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History of Bilingual Primary School 

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The Bilingual School Founding Women Project

In celebration of Women’s History Month I’d like to share the story of how The Bilingual Primary School came to be.

My goal in sharing this with you is to ensure that the stories of these incredible founding women and men are celebrated and retold, and that we have the chance to remember all it took to bring this beautiful school in our city to life.

And a big thank you to 5 of the founding women (Marina Barattii De Gutierrez, Rachel Ruiz Macpherson, Ines Treviño, Bronia Topley and Natalie Woodman) who took the time to share their stories with me.


It all started with a question.

Back in 2010, Brighton & Hove resident Marina Gutierrez was running an early years bilingual childcare service for a small number of parents in the local community. As a Spanish tutor, Marina had opened a childcare service to prove her thesis that children with no prior experience of a second language could learn it easily and naturally through fully immersive Spanish speaking childcare. Children started with her at 11-12 months, just as they started speaking their first words and taking their first steps, and stayed until they were ready for school; where Marina handed them over fully bilingual, with the ability to flip between English and Spanish effortlessly. It simply had become part of their natural learning experience without them even realising it.

During an obligatory Ofsted visit, the inspectors seemed fascinated with Marina’s success. They asked her the question …
“Where do you think you’d like to see things go from here?”

Marina replied, “ Wouldn’t it be great if there was a school where children could continue to learn both Spanish and English. A Bilingual Primary School.”
The seed had been planted.

Later that year whilst driving around the city, Marina heard an ad on the radio for the Free Schools Scheme led by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition as part of the "Big Society" initiative.

Anyone could apply to the Department of Education to set up their own school - an academy funded by the government instead of being part of the local council. The school needed its own unique identity, reason for being and point of difference vs. the local schools already in existence.

It was the flash of inspiration Marina had been looking for.

Marina began to share her vision for a new Bilingual Primary School in Brighton & Hove with Spanish speaking families, friends and community groups in the city. 

She sent a letter asking if people wanted to join the project, which is where Ines, a languages teacher at the time at Cardinal Newman, and head of the Spanish families community Arcoiris, parents Rachel and Bronia and who had been using Marina’s childminding service, and parent & teacher Natalie, quickly got involved. Excitement built and a core but crucial group of volunteers quickly formed in support of the project. They became known as the founding members.

“I was motivated to create a school where I would love my child to go. But also make that achievable for all families in the city, so access wasn’t determined by postcode, catchment area, or financial means”. - Rachel 

“I loved seeing what it could do to a child to have the opportunity to have a bilingual education. Seeing their posture and body language change. Their confidence. Seeing them learning about the world in general. I had the embarrassment of not knowing another language myself, but I wanted that opportunity for my child” - Bronia

They downloaded the Free Schools application form and got to work, meeting upstairs in a cafe in Five Ways every week. Dividing the form and volunteers into different teams with different parts of the application to complete including the Rationale and Vision, Finance, Marketing, Premises, Curriculum and Governance. There was a lot to do.

They contacted school governors, education and bilingual experts, and carried out a huge amount of research on the curriculum and how best to reach the goal of a 50:50 Spanish/ English curriculum.

The vision for the school was to offer greater choice and connect communities through language and bilingualism. The team believed that creating a bilingual school would naturally attract a global community. Because if you celebrate language you celebrate and value difference, different culture, and different communities all which build a sense of connectivity.

“We were learning from day to day. The free school proposal had only just come out and we had to prove there would be demand for this type of education. We had to market this idea. We had to find a premises. It had to be viable. It was a big job. I don’t think anyone knew how big a job it was at the offset.” Natalie
“So much research was conducted with Bilingual Schools and on Bilingual education. The Spanish Department of Education in London, engaging specialists to join and support the project, defining the curriculum and what would be taught.” - Ines

“Marketing was one of the biggest parts of the application as we had to get the message out there to everyone in Brighton & Hove to assess interest and garner support so that if a school was approved, they would have children attending and parents in support. We had to ensure demand. We completed thousands of questionnaires, visiting the marathon, festivals, carnivals, parks, playgrounds, anywhere we would find parents to talk to, raise money to
support the volunteers work, and who may support our vision and be interested to send their children to the school”. - Natalie

“Marketing meant going out speaking to people directly. Going to parks, playgrounds, the beach. Speaking about the opportunity of becoming bilingual and filling out surveys and dropping leaflets through doors.” - Bronia

2010 to 2012


The team finished the proposal at the beginning of 2011. However, it was sent back with further questions. There was more work to do, but it wasn’t a no and that spurred them on. 

After more hard work and research; finally the completed application was ready. The team took a day trip to visit the Department of Education with their children and families in tow in order to hand deliver it.

“We had a photo taken with everyone as we submitted the application. And then we had a nice day out to celebrate that we’d done it, and we went home to wait for their reply”. - Ines

In October 2011, the team finally received the good news that their plans for Britain's first state-funded English and Spanish-speaking Bilingual Primary School were approved.

“We were so happy and excited, but that’s when we realised that the real work was about to begin.” - Natalie

Although the application had been approved and in principle the project was ready to run. They’d already recruited staff and had a head teacher, Carolina Gopal from the British Council School in Madrid. But they didn’t have a premises yet. They didn’t have a location for the school to open.

