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by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 16 July 2024, 9:58 AM
Anyone in the world

By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors with the support of the wider EMTAS team 

It has been another busy year for Hampshire EMTAS. In this article we examine this academic year’s data and share interesting trends - these trends are reflected in our staffing update as well as the BCAP and B-ELSA role sections. We reflect on our work with Separated Minors (aka Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children) and share highlights of our support to pupils from Traveller and Showmen heritages. We celebrate the end of the GCSEs, catch up with our new study skills programme and reveal the schools who have successfully achieved their EAL/Traveller Excellence Award. Next, there is an update on our research project with the University of Reading. You will see we also ask for your input to help us shape next term’s programme of network meetings. We finish with a note from Team Leader Dr Sarah Coles.

This academic year in data

Our referrals this year total a little over 1,000. The most referred language this time has been Malayalam, reflecting families coming new to Hampshire from Southern India. Also featuring in our data are various African languages; Isizulu, Ndebele, Twi, Igbo, Swahili, Somali, Hausa, Mandinka and Afrikaans. For each of these, we've had relatively low numbers referred. However, when combined they’ve added up to enough for us to have needed to increase our staffing for this diverse group of children. Although not at the same rate as in recent years, we’ve also continued to receive lots of referrals for children here with their families as refugees. They represent speakers of an array of languages and they originate from countries across the globe – Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and Ukraine to name a few. So it's been all hands to the pump as EMTAS staff have worked to profile all the children, and to support them in the way that best matches the needs of the individual. 

EMTAS staffing update

New to the EMTAS Bilingual Assistant team this year we have welcomed Nyonde, who works with Fiona C to support black children on roll in our schools. Lubna adds Urdu to the languages we can cover, Katya joins our Ukrainian team this summer term and in September, Anu brings Malayalam and Tamil to our offer to schools. Replacing Jess, who left for a new life in America at Christmas, Michelle joined the teacher team in the summer term and has been building relationships with staff in schools in Fareham and Gosport, her new patch, ever since. Thibaut will join our teacher team in September; he’ll be covering schools in the New Forest.

We say farewell to Kevin, who joined us just for 1 academic year to help cover our Cantonese referrals. Kevin goes on to a support role in a school. Sudhir is leaving us too. He’s been a member of the BA team for 16 years, and is well-known in schools with Nepali children on roll. Sudhir is off to train to be a maths teacher and we wish him every success in that endeavour. Finally, we congratulate Team Leader Dr Sarah Coles on successfully completing her PhD.


This year we are delighted to welcome a new Achievement Project Officer for children of black and ethnic minority heritage. The team consists of two people who are covering the whole county mainly supporting children of colour. We have had a significant increase in the number of referrals from schools for children who speak African languages, the main ones appearing on referrals being Shona, Yoruba, Ndebele and Twi. Our Achievement Project Officers can now offer Cultural Awareness training to schools in addition to their support for these pupils.

Bilingual ELSA (B-ELSA)

Using funding for children from Ukraine, EMTAS and HIEP have worked together to develop a new role, the Bilingual ELSA. Our Bilingual ELSAs receive the same training and supervision with an Educational Psychologist as a school-based ELSA. The Bilingual ELSAs work together with school-based ELSAs to plan, deliver and review ELSA sessions tailored to children from Ukraine. In this way, school-based ELSAs stay fully informed about the Ukrainian children’s emotional well-being whilst the children will always have access to someone in school who understands how they are feeling and the issues they are dealing with like the loss of their home in Ukraine, bereavement, separation from family members and friends, loss of power and control over key aspects of their daily lives and uncertainty.

Bilingual ELSAs offer children a real connection to home as they give an opportunity to speak in first language as well as English. Our B-ELSA team share resources with school-based ELSAs and bring in other materials too, eg from Bear us in Mind. This charity provides, amongst other things, teddy bears in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. A bear attends each B-ELSA session, offering children a tangible anchor of emotional comfort.

Separated Children 

You will have noticed we now refer to Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) as ‘separated children’, as this better describes the ongoing experience of separation they face. According to government statistics there were 3,285 applications from separated children in the year ending March 2024, 5% of the total asylum applications to the UK.

The separated children we have met at EMTAS have mostly come from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sudan and the most common languages have been Pashto, Arabic and Kurdish Sorani. Some of these children have been attending schools in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, but we have also been continuing our work with the Virtual School to provide profiling assessments for separated children under Hampshire who have been placed in other counties. We have had 27 separated children referred to EMTAS since September 2023.

These children have to learn to deal with a new language, a new school system, a new home and a new culture, without family and friends to support them. Some cope with this change incredibly well, whilst others feel out of place and find the lessons overwhelming and the restrictions of school life in the UK very difficult to adjust to. If one of these brave young people arrives at your school, please do get in contact with EMTAS as soon as possible so that we can work together to support them as they learn to adjust to their new life. For more information and guidance on separated children, see our Moodle folder Asylum Seekers and Refugees. Try this quiz too, to see how much you really know about refugees: Refugee Action quiz (

Traveller & Showmen work

As usual the Traveller team have been busy throughout the year supporting all our schools, families and children. Julie and Steve, our two Traveller Support Workers (TSWs), have been in schools visiting all our primary aged children whilst Claire, our Traveller Team lead, has been supporting students in secondary schools via our Traveller & Showmen clinics. This is no mean feat when you consider that we are currently supporting 325 children. During this academic year Helen, our Traveller Team Teacher, has made 28 school applications to help Traveller & Showmen pupils to get places in Hampshire schools. 

As well as continuing with our Traveller & Showmen book and gardening clubs, we have also been running an attendance project. Claire and Helen have been working with four schools and their families to support increased attendance. Next year we are hoping to extend the project to include more schools. 

To celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month we were very privileged to be able to provide two live, online story-telling sessions with author Richard O’Neill. We were joined by lots of our schools and hundreds of children were able to enjoy Richard’s wonderful stories. We also held a poetry competition around the month’s official theme ‘What does family mean to you?’. We encouraged our pupils to write a poem entitled ‘What family means to me’. We have had some fantastic entries and Claire and Helen will be getting together soon to decide who will win a signed Richard O’Neill book. 

Heritage Language GCSEs

This has been a bumper year for EMTAS with the Heritage Language GCSEs. 200 applications were made by 11 schools and 187 students were supported by EMTAS Bilingual Assistants in the speaking exam, whilst 70 students had support for reading and writing too. It is great to see so many schools celebrating multilingualism by offering Heritage Language GCSEs to their students. Polish was the most requested language with the largest number of candidates sitting the exam; our Polish Bilingual Assistants supported 38 students at one school alone. All our Bilingual Assistants supporting Heritage Language GCSEs have been racing from school to school to carry out the speaking exams within the assessment window. We are looking forward to results day on 22 August when we hope the students will be celebrating their achievements. Our staff are looking forward to hearing how well their students did too. 

Study Skills Programme

This academic year our Bilingual Assistants have been providing support to pupils through the Study Skills Programme, a new and innovative form of support for pupils in Years 5 and 6 and KS3/4 who are literate in their first language. The aims of the programme are to help pupils explore how they feel about their learning and their subjects and to equip them with different tools and strategies they can apply in their lessons and home learning. For example, pupils have been learning how to use Google Lens to create a glossary, had a go at using Immersive Reader to access a text and much more. After an initial pilot at the start of the academic year the programme is now part and parcel of our ways of working with pupils.

