20 Jan

Azbuka becomes the UK’s first approved Russian-English bilingual school


The Azbuka School in South West London has been given high ratings across all four areas examined by Ofsted, following a successful inspection by the official government auditor of education standards.

The assessment of “good” for overall effectiveness was matched by the same positive judgement for each of the four individual areas inspected: effectiveness of leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; and outcomes for pupils.

“The school meets all the independent school standards,” the inspectors concluded in their report. “The school’s bilingual curriculum is a key strength. It is well planned and implemented.  Pupils enjoy learning all subjects in Russian and English; they make rapid progress in both languages.”

The inspectors highlighted the “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from parents, “provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development”, and students’ educational progress in subjects including English, Russian and mathematics.

The strong positive judgement – unusual for a recently created school inspected for the first time by Ofsted – is a reflection of Azbuka’s profound commitment to education and experience accumulated over the past 17 years.  The grading follows two years of discussions with the Department of Education, which allowed it to operate one of the first Ofsted-registered nurseries providing a language immersion curriculum in the UK.

Maria Gavrilova, Azbuka’s founder and head teacher, said: “We are thrilled with this very strong endorsement of our vision to create an innovative, supportive and highly effective bilingual school, which is proving ever more popular with students and parents.  It is a remarkable achievement, particularly bearing in mind that Azbuka Primary is a new full-time school implementing one of the first bilingual curricula in the country and introducing an educational model that is pioneering in many respects.  It concludes the final vital step in our path to establishing the first effective Russian-English bilingual school in the UK.  On behalf of the founders I would like to congratulate all the teachers, parents, children, patrons and supporters who have been behind this wonderful, ground-breaking and inspirational project for London.”

The Azbuka Foundation incorporates a full-time bilingual primary school in Mortlake, a Russian nursery, a Saturday complementary school for children aged 5 to 16, and a bilingual educational resource/cultural centre for the community.

This 17-year long project expanded into a full-time school in September 2016.  Among its long-term consultants and supporters is the former head of Wix, the French-English school in London, who has said: “I applaud the initiative shown by the Azbuka group in offering a Russian-English based education.  Azbuka has now joined the growing numbers of schools that have recognised the cognitive, social and cultural benefits to be gained from a bilingual education. Their initiative will strengthen UK-Russian understanding, to the benefit of Azbuka’s pupils and their families, and on a broader scale it will undoubtedly support the UK’s economic development.  In other words, this school has the potential to be something very special.”

Azbuka welcomes new students and is currently seeking premises from autumn 2018 to meet its expansion.  It also requires additional funding, donations and sponsorship to secure its continued growth and be in a position to offer support to parents and children from all backgrounds, regardless of income, interested in the proven value of a bilingual education.

Speaking on behalf of Azbuka’s board of governors, Maria Gavrilova said: “We have now proven our ground-breaking model but our lease is coming to an end and we need serious donors to come forward this spring to support us in the establishment of a permanent home.  Another opportunity like this may not arise again for many years to come, if not decades.”

The Ofsted inspectors noted that Azbuka’s pupils were making good progress educationally within a “caring” and “safe culture”. “Pupils are inducted effectively in Russian and English and have well-developed social skills. As a result, they make good progress in a wide range of subjects, including English, mathematics and Russian” and show “evidence of rapid development of knowledge, skills and understanding.”

They said Azbuka’s “strong bilingual curriculum is planned and taught effectively”, emphasising that teachers had “good subject knowledge” which was well conveyed in lessons with the support of “skilful bilingual teaching assistants”.

They quoted one parent who said: “My son is happy, safe and making excellent progress with his education.”

Among the many testimonials found on the Azbuka website is the following comment from a parent whose child travels to school all the way from East London every day:

“The progress that my child has shown in the past year is incredible. He’s got all the subjects as his favourites, because at Azbuka there is no such thing as a “difficult subject”. The areas that he had previously expressed little interest in – music, dancing, drama, arts and crafts, science – he now looks forward to every lesson.”

Another parent writes: “I have to say that we are getting from Azbuka something that we have never experienced in the UK before … the teachers understand my children completely, their needs, their level of development and every step the teachers take is designed to ensure my children develop their full potential.”

Overall, attendance is above national levels with attainment at least typical of pupils of their age, there is good behaviour and no evidence of bullying.

The Ofsted inspection which was extended over three days included visits to the school, interviews with staff, parents, students and governors, and close examination of records.  The inspectors’ report also recognised the value of the school by endorsing its integration with Azbuka’s part-time nursery, which had already been approved in an earlier, separate inspection.

Azbuka school has also been recognised by the Russian Embassy and its embassy school.
The Azbuka Foundation is a UK registered charity.