BOURNEMOUTH’S population as a whole may not reflect the cultural diversity of the UK.
But in a small corner of the town centre there are hundreds of children receiving the ideal preparation for life in the big wide world.
At St Michael’s Primary School in Somerville Road, more than 40 different languages are spoken and youngsters enjoy a diverse education not available to most other youngsters in the borough.
“We live in a multi-cultural society and this is a part of our school, which is highly valued by the children and the vast majority of parents,” said head teacher Bob Kennedy.
“In the future, these children will move around the country and around the world in their jobs.”
Mr Kennedy has been at the school for 15 years, 10 as head teacher, and has overseen many changes.
In September last year state-of-the-art new buildings at the school were opened to allow it to accommodate more children.
There are two classes in each year group from years 3 to 6 but three in lower year groups, which will eventually see numbers rise to 630 as the larger year groups move through the school.
The site is fairly small, meaning play times are staggered, but Mr Kennedy said he hoped this would retain the school’s family feel.
“We are very conscious about keeping the feel of a very friendly and welcoming school,” he said. “We think of ourselves as a village school in the town centre.”
St Michael’s is a church school though applicants need only to live in the catchment area, not to have a signed letter confirming church attendance.
Entries are controlled by the local authority and it is almost at full capacity. Governors also run a pre-school on the site, attended by 35 children.
The school operates a topic-based approach to learning with emphasis on school trips to bring lessons to life.
It has recently become part of the Bournemouth Septenary Trust, a group of schools sharing good practice and ideas. Other members are Moordown St John’s, Muscliff, St Mark’s, Kingsleigh, Kinson and Winton.
“It is all about school development,” said Mr Kennedy.
“We co-operate with each other and our school business managers are working together to make financial savings.”
Academic achievement at the school is good, despite a high turnover of pupils and the number of languages spoken.
Pupils from St Michael’s scatter to a wide range of secondary schools across Bournemouth and beyond.
St Michael's Primary School, Somerville Road, Bournemouth BH2 5LH
Telephone: 01202 290497
Head teacher: Bob Kennedy
Number of pupils: 500
Age range: 4-11
OFSTED REPORT: Last inspection carried out in 2010
Overall rating: Good
Inspectors said: “St Michael's is a good school where pupils enjoy their learning and flourish within the exceptionally caring environment created by the head teacher and his staff.
“Pupils from varied backgrounds get on well together and feel very safe. The good leadership of the head teacher and his senior team has established high staff morale and a widely shared commitment to continuous improvement.”