Feedback from the programme has been overwhelmingly positive. One Bilingual Assistant fed back that throughout the sessions, her pupil displayed a strong interest in the programme and seemed determined to learn about the tools and skills introduced to support her learning. Another pupil said that she found Microsoft Translator and Immersive Reader especially useful for her revision practice. She was already familiar with some of the tools but commented that it was useful for her to explore these further and discover new features that she had not been aware of.

It is hoped that the impact of the programme will be apparent in class long after the pupils have completed the programme. In order to maximise impact and help pupils continue to develop independence in the classroom, the use of translation tools will need to be woven through teacher planning. To enable them to do this effectively, there will be opportunities for colleagues to learn more about the technology built into the Study Skills Programme in the new academic year. 

EAL and Traveller Excellence Award celebrations

This academic year, we have once again celebrated the hard work of many Hampshire schools, and others further afield, who have achieved an EAL or Traveller Excellence Award. 

Achieving the bronze level Traveller Excellence Award this year was Micheldever Primary school. Silver was awarded to Robert May’s School. We keep everything crossed for Greenfields Junior school, Wellow Primary school and The Hurst for their upcoming validations at bronze level.

Achieving the bronze level EAL Excellence Award were the City of Leicester College and New Milton Junior school. Silver level was awarded to Purbrook Infant school, St Peter’s Junior school, St Michael’s Infant school and Fleet Infants. Achieving the gold level award were Swanmore College, Alderwood Senior school, Alderwood Infants and Junior school, Elvetham Heath Primary school, The Riccher Federation Nursery Schools, The Wavell and Al Rabeeh Academy. Congratulations to all these schools and settings on this fantastic achievement!

This year we have introduced two new elements within our EAL awards. We have developed an Early Years Foundation Stage EAL Excellence award which we have already been successfully using to validate some nurseries and pre-schools during its pilot phase. In addition to this, we have now included a Diamond level within our EAL award. For schools that have successfully been validated at gold level twice, they can begin working towards their Diamond level. More information regarding this exciting addition can be found here: Working beyond Gold – introducing the new EMTAS Diamond EAL Excellence Award (

University of Reading and EMTAS research project

Our joint research project with the University of Reading has got off to a great start. Naomi Flynn has held interviews with the EAL or GRT co-ordinators and Headteachers of fourteen schools from across the county. These have been very helpful in establishing what schools currently do to support their multilingual, Traveller and Showmen pupils, what they find challenging, and what they would like to see in the new oracy-related training materials that will emerge from this project. Alongside the interviews, Naomi has been meeting regularly with the EMTAS teacher team to establish what the principles driving the new materials will be and how we might ensure their accessibility and usefulness to schools. Early next term we will send out invitations for schools to take part in trialling the new resources for us from November 24 – February 25. We’d like to thank those schools who have already taken part; your input has been invaluable. If you have not yet taken part in an interview, and/or want to know more about the project, there is still time (contact Naomi on Alternatively, do please send us your thoughts at this questionnaire link

EMTAS network meetings 

Starting this autumn term, we will be tailoring our network meetings to further meet the needs of our schools. Each school should have received a link to a form to complete, allowing us to provide our network meetings on the most popular topics and on the most popular days/times as advised by you, our colleagues. Once we have received the feedback from schools, we will be sending out information regarding the upcoming network meetings, allowing schools to book onto those of interest. Should any Hampshire schools not have received this form to complete, the following link can be used:

Finally, a conclusion by Team Leader Sarah Coles

2023-24 has whizzed by and as you can see, we’ve been kept very busy throughout, navigating all the changes and challenges that have come our way since September. Working in this field brings new things to learn all the time, even when you’ve been around as long as I have (24 years!). I look forward to finding out what 2024-25 has in store for us. But first, and like most of us at EMTAS and in schools too I’m sure, I look forward to the summer holidays.

[ Modified: Tuesday, 16 July 2024, 10:40 AM ]
Anyone in the world

By the Hampshire EMTAS Teacher Team

Hampshire EMTAS is working with Merton Infant School, Cranbourne School and St Swithun Wells Primary School to develop an additional level for the EAL Excellence Award (EXA). The new level will acknowledge the achievement of schools maintaining Gold standards while acting as EAL centres of expertise and reaching out to the community. Schools achieving Diamond level will be recognised by a trophy and certificate and celebrated on the EMTAS website/Moodle.

To qualify for Diamond, schools will need to have been previously validated at Gold. They must also demonstrate they are maintaining their Gold level practice for their subsequent validation. In addition to this they will show further evidence of work within 1 of the following 3 strands:
-       Community (working with families in wider catchment)
-       Collaboration (working with other schools)
-       Contribution (working with EMTAS).

Schools will have flexibility in choosing their area of expertise and how they may like to evidence this. They may also collaborate on a particular project.

Below are examples of pieces of work which may lend themselves to each strand. Individual schools may come up with their own ideas for projects which are particularly relevant for their setting and the pupils and families in their local area. Colleagues should discuss their Diamond project ideas with their EMTAS Teacher Advisor first eg to avoid duplication of a resource.

As with other EXA levels, schools’ Diamond award will lapse after 2 years. To maintain their Diamond level, schools will need to evidence that they have maintained their Gold. This revalidation process will be flexible and driven by individual schools’ action plans. Schools will also need to show they have continued to contribute within the above strands.

Case studies

School A successfully achieves Gold in December 2022. In March 2024 they revalidate at Gold. In addition to this they demonstrate their work mentoring another school and their contribution to a new EMTAS resource. This school qualifies for a Diamond award.

School B submits evidence for their EXA in October 2023. This is their first ever submission. They are validated at Gold. At their validation they discuss their contribution to a network meeting in February 2021. This school does not yet qualify for a Diamond Award because they have only just recently achieved Gold and their Diamond evidence is out of date. To achieve Diamond the school needs to revalidate at Gold with current/varied evidence of work at Diamond standard.

By introducing the Diamond Award, we hope schools which have already obtained Gold will be inspired to use their experience and expertise in EAL to support others. We look forward to supporting schools in their projects and finding out their impact on the EAL community.

[ Modified: Tuesday, 21 May 2024, 11:42 AM ]
Anyone in the world

EMTAS are delighted to announce that we have just started a year-long collaborative research project with Prof Naomi Flynn from the University of Reading’s Institute of Education. In this blog we explain how this will work, what it will produce, and how schools can be part of the action.

What is the project?

The intention of the project is to unite Naomi’s research know-how with EMTAS’ EAL expert know-how in working with Hampshire schools.  This project builds on Naomi’s Talk Rich Teaching Project, which focussed on creating a UK version of a US approach to professional learning for teachers of multilingual pupils. Together we will build new professional learning materials for primary schools who want to enhance the level of talk in their classrooms as a route to raising their multilingual learners’ attainment. Naomi uses the term ‘multilingual learner’ rather than ‘learner with EAL’ because this foregrounds pupils’ multilingualism as an asset.

Why this collaboration?

Naomi has had a long-standing and fruitful relationship with EMTAS since 2007 when she first contacted us to help her PhD research at the University of Winchester. Therefore this collaboration is built on a strong relationship of mutual respect for each other’s work, and this gives the project significant potential for success.

Working with us gives Naomi the opportunity to spread the impact of her research to a wider audience and, for EMTAS, working with Naomi gives us the opportunity to explore new ways of working with our multilingual learners and our schools.

