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:
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/
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.
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
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.
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.
Relationships education became statutory for primary school
children in 2020, creating a need for Traveller-specific approaches in order
that children from our Traveller communities are able to access and engage with
this area of learning. EMTAS Specialist
Teacher Advisors Helen Smith and Claire Barker have therefore developed two
books which cover the relationship curriculum in line with Gypsy, Traveller,
Roma, Showmen and Boater (GTRSB) cultural sensitivities. With advice and
support from members of these communities, ‘How We Keep Ourselves Safe
(Jesse’s Story)’ and ‘How We Keep Ourselves Safe (Mary-Kate’s Story)’ will
soon be available to schools. The books follow Jesse and Mary-Kate as
they learn how to keep themselves safe as they grow up within their community
and online. The books will be launched at the EMTAS conference on October 12th
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
Stay up to date with EMTAS news – sign up for the bulletin.
By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors
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.
also seen a rise in the number of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) referred
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
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.
Most excitingly Claire and Helen have now completed the RSE
book How We Keep Ourselves Safe and it is very nearly ready to be sent
to the printer. We are hoping to be able to launch the book at our conference
in October. See
our blog for a preview.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors Claire Barker and Helen Smith
In this video, Helen Smith and Claire Barker pre-launch a brand new Hampshire EMTAS resource which aims to support the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) to pupils who are Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters (GTRSB).
Please contact Hampshire EMTAS to find out more about this brand new audio-enabled e-book.
By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Kate Grant
In this blog, Kate Grant interviews Albanian born Persona Doll Avdi. She asks how practitioners can work with EMTAS Persona Dolls to engage young learners with topics such as diversity, culture and stereotypes.
The Persona Dolls approach affords children an engaging, enjoyable and interactive safe space where they can address challenging issues, share their lived experiences and have their voices heard and valued. It helps our youngest learners to develop their emotional literacy and empowers children to use their voice. The approach is designed to facilitate dialogue around bias and stereotypes which so many of our youngest learners will have already encountered.
If you have used EMTAS Persona Dolls previously you will have noticed that they have been taking a well-deserved rest. After all, it’s not easy visiting lots of schools and making friends all over the county - just ask Avdi! Whilst the dolls have been relaxing, Kate has been working behind the scenes on making the use of EMTAS Persona Dolls in school more accessible, relevant and most of all fun. So without further ado please welcome Avdi to tell us more…
Avdi: Përshëndetje (hello) everyone, my name is Avdi and I am from Albania. Kate has asked me to share with you how working with Persona Dolls can help support your youngest learners in school. This is the perfect topic for me to talk about as I have been a Persona Doll my whole life!
Kate: What do you like about being a Persona Doll?
Avdi: One of the main things I love about being a Persona Doll is that I get to travel around the county, meeting lots of children and learning about different schools. I am always amazed by how warmly the children welcome me into their classroom - they sometimes even give me a school uniform to wear. But most of all, I love hearing the brilliant things children say when I go to visit their school and it often surprises their teachers too as we delve into conversations about issues they might not ordinarily get to discuss such as discrimination and inequality. Big topics for our youngest minds.
Kate: How do you support the children?
Avdi: I find that the children see me as being just like
them. This helps create a safe environment where they are happy to share and
talk about aspects of life they may not normally get to discuss. I think of it as providing children with a
window into someone else’s life, but they often find aspects that mirror their
own too. That’s what life is all about, learning
about yourself and others and embracing the similarities as well as the
Kate: How will teachers find time to use Persona Dolls?
Avdi: We work within the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1/2 curriculum, so we are not an add-on. In fact we’re a different approach to teaching Personal, Social, Emotional Development, Knowledge and Understanding of The World and Relationships and Sex Education. Kate has linked all the relevant parts of the curriculum with our guidance documents so that teachers can see the objectives they can cover whilst working with us. For example you will see we provide an authentic way to approach the People, Culture and Communities element of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum  and the Respectful Relationships aspect of the Key Stage 1/2 curriculum .
Kate: What happens when you visit schools?
Avdi: I normally visit once a week for a half term. When I first go into a school, I explain that I am feeling a bit nervous about being somewhere new with people I don’t know yet, and the children discuss how they could help make me feel more comfortable. It’s lovely to hear how kind the children are and accepting of new people - I wish people were always like this. The next week when I return, I am more confident so I let their teacher share a PowerPoint I have made to tell them a bit more about myself, my home, my language and my interests. The children always want to tell me about themselves too and we find similarities and differences with each other.
By week 3 I am really enjoying being with my new group of friends and I share that something has been worrying me. For example, another child has been unkind to me because my hair is different to theirs. The teacher helps me talk to the children and they respond with so much empathy. A lot of the time, the children tell me they have experienced similar things and we talk about what helped them eg speaking to an adult at school. My new friends always give me good advice, so I go away and try some of their ideas. When I return for my final visit, I feel so much better because they supported me. I explain that I must return to my school again and might not see them, but we will still be friends. I like to surprise them with an e-postcard after my final visit. This shows I am still thinking of them and gives me an opportunity to ask them to write to me about our time together.
