Anyone in the world
In Diary of an EAL Mum, Eva Molea shares the ups and downs of her experience bringing up her daughter, Alice, in the UK. In the latest instalment, at the end of Lockdown 3, Eva reflects on Alice’s first 6 months in secondary school.
Last time I delighted you - my affectionate readers - with my comments on Alice’s education, we had just started Year 7 and barely managed to get through all the set-up steps needed for Alice to be a well-functioning secondary school student. Let’s recap some key points:
hunt: by the end of September, we had all the right bits and pieces, and Alice
was a pro at doing her tie. We had seen some additions to the full array, like the embroidered
cardi (that Alice had never worn because it was too uncomfortable under the school blazer),
a V neck navy sleeveless jumper (that Alice had worn only once because she was afraid of being
laughed at by other children) and different styles of hats, scarves and gloves
to brave the morning chill. Obviously, during lockdown, she had a growth spurt,
so we have been on a trousers-hunt again. On most websites, her size was sold
out, but I managed to get a pair from the school second-hand uniform shop. That
is a good starting point to get spares or items needed for a short time (and
short it will be this time, as Easter holidays are just a few days away), and
it supports the school finances!
September, I had drunk many cups of tea to get all my apps up and running, and
I am proud to say that I was on top of everything. Since the beginning of
Lockdown 3, camomile has become a permanent fixture in our cupboard. More than
once we had issues with logging on to the learning platform or getting into the Zoom
lessons. Nothing that a bit (= a lot) of perseverance and a phone call to the school could not
fix. The school has been very understanding, and the Reception Ladies should
get a bonus for their unlimited patience. When things were getting too slow for
the three of us to be able to work at home, my husband agreed on a WiFi upgrade
(the broadband market offers many solutions, it only requires a little time to
look at them), which helped a lot. To ease the traffic on the band, sometimes I
still had to tether from my mobile phone or, even better, stop working for a
couple of hours and read a book instead. Which was a treat! (One of the
advantages of working part-time!)
Besides the normal challenges that any newbie secondary school
children would have faced, lockdown has put some more hurdles on our path. But
every cloud has a silver lining and there are some positive outcomes as well. I
have asked Alice to give her views on a few points:
Alice: During lockdown, having my own laptop has been great because we
all needed a device to work on. The WiFi has been a bit up and down, but since
the upgrade we have been fine. I have learnt how to use different conferencing
software, like Zoom, and have improved my presentation skills with PowerPoint.
Now I know how to scan and print from my phone or laptop and I have found some
nice apps that allow me to draw on my tablet.
Eva: Alice has become very independent with the use of technology, and this
is a life skill that will always be handy. Devices have eventually evolved from portable TVs to
multipurpose objects: from attending her lessons to dancing, and from chatting with
her bunch of friends to online gaming. Alice has improved her ability to use
the online bilingual dictionary and thesaurus (we use wordreference.com, which
comes also as an app), to research online and to check reliable websites (we
have used many of the free resources for distance learning available on the EMTAS moodle). We have discussed online safety and
I have reviewed my parental controls on all her devices. Without being too
intrusive, I have regularly asked her what she is doing online and who she is
playing with. So far, everything seems to be under control. In case you need
guidance, here is the EMTAS booklet on safeguarding available in different languages.
Alice: Before lockdown, the amount of homework was just right, but
sometimes I struggled to find it because it was not always listed on the
homework platform. During lockdown, we have had hardly any homework, apart from
Science, which was always posted there. I enjoy doing projects, like the
maracas I made for Mum in D&T. I find it easier to complete homework which can
be printed out and done on paper or which involves some creativity.
Eva: Homework is still a mystery to me. Coming from a different schooling
system, I expected that from Year 7 students would consistently get homework
for every subject, but I have not seen this happen yet, especially during
lockdown. When it is time for
the daily homework, my life – and I am sure I can speak for most parents
– would become much easier if all homework were to be consistently listed on
the homework platform, and that no homework was marked optional as this label
usually leads to useless arguments always ending with a grumpy child.
Alice: Probably, we have had a lot of screen time, especially during self-isolation
and lockdown, but our generation spends a lot of time in front of a screen
Eva: To be honest, during lockdown I found it very hard to get the right
balance of screen time, especially when everything was taking place online.
Looking at the parental controls, we have noticed that some weeks Alice has
been on her laptop for over 40 hours (more than a full-time employee), which
included schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, chatting with friends and
watching movies. In these peculiar times, as long as she respected the rules
that we had given her, it was fine by me – but a bit less by my husband, who
would send me to the front to fight the perennial battle on screen time. Why do
I always have to play the mean one?