Why develop a talk rick approach to teaching EAL?

We know from a lot of research that multilingual learners need more access to talk in class if they are to make sustainable progress across the curriculum. We also know that the US-designed talk rich approach Naomi works with has led to better language and literacy outcomes for multilingual learners in both the US and the UK.

The approaches common to the professional learning that will be at the heart of our research project are based around:
- planning classroom activities that are inquiry-led,
- which celebrate our children’s identities,
- which involve some small group teaching,
- and where teachers work at saying less in order that children can say more.

There are some clear parallels with the current focus on oracy teaching, so this project is timely and something that can fit in with other whole school initiatives.

Moreover, we also know that this approach to teaching benefits all pupils and not just those who are multilingual. So, this is not something that will be additional to what schools already do, it’s more about re-thinking classroom delivery.

What will the benefits for Hampshire schools be?

Naomi has worked with one very diverse school over four years which rose from an OFSTED RI grading to Outstanding. So, we know that where schools buy into this approach for the long term, the outcomes are more likely to be successful.

However, we will be developing materials with the intention that schools can use them solo and at timescales that suit their school development priorities. These may include face-to-face professional development, but they will certainly be online. Where this project is a process of knowledge exchange, the end of project offering will become clearer over time, and we will keep you updated with regular blogs.

How can Hampshire schools get involved? 

We really need the input of Hampshire schools and teachers to make sure we get the development of these new materials right. Specifically, we are looking for primary schools with at least 10% multilingual learners. There are two ways in which you can get involved:
- You can feed directly into the design of the materials: We will interview your senior leadership team and EAL co-ordinator at a time and place convenient for you during the summer term 2024. We want to know how you currently support your multilingual learners and what you would want to see in online materials you can use as a staff team.
You can pilot the materials with us and give us feedback on how you want them adapted for future schools’ use between Nov 24 and Feb 25.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about this project, you are welcome to contact Naomi by email:

Watch this space for more information and project news 😊

[ Modified: Tuesday, 30 April 2024, 3:19 PM ]
Anyone in the world

By Olha, EMTAS Bilingual ELSA and Sarah, ELSA at Shamblehurst Primary School

The Little Box of Big Thoughts from ‘Bear Us in Mind’

This blog explores how Bilingual ELSA (B-ELSA) support has worked at Shamblehurst Primary school in Hampshire. It brings together the perspectives of highly-experienced school-based ELSA Sarah, and EMTAS B-ELSA Olha.  They collaborated to provide ELSA support to children from Ukraine.  After an introductory section outlining why children from Ukraine might need ELSA support, the blog continues in the style of an interview, with questions followed by responses from these two practitioners.

Why B-ELSA support is particularly important for children from Ukraine 

The need for this sort of support arises because of the array of challenging experiences many Ukrainian children will have had, related to their displacement from country of origin.  For each Ukrainian child who has come to the UK as a refugee from war, their journey will be unique and may include things such as: 

- sudden departure from Ukraine when the war started

- loss of their home in Ukraine

- loss of belongings

- separation from family members, who remain in Ukraine

- separation from friends 

- leaving their pets behind

- not knowing for how long they will be in the UK

- adapting to living in someone else’s house with their rules and expectations (if with a host family in the UK)

- needing to adapt to life in a new language and culture

- loss of voice

- loss of choice

- loss of power and control over key aspects of their daily lives.

The above examples all contribute to toxic stress, and come on top of other, more common situational challenges that any child may experience, such as divorce or changes in their family’s financial circumstances.  Toxic stress can manifest itself in physiological symptoms such as tummy aches or headaches, and in behaviours such as withdrawal, regression to an earlier developmental stage or exerting control through what appear to be acts of defiance or refusal, this strongly linked to the child having lost their sense of self actualisation.  

The EMTAS B-ELSA role was developed as a way of offering support with their emotional literacy to children from Ukraine, many of whom have an attendant language barrier to contend with on top of all the other worries and stresses they carry round with them daily.  B-ELSAs work collaboratively with school-based ELSAs to plan, deliver and review ELSA sessions with children from Ukraine.  The remainder of this blog draws on the experiences of Olha and Sarah who have successfully worked together to plan and deliver ELSA sessions to children from Ukraine. 

How did you identify that your Ukrainian children needed ELSA support?

Sarah: Well, we noticed that there were things happening for the children at school that caused us to become concerned about them.  Teachers were key in identifying that there may be a need in addition to learning English.  This was discussed with our SENDCo and people on our Senior Leadership Team.  Our Head Teacher played a role too and has been very supportive of the collaborative way of working that comes with B-ELSA involvement. 

What have been the challenges in getting B-ELSA support to work?    

Olha: In general, whilst I have dedicated slots in my calendar for this work, some schools have said they can’t release their ELSA to work with me, so that’s been a problem.  Another issue I’ve had has been matching up calendars – mine and the school ELSA’s - to achieve consistency with the days and times of my visits.  In this school, it’s been easy because the Head Teacher has been so supportive.

Sarah: To be perfectly honest, before I worked with Olha I did think in schools we are so busy so if she’s coming, it’s two adults to one child.  I didn’t get it to start with - I thought ‘why don’t you just do the session on your own?’  But I totally get it now. 

Olha: Yes, same here - on a personal level, when I first started B-ELSA work, I wasn’t convinced I needed to be there at all as some children from Ukraine didn’t seem to need me for the language support.  I’ve changed my mind about that having had the experience of working with people like Sarah, and seeing how beneficial it is for the children. 

Sarah: I think it was crucial you were here.  You can give the children a real connection to home, because you give them opportunities to speak in first language.  Each week, the children have looked to you for support to express particular things they’ve wanted to say; they’ve really benefited from that.  Also the collaborative approach means when you stop coming, the child still has someone they know and can trust in school, someone who understands and is there for them.

How have you gone about collaboratively planning and delivering ELSA sessions?

Sarah: I’ve been really fortunate in that my school has been so open to B-ELSA support.  I’ve been given two hours a week for our two Ukrainian children, which is an absolute gift; in my regular ELSA work I don’t usually get the luxury of planning time.  Working with Olha, whilst I have suggested some possible activities for sessions, I’ve also valued her opinion and input.  With the extra time, we’ve been able to plan sessions together, and we’ve shared our ideas.

Olha: Yes, so 15 mins ahead of the session with the child, we’ve met to recap on the previous session, and share and consider feedback from teachers about what happened for the child during the rest of the week between visits.  It’s helped us tailor the sessions so we get them right for each child.

How have you figured out appropriate targets for the children you've worked with? 

Sarah: One child had some friendship issues so we’ve done some work on that.  They joined Year 5 and had to negotiate their place amongst friendships that were long-established within the peer group.  For them, it’s been the social aspects that have been more immediately challenging, yet vital as they need to build a new support network for themselves and to gain a sense of belonging here in school.

Olha: Yes, and it’s been really helpful that Sarah knows the other children in the class.  She’s brought that knowledge to the sessions – I wouldn’t have been able to do that bit on my own.  For this child, we’ve also worked on boundaries, the need to respect others’ feelings, what we can do for ourselves when we’re feeling upset.  So lots of work on emotional literacy.

