, several learning centres in the one classroom.


As with all immersion programs in Australia, finding the right sort of resources and materials for use in the class is a constant challenge. Setting the right balance between the level of cognitive development of the children and their language ability in the second language means that materials designed for native speaking children are not suitable, for the language level is too high. Similarly, materials developed for full immersion programs are also often not suitable because of the higher level of language involved. Thus, as in all programs in Australia, much teacher time and effort is put into the develop-ment of materials for use in the school÷s program.


The school÷s principal notes that finding the right sort of teacher to staff the program is a continual challenge. However, the team teaching structure, where the English-speaking and French-speaking partners work together in planning the children÷s program is a notable strength. The popularity of the program has seen the number of sections per grade in the junior school [ed.note: primary grades] increase to three, which puts an extra burden of reporting on teachers, so a streamlined reporting system is being developed and trialed.


Glossary of Australian Educational Terminology

bilingual education = education in two languages/partial immersion (no full immersion programs exist)

CSF (Curriculum and Standards Framework) = scope and sequence as outlined by the Dept of Education, Training, and Employment in the state of Victoria (Melbourne)

integrated unit = themes taught across the curriculum in all of the Key Learning Areas

Key Learning Areas (KLAs) = 8 essential learning areas identified by the federal government

LOTE = languages other than English

prep = kindergarten (Year 1 = Grade 1 and so on)


School Information:


Camberwell Primary School
Location: Camberwell, Victoria (suburb of Melbourne)
Target Language: French
Type of progam: partial immersion, Grades K-6
Year progam began: 1991



Open to all children in the district
Children outside of the district admitted only if places are not filled by families in the district
Transition program for post-kindergarten admissions

Student Population:


430 students in grades K-6
27% of students speak a language other than English (LOTE) at home
18 different languages spoken by students÷ families

Teacher-Staff Population:


Teachers: 27
Teach in French: 12
Teach in English: 15



CARLA Mailing List Signup Contact CARLA CARLA Events Donate to CARLA CARLA on Facebook CARLA on YouTube Twitter
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414