Alice: At school I really enjoy playing sports with my friends. I had started
to play netball as an after-school club, which I really liked as it is a team
sport. During lockdown, I attended my PE lessons on Zoom and have been out walking
with Mum when I had to, but I did not enjoy one bit the remote PE classes because
I missed the happy atmosphere of the school and being with my friends. Not
having to get up at 6.30am was great, and I got to sleep one more hour every
Eva: The words “physical activity” made Alice feel sick. I literally had to
drag her (and my husband) out of the house. I even offered to pay her for every
time she went for a walk. She is none the richer... Fortunately, the school
changed the plan for PE, so one class was on Zoom and one was to be any outdoor
activity that could be recorded on the school’s private Strava profile. They
even awarded house points for every km done, and family members’ kms counted
towards the house points too. Alice considered suggesting that I took her phone
out for a walk, so that she could get the points, but thought better of it :D
Alice: In the last three months, I have had some ups and downs. I felt very
lonely and sometimes demotivated to do anything. But I am very happy to get
back to school. I believe I have grown up a little during lockdown and become
more responsible. My worries have grown too. Normally, despite the amount of
revision I do, school tests make me very anxious, and this happened even during
lockdown. Now, I worry also about how other people might see me. Spending break
times with my Mum, as well as having lunch together also with Dad, has helped make
me feel less lonely. Mum even did some PE lessons online with me. During
morning breaks we played games, as well as drawing, dancing, and having a
snack. Food has been a highlight in our house during lockdown. We have been
experimenting a lot in the kitchen.
Eva: Lockdown 1 and 3 have probably been the most surreal times in the life of
most people, mine too. But they have also given me the luxury to spend so much
time with Alice, that normal life would have never allowed for. We played many
different games, some language based like Taboo, as well as digging out our art
box and giving different
things a go. I bought Alice several information books, covering mental
health for teenagers, politics and philosophy for beginners (all published by
Usborne), to stimulate her to read information books as well as fiction, and we
discussed things in Italian, so she has acquired a lot of new vocabulary. I
always praise her for her amazing abilities in both languages and have noticed
that this makes her feel proud of herself. The important thing for me was to
make sure she knew I was there for her. We have had a lot of small chunks of
quality time together, and a solid routine, which gave Alice consistency
Alice: Lockdown has had some good effects too. My table manners have gone back almost
to Mum’s high standards, which is nice. Mum has given all the family the
challenge to be able to speak some Spanish by December 2021, so we are all
learning a new language on Duolingo. I have improved my cooking and baking
skills and am much more confident in the kitchen. On weekends, I prepare coffee
with the moka (traditional Italian way of making it) for my Dad and he says it
tastes good. I have learnt how to sew buttons and mend small tears. I have
attempted knitting, not very successfully yet. And, I have started my pointe
classes, and I love them.
Eva: Never a dull moment in our house, there is always some crafts going on.
Lately, Alice’s passion is making plated bracelets, so we have bits of
colourful wool everywhere. With Alice learning Spanish at school, to encourage
her language skills, I set a challenge for all the family using an app.
Needless to say, constant encouragement and reminding are needed… We have made
sourdough, so Alice has been cooking and baking, following traditional Italian
recipes. It is a miracle we have not become more large than tall…
back to school in Covid 19 times:
Alice: Coronavirus worries me quite a lot, but I am confident that the school
will do everything they can to protect us. We need to follow the rules so we
will not have to stay at home again for another lockdown. It has been explained to me how the testing
works and it does not worry me much, even if it is disgusting. I am only afraid
I might go too deep in my throat with the swab when doing it on my own, as when
I had to take the Covid 19 tests, Mum or Dad did it for me.
Eva: Since the beginning of the school in September, we have experienced
self-isolation because of Alice being a close contact of a friend who tested
positive and also during
lockdown 3, because I tested positive. The fact that we both had very mild
symptoms has lifted some of her worries about the effects of the virus. We
found it beneficial to stop listening to the news 24/7 because this was
worrying her unnecessarily. We made sure that, at all times, we were compliant
with the Government guidance, we explained to Alice what she could do (e.g. see one friend outdoor for some exercise) and what she should do (hand, face,
space), provided her with all the necessary items (masks, hand gel, tissues, antibacterial
wipes) anytime she went out and crossed our fingers that everything would be
In a couple of days, Alice will be back at school (she has already packed
her bag and prepared her uniform), I will be back at work (I have packed my bag
ready for my first school, including my badge) and my husband (who has helped
pack both our bags) will enjoy himself, being the undisturbed king of the
house. But only for a few hours...
[ Modified: Friday, 26 March 2021, 2:39 PM ]
Anyone in the world
UASC may arrive at any point in the academic year, typically into the end of Key Stage 3 or into Key Stage 4. They have often experienced a difficult journey to the UK and they may face an uncertain future. What can Hampshire EMTAS offer by way of support for these young people? In this blog, Sarah Coles, Hampshire EMTAS Consultant, explores this question.