Sarah: For another child, we decided we’d work on social skills as they’d been having difficulties following instructions in class.  We introduced a second child and we played some games together.  We talked about the rules of those games.  The Ukrainian child said they wanted to make a booklet so we came up with the idea of making a book of rules – things we need to remember when we’re playing with friends.  Each week we played a different game and we talked about the rules.

Olha: Yes, they knew we were working on that book, which was their idea.  At the end, they were so proud of their book of rules and they took it to share with their class.  I believe this child was more focused and engaged because we followed that project with them, their own idea.

How did you draw on the child's first language in your sessions?  

Olha: I’ve collected resources in Ukrainian, Russian and English through this role.  Some have come from my ELSA training with the Educational Psychology service; I especially like the ones from Bear us in Mind – which is a charity set up to support refugee children, including those from Ukraine.

Sarah: We wanted to make sure the children understood the feelings words we were using.  We used cards to talk about that.  The children definitely needed Olha to be able to do this effectively.  Also, after seeing some of the resources in Ukrainian that Olha brought with her, I started using translation tools myself, to create more. 

For me, the language options Olha’s opened up for the children is the beauty of it – we’ll come in and have a chat about each child and go in my ELSA cupboard and choose something suitable.  For example the feelings cards – we picked a few cards and we asked what’s happening in the picture.  If we could add a speech bubble to the picture, what would they be saying/thinking?  Because Olha’s been there, the children have been able to use whichever language they like to express their thoughts and ideas.  I think this has been a real strength of it.

What has been the hardest part of working in this way? 

Sarah: To be honest, at the beginning I was concerned about my waiting list children.  I have lots of children with lots of needs.  Prioritising the Ukrainian children did make me feel a bit bad.  But a child at the top of my list was the one we chose to join some of the B-ELSA-supported sessions, which was great, really fortunate that it worked out that way.

Also, the targets from the teachers needed a bit of work to get them right for the children. 

Olha: We agreed on that – it’s been really common in my experience in this role.  Teachers sometimes think we have a magic wand and can solve anything and everything, but ELSA support can really only help with one thing at a time. 

Sarah: Yes, when we had our Remembrance Day, one child suddenly started talking about everything they’d been through and the teachers and the other children were shocked to hear it.  I think when something like that happens, people can go into panic mode.

Olha: I think this is sometimes where it doesn’t work so well in other schools – people lose confidence.  They sit back and they seem to want me to do everything, which isn’t how it’s meant to work.

What's been the most useful thing to have come out of your collaboration? 

Sarah: The legacy – through the work we’ve done together, the children have accessed the ELSA sessions so they’ve benefited from that.  Plus now they know me really well, and they understand I’m always here for them, even if Olha’s visits have ended for the time being.

How do you achieve a sense of closure at the end of a period of ELSA support? 

Sarah: Closure was really important for the children.  In the end, we decided we’d give each child a card, so I modified one I had.  In it, we put that Olha’s saying goodbye but the child can still come and talk to me.

Olha: Yes, a card like this is a resource we’re now developing at EMTAS.  The new cards will be printed with space to add something personal, special to each child.  All the EMTAS B-ELSAs will be able to give them to the children they’ve worked with.

The above conversation outlines some of the challenges associated with accessing B-ELSA support for children from Ukraine and some of the benefits – for the children, for their peers and for the adults around them.  It illustrates how one school has added B-ELSA support to their work with Ukrainian children and their families, developing a healing environment in which the children can begin to recover from the trauma they’ve experienced.  To find out more about working with refugee children and to access various free resources, including ‘Bear us in Mind’, mentioned by Olha, see Course: Asylum Seeker & Refugee Support (

[ Modified: Wednesday, 17 April 2024, 10:24 AM ]
Picture of Astrid Dinneen
by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 5 December 2023, 4:03 PM
Anyone in the world

By Hampshire EMTAS Team Leader Sarah Coles 

This blog is about terminology and our understanding of a specific group of children for whom English is an Additional Language: heritage language speakers. 

Most practitioners who’ve spent any time at all working with multilingual learners in schools will be familiar with the concept of the international new arrival; children who come to the UK from overseas having been immersed in another language from birth.  Where they are typically developing, these children’s first language skills will be broadly similar to those of anyone who’s had a monolingual start in life.  Older learners who have been schooled in their language (L1) in country of origin may have literacy skills as well as oracy, whilst younger children who’ve not yet started to learn to read and write may have age-appropriate oracy skills only.  Whatever their skills in L1, it is often shortly after their arrival to the UK that these children embark on the task of adding English to their repertoire, hence they might be described as ‘sequential bilinguals’; L1 first, followed by English.

Heritage language speakers are a bit different.  The term ‘heritage language speaker’ is used to describe a child growing up in a society where their home language is not the same as the majority language.  For example, a heritage language speaker might be a child born in the UK to Polish speaking parents.  The main language in use at home might be Polish but outside of the home, they will also have exposure to English, the societally dominant language.  For these children, the model of bilingualism is ‘simultaneous’; exposure to both languages from birth (or shortly after).  What this means is that whilst such a child might have access to good L1 role models at home, overall their access to Polish is typically less than had they been born and raised in Poland.  So they may present with different skills in L1 in comparison with a monolingual Polish-only child.

Many UK-born heritage language speakers have their first experience of being immersed for prolonged periods of time in an all-English environment at pre-school.  They will, from that point onwards, rapidly develop their vocabulary in English, alongside the continuing development of L1.  However, due to their more limited exposure, it would be expected that their L1 oracy skills might develop more slowly than those of a child born and raised in an essentially monolingual setting, where the main language in use in all social situations is L1. 

As they reach school age, heritage language speaking children suddenly experience a dramatic increase in the amount of time they spend in social settings where English is dominant.  This typically corresponds with a reduction in access to L1.  Whilst in Year R, they may find opportunities to continue to use L1, for example in their spontaneous play with other children who share the heritage language; but in adult-led activities they quickly learn that English is required.  Often, it is from the start of school that heritage language speakers’ L1 development plateaus whilst their English comes on in leaps and bounds.  There can develop a dichotomy in terms of the words the child knows in their two languages too, with the academic vocabulary known only in English and L1 increasingly beached in informal, home-based contexts.  Further, parents often notice that when addressed in L1, their child prefers to respond in English. 

Thus from Year R onwards, it takes considerable effort on the part of parents to ensure their child does not lose the heritage language.  This is where the Family Language Policy (FLP) comes in.  FLPs are important in determining whether or not the heritage language will be successfully transmitted to the child and maintained over time, and comprise the unwritten ‘rules’ around language use in the home.  In families where parents continue to use L1 at home, its transmission and maintenance tend to be more successful.  But in families where parents gradually abandon L1 in favour of English, which is especially likely in families where one of the parents is a monolingual English speaker themselves, the prognosis is much bleaker.  Ceding L1 in favour of English might be prompted by their children’s growing preference for the majority language, but the often unintended consequences can include those same children no longer being able to talk to their grandparents, with the chances of the heritage language surviving to the next generation, their children’s children, reduced to zero. 

So what does this matter to practitioners?  Well, especially in the Early Years, it is important that schools work closely with parents if the complete loss of the heritage language is to be avoided.  These days, ICTs gift us with lots of ways in which we can make space for children’s L1s in Foundation Stage settings, and it’s really important that practitioners avail themselves of these.  If they do not overtly value children’s L1s and encourage their use at school, children will quickly learn to leave their heritage languages at the school door to wait for home time. 