“Keeping parents who had really bought into the idea and wanted to send their children to the school, keeping them engaged knowing that we didn’t have a location yet was unbelievably hard. It required a lot of continuous communication, talking, reassuring people, trying to maintain that enthusiasm and keeping them believing that it was going to happen. Even people high up in Brighton & Hove said at times “this is never going to happen”. Free schools were not popular, and it was a political hot potato of that time. So we were up against all of that and had to work hard to keep the momentum going and build our resilience to the doubters because we knew we could make it happen.” - Marina


Every day the team would meet up in their office in Portslade to liaise with the Department of Education in London, and make enquiries or drive around looking for a possible location for the school.

One day they decided to drive over to the Amex with the idea that they had a lot of empty space.

“We drove up to the Amex and we took a wrong turn, and we ended up in the carpark at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) which is right next door to the Amex. We walked in and on the off chance asked if we could speak to the head teacher. The Bilingual School initially only needed 3 classrooms and the BACA team had a wing for their 6th Form that they were still trying to fill and it was taking longer than they thought. So they offered us our own wing, in its own little annex at BACA.”  - Marina

Although the Department of Education was heavily involved at this point, the team still had autonomy in some areas and worked to design the uniform and curriculum, and were committed to keeping the school as close to their initial vision as possible.

The Bilingual Primary School officially opened its doors to children for the very first time on 4th September 2012.

The school initially opened with only 2 year groups; reception year, and year 1. Being so small, the teachers, children and parents became incredibly close and this really shaped the value of community and connection at the school. The children had a completely unique educational experience, not simply because they were at a Bilingual School, but because of being the first to pioneer this new and innovative pathway to learning and as part of the schools founding community.

2012 to 2013


Things progressed, and eventually the team got approval for a new school building to be built in a disused area of Hove Park. The official home of The Bilingual Primary School. 

Even though the school had been up and running for a few years at this point, the team still had to battle resistance from the local area and keep families interested. Local residents had campaigns against another school being built in Hove Park and some rejected the idea of a Spanish speaking school with no catchment area. But so close to the finish line, the team didn’t let that stop them.

“We didn’t want it to be exclusive or to have a catchment area. We wanted anyone in the city who wanted to send their child to a bilingual school to have the opportunity to. Thankfully we managed to stand our ground on that.” - Natalie

“The children got to watch their new school being built first hand on day trips and visits. They got to input into what they wanted and needed.” - Bronia

“Seeing that first 2 cohorts go all the way through to year 6, and keeping in contact with them now and seeing how they do in life and hearing them speak with pride as they think back on their time at The Bilingual School. Seeing how they chose to use their Spanish, how they still check in with each other because they were such a close knit community. Some have even gone on to do work experience at Club Amigo’s at the school, and seeing the young adults they’ve now gone on to become, it makes me so proud of what we worked so hard to deliver.” - Marina

2013 to 2014
2014 to 2015


After three years at BACA, the doors to the new school building in Hove Park officially opened in 2016 as The Bilingual School we know and love today.
A school that values diversity, curiosity, perseverance, creativity, respect, responsibility, courage, collaboration, kindness and honesty.

So I asked the founding women what they would say to the children at the school about following their ideas, dreams and passions. Here’s what advice they shared.

“Don’t listen to people who say it can’t happen or it can’t be done, it can. Don’t listen to them. Follow it all the way through”. - Marina

“If you’re passionate about something, you have to try and don’t give up. It’s always worth it.” - Ines

“Have the courage to share your ideas, that’s where you meet people who can share their passion as well. Have the bravery to reach out, and continue being strong and curious, living for the moment, just follow your dreams and share your dreams, because you won’t be alone”. - Rachel

“If you believe in something enough and work hard enough; anything is achievable. It shows you what you can achieve when you put your mind to it. The community feel is the proudest thing and when we get together we are lifelong friends. Hopefully at some point there will be many more bilingual schools for children to enjoy.” - Natalie

“Even if you think you are someone who doesn’t have a voice or you don’t have the skills to do something, you can be involved and you have a part you can play to make a difference.You can do anything if you really want it to happen. You have people power” - Bronia

It’s so important to acknowledge that The Bilingual Primary School was created solely by volunteers. Ordinary people with a shared vision and a passion and determination to succeed. Investing their time, energy, money and resources into building a vision for the future that would benefit the local community and future generations to come.

The full founding members of the Bilingual Primary School Trust were… 

  • Marina Baratti De Gutierrez
  • Barbara de La Fuente
  • David Lewendon
  • Rachel RuizMacpherson
  • Javier Ruiz
  • Maria Alexander Salamanques
  • Lee Simms
  • Bronia Topley
  • Ines Treviño 
  • Natalie Woodman

I’d also like to acknowledge every single person who contributed to making the school what it is today, offering legal advice, financial expertise, SEN, education, bilingualism and community outreach. The list is a long one, and a testament to the generosity of spirit of the citizens of Brighton and Hove.

I’d also like to extend a big thank you to the 5 founding women I interviewed. 

Stories are the foundation for building any community and it is my hope that this story continues to be told and its values shared, and I’m glad that so many women’s voices were part of it.

I hope it continues to inspire future generations to believe that anything is possible when you work hard, don’t give up, and surround yourself with people and a community who believe in a shared vision, and support each other to achieve it. 

Lesley Bambridge

2015 to 2016
2016 to 2017
2017 to 2018
2018 to 2019
2019 to 2020
2020 to 2021
2021 to 2022
2022 to 2023

BPS photos from throughout the years...

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