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English as a Second Language

At Sutton Valence, we warmly welcome young people from overseas who wish to improve their English and there are usually between thirty and forty of them. Our School is a safe and supportive environment in which these students can build up their skills in spoken and written English, while at the same time experiencing at first hand the richness of life in an English-speaking culture.

The School policy is one of full integration and overseas pupils enjoy all the opportunities and facilities available to everyone at SVS. It isn’t all one way: the whole School community benefits from their presence and their cultural input

ESL lessons

Overseas students’ English improves partly just by being in the school environment and taking part in the various subjects of the curriculum, but it also greatly benefits from lessons that are particularly targeted at them and their needs. In particular, they tend to make non-native grammar mistakes, have a more restricted vocabulary and almost always struggle with writing correct and idiomatic English, especially in formal and academic registers. For this reason, we place a particular emphasis on the development of high-quality written work.

Weekly provision

Except in the Sixth Form, ESL usually takes the place of lessons in a foreign language such as French or Spanish (three periods per week). Sixth Formers generally receive two periods of ESL per week. (Lessons beyond our normal provision are charged for at an additional hourly rate.)

Entry to Sutton Valence

Overseas students have to pass an entrance examination in English, before they can be accepted at Sutton Valence. Once they arrive we give them all the help we can with their entrance into School life. All whose first language is not English have ESL lessons as part of their timetable, unless they are already very close to native-speaker competence. Apart from specific ESL lessons, students also receive help whenever they need language support in their other subjects. This may be at the suggestion of a subject teacher, or at the request of the student. The ESL department has an “open door”.


The Cambridge IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) in ESL is a valuable qualification for the students to take away with them when they leave the School. The IGCSE course aims to develop students’ communication skills, provide a good basis for future studies or work, develop their awareness of language and language-learning skills and promote their personal development. The examination is taken and recognised in many countries of the world. ESL students who are in the Fifth Form or Lower Sixth, who are present the Summer Term, are entered for IGCSE, unless they already have a high grade in it.

IELTS, in the academic variant taken here, is a crucial qualification for most SVS students who plan to attend university in an English-speaking country. The candidates are graded in ‘bands’, of which number nine is the highest and equivalent to native speaker level. Universities typically demand IELTS bands around seven (‘good user’). The examination can be taken almost every week of the year and on any number of occasions. Note that the qualification is intended only for university entry and expires after two years.

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