To find out more about ICTs that could be used at school to promote children’s heritage languages, see

Early Years (

Use of ICT ( 

[ Modified: Wednesday, 6 December 2023, 9:26 AM ]
Anyone in the world

By Astrid Dinneen

In a previous blog, Hampshire EMTAS Team Leader Sarah Coles and Specialist Teacher Advisor Astrid Dinneen considered ways of supporting Hatice, a Turkish-speaking pupil in Primary school working within Band A of the Bell Foundation EAL assessment framework. In this blog, we catch up with Hatice and explore EAL practice which may support her as she continues her journey towards full academic proficiency. 

It’s been nearly a year since we last wrote about Hatice, a new-to-English pupil literate in Turkish who joined Year 5 in her first UK school. Avid readers of our blog will remember that her teacher chose to put in place EAL-friendly strategies to help her access the curriculum alongside her peers. For example, a home-school journal was embedded so Hatice could discover, research and translate vocabulary in advance of lessons. In addition, grouping was considered to ensure she was exposed to sophisticated speakers of English as part of a trio. Finally, another powerful way to help Hatice engage with her learning in class was to build in opportunities for her to use her first language. She used translation apps downloaded on the class iPad and wrote in Turkish to annotate handouts as well as to demonstrate her learning. This resulted in Hatice feeling included and motivated to take part in a broad and balanced curriculum. 

Fast forward to now, Hatice is in Year 6. She’s working securely within Band B and she is starting to demonstrate features of Band C, particularly with listening and speaking. Hatice is a popular member of the class. She has many friends and appears very chatty on the playground. She has formed good relationships with a range of adults in the school with whom she also enjoys conversations about her activities and the things she enjoys doing at home and at school. Hatice listens carefully in class and regularly takes part during lessons to contribute to whole class discussions and collaborative group activities. Her home-school journal is still in place hence she continues to be familiar with vocabulary linked to her subjects. She also has a good go at using her keywords in her contributions. Hatice feels more confident about her speaking in English hence she is increasingly attempting to write in English. However her teacher has noticed that whilst pre-rehearsing vocabulary in advance has helped Hatice become familiar with language at single word level, she appears to need further support at sentence and whole text level.  

So what now? How can her teacher build on Hatice’s success? What does EAL practice look like for learners who are beyond the early stages of learning English?   

It takes a long time for pupils to acquire both informal and more academic language – anything between 5 and 10 years. To make further progress pupils will continue to need support along the way through amazing teaching and learning. In fact Hatice’s teacher should feel reassured in the knowledge that keeping going with EAL-friendly strategies rather than a decontextualised English-first approach is recommended, even after the first few months. This means persevering with practice already in place for Hatice eg inclusion in the language-rich classroom, discovering vocabulary in advance, grouping with good language role-models and using first language as a tool for learning is still recommended.  

With the latter in particular, pupils embarking on Band C will still benefit from reading texts in their first language. Technology to support this continues to evolve – colleagues are now encouraging the use of Google Lens and Immersive Reader which both allow pupils to read and listen to translations instantaneously. And whilst pupils like Hatice may increasingly produce their writing in English, it is important for opportunities for first language use to still be part and parcel of teachers’ planning. For example, Hatice may be planning her writing in Turkish and later completing it in English. Encouraging the use of first language at the planning phase reduces the cognitive load, helping pupils keep momentum for the writing phase. Likewise, routinely using translation tools will undoubtedly also continue to support pupils on their journey to full academic proficiency. 

New-to-English pupils tend to make rapid progress initially, particularly from Band A through to Band B. This may give us the illusion that they require little EAL support after this point. However, after this initial stage it isn’t uncommon for pupils to reach a plateau as they embark on Band C ie ‘Developing Competence’. This is usually because ‘pupils with advanced fluency in spoken English are often left without support because their conversational competence masks possible limited vocabulary for curriculum purposes’ (Cummins, 1999). 

So what else can Hatice’s teacher put in place to help her choose the best ways to express herself? 

Let’s explore whole class strategies that will not only benefit Hatice but also her peers, whether they are EAL or not. Her teacher may like to build on the pre-reading of keywords happening at home and plan in whole class word level activities such as bingo games, word races, dominos etc. For example, imagine that a final outcome for a whole-class topic was for pupils to write a balanced argument on whether climate change is natural or man-made. Hatice may have talked about climate change in Turkish at home and translated tier 1 and tier 2 keywords such as hemisphere, scientists, sea levels, etc. in advance. Back in class, the whole class could also focus their attention on this language. A word race for example would see pupils work in pairs or trios to find definitions hidden around their classroom and match them to the keywords. Alternatively, a bingo game would see Hatice’s teacher read out the definitions for pupils to cross off their card (bingo card generator apps can help resource this). 

Having focussed pupils’ attention on subject specific language at word level, Hatice’s teacher could support language at sentence level. Sentence structure can be modelled and made explicit thanks to substitution tables - an extremely useful scaffolding tool to support speaking as well as writing. A substitution table is a simple frame which allows the learner to follow the correct syntax in a sentence whilst retaining autonomy over the choice of words. To continue with our theme of climate change, a substitution table could help Hatice (and others in her class) to express her views using more formal language, aided by an interactive opinion line activity: 

Substitution table

As for modelling whole paragraphs and longer pieces, Hatice and her class could be provided opportunities for listening and speaking to prepare themselves for writing. Dictogloss lends itself well to this as a What A Good One Looks Like (WAGOLL) activity. In Dictogloss, pupils listen to a pre-prepared model text and take notes. Then they use the language they’ve heard to work with their peers (first orally then in writing) to recreate a similar piece.  The end product is typically a piece of writing which includes some of the language and structures used in the model, but is not an exact replica. Dictogloss is an opportunity for pupils to hear a model that includes all the subject specific vocabulary, ideas and other things covered in class, and then to collaborate on using these same components to produce a cohesive piece of writing in keeping with the target genre.  

To see what Dictogloss might look like in practice, readers can join one of our online network meetings. We will discuss the steps for Dictogloss and give a demonstration linked to our theme of climate change on January 10th and March 27th. If you cannot wait that long, why not talk to your EMTAS Teacher Advisor about whole staff training? You can also liaise with the English HIAS team to find out how EAL strategies can be woven through the English Learning Journey. For further resources, check our Guidance Library on Moodle and visit the HIAS team’s own platform. 
Hatice is pronounced /hætidʒe/ 

[ Modified: Wednesday, 22 November 2023, 2:27 PM ]
Anyone in the world

By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Astrid Dinneen 

This term we are launching a new and innovative form of support for pupils in Years 5 and 6 and KS3/4 who are literate in their first language. 

The EMTAS Study Skills Programme will be delivered to suitable pupils in withdrawal by EMTAS Bilingual Assistants. It aims to help pupils explore how they feel about their learning and their subjects and to equip them with different tools and strategies they can apply in their lessons and home learning. For example, pupils will explore and annotate texts using Microsoft Translator, learn to use Google Lens to create a glossary, have a go at using Immersive Reader to access information and much more.  