Kate: What is different about the way EMTAS Persona Dolls work now?
Avdi: Kate is working on making everything available online because we know how busy teachers are and we want everything to be readily accessible in the moment. Once everything is ready to go, it will all be uploaded to our Moodle where you will find the guidance documents, a list of all our Persona Dolls, suggestions for what to do during each visit and some social stories for teachers.
When I visit your school I will have a lanyard with a QR code so that teachers can find what they need instantly. When teachers share the Persona Doll’s PowerPoint it will contain video links to find out more about the culture and language(s) of the doll’s country of origin together with traditional dances and nursery rhymes in first language.
Kate: Is there anything else you want to tell everyone?
Avdi: Just that I am really excited to get back into schools and to meet lots of new friends. Oh, and if any schools would like to pilot our revamped way of working please email Kate at email@example.com.
 Explain some similarities and differences between life in this country and life in other countries
 The importance of respecting others, even when they are very different from them (for example, physically, in character, personality or backgrounds), or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs.
By Hampshire EMTAS Team Leader Sarah Coles and Astrid Dinneen, EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor for schools in Basingstoke & Deane
With the increase in numbers of children joining our schools from overseas with very little English, practitioners in schools are asking how best to proceed. Should they first focus on teaching the children English or is there another approach?
EAL best practice tells us that the best thing to do for such children is to include them in the full mainstream curriculum being delivered in schools via the medium of English. This can be scaffolded in various ways. The children should not be withdrawn to be taught English separately or as a prerequisite to being allowed to join their peers in regular lessons. But this immersion approach can seem an alarming response; surely the children will not be able to understand anything and will flounder and fail, people may think. So instead some opt for an ‘English first’ approach. They buy in an online English teaching app or print off worksheets for the children to learn the days of the week and the colours in English whilst their peers are learning about how plants grow or the story of The Titanic or Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
The problem with the English first approach is that far from helping, it actually slows down the children’s progress in their acquisition of English, as well as making it harder for them to feel welcomed and included in the life of their new school. Plus it adds to teachers’ workloads; now they are having to source materials for an entirely separate curriculum as well as plan for the rest of their class.
To illustrate this in more detail, consider these two
approaches for the same newly arrived child whom we shall call Hatice*. Assume Hatice
is new to English (Bell Foundation EAL Assessment Framework Band A, to those in
the know) and literate in Turkish.
Scenario 1: English first
The teacher decides to plan separate provision for Hatice, because they feel their mainstream English lesson is too challenging for Hatice’s level of English. So whilst the other children are preparing to write a letter persuading their Head Teacher to shift the start of the school day back by an hour so they start at 10.00 instead of at 9.00, Hatice will sit on her own and work through some sheets that focus on learning the English words for some colours and common classroom objects. In one example below Hatice is required to draw and colour the correct classroom object in the empty box.
It is a…
Fortunately, Hatice is compliant, meaning the teacher can get on with teaching the rest of the class. Hatice spends the whole morning working on these worksheets on her own. She doesn’t disrupt anyone but the teacher notices that she regularly has her head down on the desk and appears to be dozing.
At the end of a couple of weeks at school, Hatice is still very much on the periphery of things in the classroom and needs frequent reminding when she is included in instructions given by the teacher, for example when it’s time to get ready for PE or line up to go to assembly. She spends long periods of time gazing out of the window and generally seems to lack motivation and enthusiasm for anything other than home time.
There has also been a deterioration in her output and she
now very rarely completes the worksheets she is given. Where she has had a go with
tasks that require writing, her handwriting is much less tidy and it seems she is
taking increasingly less care over her work.
With regards to friendships, it seems to be still very early days and Hatice has not formed any strong relationships with her peers. She continues to spend most of her time at break and lunch times on her own.
Her teacher reflects on practice and provision so far. It has
taken a lot of time planning, resourcing and marking the worksheets for Hatice,
yet she does not seem to be making progress. He is not sure what else to do but
feels this is not a sustainable approach in the long term. He is interested in
finding out about alternatives…
Scenario 2: immersion using EAL-friendly strategies
Hatice’s teacher plans to include her in the lesson along with everyone else from the get-go. First off, before the series of lessons begins, the teacher sends Hatice home with a list of words in English to be translated into Turkish with the help of parents. He asks them to talk to Hatice about the concept of ‘persuasion’; what does the word itself mean and in what in real life scenarios might we use persuasion to get the outcome we desire? The teacher recommends the family use a translation tool like Google Translate to help them to do this:
Persuade (someone to do something)
The words the teacher chooses for this are drawn from a model letter which will be used in the lesson the following day. The teacher chooses to write the model himself to incorporate the language of persuasion, different persuasive techniques and ideas already suggested by the children themselves. At other times, he might have used ChatGPT to generate a model in no time.
Before the lesson starts, Hatice’s teacher considers his
seating plan and decides to place her next to two articulate speakers of
English to form a talking trio. He hopes
this will help alleviate any pressure to speak before she feels confident to do
so while still exposing her to good language role-models. Her buddies are very chatty and supportive
and are sure to create lots of listening opportunities for Hatice.