Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Language Support

Back in 1986-87 I trained as an English as a Second/Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) and underwent a period of six weeks teaching practice at a secondary school in the UK town where the rest of my family are currently living. There is a high ethnic minority population in the town and at that time each school had a level of language support with some schools having staff dedicated full-time to ESL teaching and support.

Jaime is now at a local primary school and slowly learning English. However, I was told there are now only two language support staff in the entire local education authority!

Is this true? Surely, the demographics of the town have not changed that much? Does the entire ethnic minority population read, write, speak and understand English perfectly? Is there no immigration anymore? Or have progressive budget cuts led to cuts in language support staffing?

Probably a combination of all these factors ...

However, I discover from the town council's website that “data collected in 2004 show there to be around 6500 (18.5%) minority ethnic pupils in [the town's] schools of which around 6300 are bilingual. About 1000 (16%) of these are in the early stages of acquiring English”.

So Jaime is one of a thousand. The LEA has an Ethnic Minority Achievement Team (EMAT) to assist schools with English as an Additional Language (EAL – the jargon has changed) teaching. No indication on the website of the staffing levels of the EMAT.

I wonder if Jaime and his teacher are receiving any support from the EMAT? The most recent OFSTED report states that there are very few early stage EAL learners at the school. I didn't manage to see his teacher at Christmas due to the school holidays. But I will be able to in April and we'll be able to see how he's coming along ...

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