The programme consists of 5 sessions of 50 minutes. Each session has been meticulously planned and resourced by the EMTAS team to offer a predictable and consistent scheme of work - regardless of the language in which it is being delivered. For instance, pupils will typically start their sessions by sharing how they have used the tools and skills covered in the previous session in class or at home. They will then consider how they feel about learning a new skill at the start of the session and revisit this again at the end. A new tool and strategy will usually be demonstrated by EMTAS staff and pupils will have the opportunity to have a go themselves using their own or school device. This will offer pupils the space to practise their new skill through the context of what they are currently learning in class. At the end of the final session, pupils will be awarded a special notebook for their hard work both during and between sessions.

The Bilingual Assistant team has worked tirelessly over the last few months to upskill themselves in delivering the programme which is now reaching the end of the pilot phase. We are ready for a full rollout after the October break and look forward to working with you to make the programme as meaningful as possible for pupils. We have reviewed our procedures and adapted our communication folder. EMTAS staff will use this document to feed back on what the pupils have focussed on during their sessions, how they have participated and what skill and IT tool they will be applying in class. This written feedback, together with continued open conversations with our staff, will give you a chance to reflect and build these very skills into your own practice, allowing pupils to draw links between the programme and their lessons. To sharpen your own IT skills and keep up to speed with the technology we’ll be using with your pupils, why not join one of our network meetings? 

To find out more about the programme, please visit our website and download a flier. Please also sign up for our free network meeting on Monday 6 November at 9.30. 

[ Modified: Wednesday, 11 October 2023, 9:57 AM ]
Picture of Astrid Dinneen
by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 26 September 2023, 11:39 AM
Anyone in the world

By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors

In this first blog of the new academic year, the Hampshire EMTAS Teacher team share important news and highlights. There is much to look forward to!

We are very pleased to welcome five new Bilingual Assistants (BAs) to our team:  Olena, Alex, Lana, Vlad and Kevin. Olena, Alex, Lana and Vlad speak Ukrainian and Russian (Lana speaks German too), and Kevin speaks Cantonese. Olena, Alex and Vlad will be joining Olha (who is also a Ukrainian and Russian-speaking BA) to act as B-ELSAs: bilingual ELSAs who, thanks to government funding, will be helping to support the emotional wellbeing of our refugees from Ukraine. We have also had an increase in referrals from Hong Kong and so Kevin will be joining Jenny and Catherine, our Cantonese-speaking BAs. This will help speed up response times for BA support for our Cantonese-speaking pupils.
GCSE results

September is always an exciting time of the year as we see results pour in for the Heritage Language GCSEs. This year EMTAS supported 152 candidates with 11 different languages and our Bilingual Assistants were delighted to meet so many talented bilingual or multilingual learners. As in previous years, the student success is spectacular! Results are still coming in, but so far more than 85% of students have achieved grade 7 or above.

Naturally it will soon be time to start the process all over again, so we are currently updating our training and processes to make everything run even more smoothly in 2024. We are grateful to all the schools who have given us useful feedback about their experience of EMTAS support and shared comments from the examiners’ reports. We look forward to achieving even more support requests for next summer when we relaunch our request form towards the end of the autumn term.

After many years of operation, we closed the EMTAS EAL/SEND phoneline at the end of last academic year. However, we are still very much here to support colleagues in schools where there are concerns about a child for whom English is an Additional Language. Now, instead of waiting for Tuesday afternoon, you can phone us on our main office number at any time convenient to you during term time. A member of the team will either route your call through to the Specialist Teacher Advisor (STA) for your district OR take details from you so that your STA can phone you back. We hope that this will be a more direct, faster way of accessing support where you are working with children who are learning EAL and who may have additional needs.
Study Skills Programme

This academic year we are proud to be launching a new and innovative form of support for pupils in Years 5 and 6 and KS3/4 who are literate in their first language. The Study Skills Programme will be delivered to suitable pupils in withdrawal by EMTAS Bilingual Assistants. It aims to help pupils explore how they feel about their learning and their subjects and to equip them with different tools and strategies they can apply in their lessons and home learning. For example, pupils will learn to use Google Lens to create a glossary, have a go at using Immersive Reader to access a text and much more. The programme is being piloted this half-term with full roll-out planned for after the October break. To find out more about the programme and your role in ensuring it impacts classroom practice, sign up for our free network meeting on Monday 6 November at 9.30.
GTRSB attendance project

Some of our Traveller students have persistently poor attendance, and this inevitably impacts on their learning, progress and attainment. This academic year the EMTAS Traveller Team is going to be working in collaboration with four schools to pilot an Attendance Project. The aim of the pilot is to support school staff, Traveller parents and students to collaborate with the aim of improving the students’ attendance. It will involve regular monitoring of individual Traveller student’s attendance, regular communication with parents, coffee events and promotion of the EMTAS Traveller Excellence Award. It is hoped that this will result in a marked improvement in the attendance of the targeted students, and will also positively impact their academic progress.

Training offer

We have been overwhelmed by the positive uptake and wonderful feedback from our training sessions over the years. We're keen to maintain this momentum, so why not join us and ensure you feel confident, knowledgeable and equipped with how best to support our learners of EAL? There are several different training opportunities for you to take part in which include our pan-Hampshire network meetings. Our next network meeting takes place on 11th October 3.30-4.30pm with a focus on using ICT to support learners of EAL. Don't worry if you can't make it as we will revisit these sessions throughout the year. View all our training dates via our website.

In addition to our network meetings, we are once again offering SEAL training. This course is the ideal starting point for teachers and TAs, particularly those who are taking on the role of EAL lead within their school. The course consists of 6 full days spread over 2 years, allowing plenty of time to slowly embed best practice within your school. More information about the SEAL course can be found on our website.

We are almost at capacity for our EMTAS Conference which takes place on 12th October 2023.  It's set to be an incredible event with guest speakers Jonathan Bifield and Sarah Coles along with Jacob Parvin and Jack Hill. If you'd like to grab one of the last spaces, please follow this link for more information.

Stay up to date with EMTAS news – sign up for the bulletin.

[ Modified: Monday, 25 March 2024, 1:34 PM ]
Picture of Astrid Dinneen
by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 4 July 2023, 12:13 PM
Anyone in the world

By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors

This has been an incredibly busy year for Hampshire EMTAS with 1089 pupils being referred to us by 30th June. In this blog we delve deeper into our data and share interesting trends. We reflect on our work with Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children and share highlights of our support to Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters. We also celebrate the end of the GCSEs, share an update to our late arrivals guidance and give details of our brand-new study skills programme. We reveal the list of schools who have successfully achieved their EAL Excellence Award and finish with a staffing update. Team Leader Sarah Coles has the final word in a concluding paragraph.

This academic year in data

Of the 1089 referrals received this academic year across the county, 825 were made by primary schools and 252 by secondary schools. Other referrals were made by special schools and the Virtual School. We have worked with around 303 schools and outside agencies, including some from outside of Hampshire. Rushmoor remains the busiest district for referrals with schools in this area submitting 249 referrals. Basingstoke and Deane followed closely behind, referring 188 pupils.

The top five languages referred to EMTAS this academic year were Ukrainian (149), Malayalam (88), Russian (79), Cantonese (74) and Nepali (72). Not all of the Russian language referrals have Ukraine as the country of origin; they include referrals for pupils from Russia, Latvia and UK born.

There has been a rise in the number of referrals from Albania jumping from 1 in the previous two years to 26 this year. Likewise Turkish referrals over the previous two years number 36 in total but this year there have been 38.

EMTAS has also seen an increase in the number of African languages spoken by children in Hampshire schools with Afrikaans, Akan, Akan Fante, Ghanaian, Herrero, Igbo, Luganda, Lugisu, Malinke, Nigerian, Shona, Swahili, Tigrinya, Twi, Twi Fante and Yoruba all being referred.

EMTAS has also seen a rise in the number of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) referred for profiling.
Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC)

According to the Refugee Council, in the year ending September 2022, the UK received 5,152 applications for asylum from unaccompanied children forced to flee their homes. The children we have met have come from Afghanistan, Albania, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Turkey and Vietnam. Some of these Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children (UASC) have been placed in care and therefore in schools across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, but we have also been working with the Virtual School to provide profiling assessments for children placed in other counties.

Each pupil has undertaken a long and difficult journey in search of safety. They then have to learn to deal with a new language, a new school system and a new culture, without family and friends to support them. Many are resilient enough to manage this change incredibly well, whilst others find the new rules and restrictions of school in the UK too challenging, particularly if they had already left education some time ago in their country of origin or in some cases have never been to school at all. So, if one of these brave young people arrives at your school, please do get in contact with EMTAS as soon as possible so that we can work together to support them as they learn to adjust to their new life. For more information on UASC, see our Frequently Asked Questions.
Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters (GTRSB) 

As usual the Traveller team have been busy supporting all our schools, families and children.  Julie Curtis and Steve Clark, our two Traveller Support Workers (TSWs), have been in schools visiting all our primary aged children whilst Claire Barker, our Traveller Team lead, has been supporting students in secondary schools via our GTRSB clinics.  In total, we have supported 285 children this academic year, whilst throughout the year Helen Smith, our Traveller Team Teacher, has helped 22 GTRSB pupils to get places in Hampshire schools.

The school year started off in September with World Funfair Month. We encouraged our schools to celebrate this and provided a pack of ideas and resources to help them get started. Fast forward to June, GRT History Month, and again we provided our schools with a pack of activities and resources to encourage pupils to take part.

We have also launched a couple of new initiatives, including the GTRSB book club. Last term our pupils read The Show Must Go On by Richard O’Neill. One pupil was so inspired by the book that she made an amazing Lego model fairground ride that featured all the characters from the book. We posted a picture on Twitter and Richard O’Neill himself commented. We also launched a gardening club which has been successful in providing some alternative provision for two groups of boys in a primary and a secondary school.

Heritage Language GCSEs

As students come to the end of their time in secondary, it is great to see so many schools celebrating multilingualism by offering Heritage Language GCSEs. This year EMTAS supported more than 152 candidates with 11 different languages, mirroring the amazing diversity of learners in our county. Polish topped the tables with the largest number of candidates, and our Bilingual Assistants have been racing from school to school to carry out all the speaking exams within the assessment window. We are looking forward to results day on 24 August when students can celebrate their achievements and EMTAS staff look on with pride.

Late arrivals

While some students may view GCSEs as the end of an educational marathon, for others it’s a sprint! Late arrivals (students who arrive in the UK in Year 10 or Year 11) have very little time to settle into their new country and new school before they are faced with GCSE exams. Many are new to English and some must contend with an entirely new alphabet! While not all undertake a full complement of subjects in this short timescale, it is a testament to their fortitude and hard work that so many leave with at least one GCSE. This also reflects the commitment of a host of amazing teachers. Even the best practitioners sometimes need a little help from their friends, so the team at EMTAS have recently released updated Guidance on good practice in relation to Late Arrivals. This aims to help schools navigate the crucial period when late arrivals first join their school and ensure they provide the best advice and guidance.
Study Skills Programme 

Members of our team have been busy planning, rewriting and resourcing a brand-new Study Skills Programme for Bilingual Assistants to offer to schools in the new academic year. The programme will be suitable for pupils who are literate in their first language and are working within Band A, B and early stage Band C (particularly for reading and writing). It will be offered to pupils in Year 5 and 6 as well as pupils in Secondary school. The aim of the course is to help pupils explore how they feel about their learning and their subjects and consider different tools and strategies they can apply in their lessons/homework. It will consist of 5 sessions of 50 minutes to be delivered over half a term. As we write this blog we are excitedly putting the final touches to the programme and presenting it to EMTAS colleagues for feedback. We are also looking for schools where our staff could trial the sessions in the first part of the Autumn term. We thank all our schools for supporting us while we train our staff to deliver our new programme after the summer break.
EAL Excellence Award (EXA) celebrations 

What a pleasure it is to further celebrate all the schools who have worked to achieve an EXA award this year. Huge congratulations go to Sopley Primary, Gosport and Fareham MAT, Portway Infants, St Matthew's CE Primary, St Patrick’s Primary and St Bernadette’s Primary who all achieved our Bronze award. Also, to Roman Way Primary, St Jude's RC Primary, St Michael’s Juniors, Bordon Infants, Henry Beaufort and Oakmoor for achieving Silver. Congratulations also go to St Swithun Wells, Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College, Cove Secondary School and Talavera Juniors for achieving Gold. We would like to give a special mention to Merton Infants who are the first school to achieve a revalidation at Gold; an incredible achievement! We still have a couple of schools to be validated (at time of print) so please keep up to date by checking our Twitter page regularly. Well done to all involved and thank you for all your hard work in supporting your learners with EAL. 
EMTAS Staffing update 

At the end of the summer term we say goodbye to Lisa Kalim from the Specialist Teacher Advisor team. During her 21-year tenure, Lisa has covered schools in the New Forest, led on Refugees and Asylum Seekers for the team and operated the EMTAS EAL/SEND phoneline, ever-popular with schools. From September, a new system for accessing support for children with both EAL and SEND needs will come into effect so do keep an eye out for information about this change.

We also say good bye to Rekha (Hindi), Kubra (Dari) and to Kasia P (Polish) from the Bilingual Assistant (BA) team. We wish them well in their next ventures. 

We welcome Kevin to the BA Team. Kevin joins our Chinese BA Team and will be working with Cantonese-speaking children from Hong Kong once he has completed his induction. We welcome Olena and Alex too, both of whom will be working with children from Ukraine. They will be our very first Bilingual ELSAs, joining Olha and Vlad, existing members of the EMTAS team. Together, the four of them will cover referrals for children from Ukraine as well as providing specialist ELSA support. The new Bilingual ELSA role will begin in the new term with ELSA training from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Educational Psychology (HIEP) team. After their training Olha, Olena, Vlad and Alex will be deployed to schools. There they’ll work in partnership with school-based ELSAs to enable Ukrainian children to access ELSA support by removing any barriers caused by language and/or culture. 
Finally, a conclusion by Team Leader Sarah Coles 

As you can see, 2022-23 has been no less busy for EMTAS than 2021-22. Stepping into the role of Team Leader has brought with it both challenges and opportunities and whilst I’ve got used to these, the team has continued to work hard around me to make sure our Service continues to deliver professional, high-quality support to children, families and schools. Being at the forefront of developments in the EAL and GTRSB worlds has long been a source of pride to us, and this year we have continued to innovate and to inspire in all sorts of ways, some of which you have read about in this blog. I look forward to continuing in post in September as EMTAS enters its thirty-second year. 

[ Modified: Monday, 25 March 2024, 1:35 PM ]
Anyone in the world

By Hampshire EMTAS Bilingual Assistant Eva Molea 

In Diary on an EAL Mum, Eva Molea shares the ups and downs of her experience bringing up her daughter, Alice, in the UK. In this instalment, Eva supports Alice with her GCSE option choices. 

Here we go again! Alice is finally in Year 9 and, after whizzing through Year 7 and Year 8 with full colours and a School Council Cup for receiving more than 500 achievement points in Year 8 (clever cookie!), our trepidatious wait has finally ended: she will finally choose her GCSE subjects!

As many of you might know already from my previous blogs, in our family we like to investigate, plan, think ahead, be ready… in other words: to stress unnecessarily. Taking GCSE options is throwing open a door on the uncertainty of “what’s next”. Which college? What are the requirements? Which university? Where will our precious daughter move to pursue her career? Just helping you read between the lines, this last question means: where are we relocating to be close to Alice and support her? Ah, the dramas of an Italian mum and dad! 

Anyway, invitations to the GCSE guided choices evening had been gratefully received and calendars dutifully marked. Nothing could stop US from being there early and take the necessary time to explore ALL of Alice’s interests.

While Alice was taking taster sessions in school and trying to find out if she really liked what she thought she would like, we (read the royal “We”) started doing the groundwork by searching the Internet for information.

First stop, Alice’s school website. Here we found a whole section solely dedicated to GCSE options with lovely short videos made by the teachers to explain what each course entailed, what the assessment would look like, and which would be the target students for said course. There was also a booklet with all the information, to be perused at one’s own leisure. Very interesting bedtime reading… I found the videos very informative and a great way for me, as a parent coming from a different education system, to discover more about the curriculum and to start forming an idea of which subjects would most suit Alice (or maybe which subject I wished suited Alice...).

The website and the booklet explained clearly which were the core subjects, the extended core, and the other options, and how to combine all these. It also stressed the importance for the students to take their decisions according to their personal interests, skills and future career ambitions rather than being in class with their friends.

Once I found out which were the exam boards for each subject, I quickly examined some past papers to find out what they looked like and to judge which options Alice might enjoy the most. I had no clue.

I then searched BBC Bitesize to see how the GCSE section was organised and discovered that contents had been divided according to exam boards, offering for each of them different topics or perspectives. I thought this would be a good starting point because students could look at the content of other boards as well and gain more information, potentially…

Before the big event, we had virtual parents evening, where in 5-minute slots I was given as much information as possible about my daughter’s achievement and progress. All teachers told me that Alice had an outstanding attitude for learning and that she was always engaged and participative in class and, most importantly, very polite and well behaved. This was a very proud-mummy moment. 😊 Many of them hoped that Alice would take their subject, which meant that she had lots of options (great!), but this didn’t make the process any easier (umpf!).  

On the GCSE options evening, I left home with a very nervous Alice. She was worried that we might not have enough time to visit all the subjects that she was interested in (Spanish, History, Dance, Drama, Food Tech, Graphics, Photography, and all the mandatory ones). She was also concerned about the exam requirements for each subject, because she doesn’t enjoy tests one bit… can’t really blame her!

On a chilly and clear spring evening, we got to school before the event started and attended the Deputy Head Teacher’s opening speech. It was a very clear presentation, addressed to the students. It was explained to them that, besides the mandatory GCSEs (English Language, English Literature, Maths, Sciences, and RS*), one subject among History, Geography or MFL was to be picked as extended core. There were two more options to be taken from the extended core and/or all the other subjects offered by the school. Heritage Language GCSEs through the EMTAS service were also encouraged. We were very grateful for this opportunity because it would help Alice keep her home language up to the mark and have her skills recognised.

After the speech, we set on our discovery journey, going from room to room to find out about the different subjects. Many teachers had gone through the effort of creating very captivating and informative displays and were providing detailed information about the curriculum and the exam, as well as answering the questions from apprehensive parents (present!) and undecided students.
I soon realised that we were being submerged by loads of information, but none was helping Alice to take any decision. All subjects seemed very appealing so I changed strategy and started asking all teachers just two questions: 1. Why would their subject be a good choice? and 2. Why, of all the children in their year, should Alice take it?

Some teachers stressed the academic appeal of their subjects, others praised Alice’s attitude and abilities, but the selling point for her was being very capable and competent in a subject. This was such a confidence booster for her! Another very good selling point for her was the (limited) amount of writing that the subject required.😉

By the end of the evening, we came home with some clearer ideas, but still with a lot of question marks. We decided to leave any decisions to the Easter holidays, as we would have more time to consider and discuss each individual subject. During the school break we sat at a table, with Dad as well, and we discussed pros and cons of each subject. Only five made it to the next round: Spanish, History, Dance, Drama and Food Tech.

For Alice, Spanish was non-negotiable, and this was her extended core subject. She had to pick two more, and would have picked Dance and Drama, which would have helped with her career as “Famous Hollywood Actress” (reach for the stars, girl!), but Dad had different ideas. The pragmatism of the engineer, and the insider knowledge of university selection criteria, made him push for a more academic subject that would unlock other doors, should the long and winding road to Hollywood lose its sparkle.

It took a lot of persuasion, and the promise to pay for a performing arts academy, to get Alice to choose History over Drama. Her decision taken, we filled in the form – which actually included two back-up options, Drama and Food Tech – and hit the “Send” button.

When I questioned Alice about the whole process and whether she had enjoyed it, it came out that she had mixed feelings: she enjoyed the taster sessions in school because they cleared some doubts; she felt the pressure of having to choose and would have welcome more tailored guidance from the school; and she rejoiced when we sent the form because she didn’t have to worry about it anymore and could get back to her normal activities. Everything was in the school’s hands now, and Alice was confident that they would have at heart her best interest when confirming the options.

From my perspective, I was left wondering why schools handle GCSE options in different ways? Surely the expectation was that all children came out of school with the same amount of knowledge and the same mandatory subjects, right? Why did some schools take options in Year 8 and others in Year 9? Once you filled in the form, were your options set in stone?

The only thing left to do now was sit and wait, which required a lot of patience and poor Alice had not realised that I would be asking her every day “Have your options been confirmed yet?”.
PS: We are in a very lucky position because, despite the education experience in the UK being new to us, our understanding of the English language is good. But not all families are in the same position, in particular the ones that have recently moved to the UK. Here are some ideas that might help make their sailing through secondary school smoother:

- check whether or not parents require an interpreter to discuss their child's progress at parent evenings

- translate invitation letters using translation tools (eg see Review tab in Word) and follow up by a text message. Consider also using the EMTAS language phonelines

- talk about processes for GCSE options in clear terms. Avoid acronyms and write down important points for families to take home

- ensure your website includes a facility for parents to translate information in their own language. Demonstrate how this works

- have tablets available at options evenings and offer the use of Google Lens for parents to access information on displays

- provide information about Heritage Language GCSEs. Source past papers and add these to the Languages Department's display

- Have KS4 Young Interpreters available to welcome parents at options evenings, give tours and talk about their subjects - not to discuss other pupils' progress

- Use the Immersive Reader and Read Aloud facility on websites such as BBC Bitesize to translate and listen to content relating to GCSE options in parents' languages. Videos hosted on YouTube can also be subtitled in different languages.

*Alice does not enjoy RS, she would rather not go to school when she has that lesson. In advance of the GCSE guided choices, I tried to sweet talk the school to make the subject optional, but I was not persuasive enough.

[ Modified: Monday, 19 June 2023, 9:20 AM ]