UASC present schools with a challenge when it comes to provision in that many will have gaps in their schooling with some having had no prior experience of formal education. In recent years, Hampshire schools have welcomed some UASC who have previously worked as sheep farmers in very rural settings and who have never attended school before; others have come with a more recognisable educational history though there may still be gaps in their knowledge of the different curriculum subjects studied in UK secondary schools. In most cases, an immediate issue schools need to address relates to the young person’s levels of proficiency in English.
As with other international arrivals, EMTAS undertakes Profiling for all UASC referred, either through the SLA (for maintained schools and subscribing Academies) or through sold services. Due to the complex and highly individual nature of each case referred, the profiling work is led by a Specialist Teacher Advisor working with a Bilingual Assistant or Interpreter. Recently, due to Covid restrictions, some EMTAS Profiling work has moved online and has been carried out using MS Teams. This article captures elements of the UASC profiling experience from the point of view of an EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor.
The young person in question I shall call Rebin, which means ‘path-finder’ (it’s not his real name). He arrived in the UK in the summer of 2020 from rural Iran -where he had in fact worked with his father on the family sheep farm - via Italy and then a refugee camp in France. Right in the middle of the lockdown. He had no papers – which is not unusual for UASC – and so an age assessment was carried out which placed him in Year 10 – though right at the end of Year 10 with only a few weeks to go before the summer holiday.
Rebin’s first language was identified as Kurdish Sorani. As part of Profiling, a first language assessment is always done in order to determine how the young person can use their first language to support their access to the curriculum. Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing are all included in this assessment. For Rebin, an Interpreter was used to support the assessment, which was all done using MS Teams with Rebin supported at home to engage with the process by his foster carer. It was found that Rebin could understand and speak Kurdish Sorani fairly well though because he’d not been schooled in Iran, his first language speaking and listening skills were very much about social interactions with others and not so much about academic learning.
Rebin explained that whilst he had not attended school, his mother had taught him some reading and writing at home. When this was explored, it was found that Rebin could communicate meaning in writing in Kurdish Sorani but at a fairly basic level and he did not have a well developed academic register. Another thing to note about Kurdish Sorani is that it’s written from right to left, which can present the learner with a directional difference to contend with when they start writing in English.
Rebin’s reading in Kurdish Sorani was halting and he found it difficult to access much beyond basic, simple sentences. This meant that for Rebin, providing written translations of curriculum materials would be of limited use.
Pre-Covid, the best place for a child like Rebin to begin to make new friends and learn English is at school with other pupils of a similar age. Peer mentors would be asked to help induct the new arrival, help them find their way around and make sure they are not on their own during break times. They might also accompany the new arrival to clubs and activities – Rebin was very keen on playing football, which normally would give him access to a group of peers who shared that interest.
Rebin's writing in English and Kurdish Sorani
An assessment of Rebin’s English showed that he knew a few words and phrases, enough to say ‘hello’, that he could read some very simple words, performing better where these were supported by visual cues. He could also write a few letters of the alphabet but by no means enough to communicate in writing in English; for practical purposes he would be classed as ‘new-to-English’ and he would need to be taught the basics of reading and writing for sure, most likely in withdrawal sessions as these are not things you can just pick up.
With regards access to a broad and balanced curriculum, Rebin shares the same entitlement as other students and should be given access to a range of subjects, including Maths and English. Immersion in the new language gives a student like Rebin diverse examples of contextualised language use and, after an initial settling-in period when it all sounds like a jumble of noise, he will begin to hear where sentences end, he’ll notice words and phrases being repeated and he’ll start to make sense of what he’s hearing. Once that has happened, he will begin to be able to respond to what’s said to him, gradually building up from single words to short phrases to sentences. In about two years’ time, Rebin will be able to hold a pretty fluent conversation in English, though it will take significantly longer for him to be able to write for academic purposes across a range of subjects.
Rebin will need support, and the best way of supporting him will be for subject teachers to sit him with peers of similar underlying cognitive ability and to let him follow their lead, whilst making full use of visuals when delivering content. Translation apps may have a place also – what is needed for a student like Rebin is one where there’s an audio component so he can listen to new words in English and first language, not just see a written translation. However, given what we know about Rebin’s educational history, translation apps will clearly not offer a panacea.
Thinking forward, Rebin will very soon need to be planning his post-16 pathway. During the initial profiling, he was asked about his work on the family sheep farm, in case he had liked it and an option to study animal care at a place like Sparsholt was viable. Rebin, however, said he wasn’t interested in this but didn’t really know what other options might be available. To address this issues, School could usefully plan in opportunities for Rebin to shadow/talk to students who are currently following the courses he might like to think about for himself. School could further facilitate with interpreter-supported discussions at his PEP meetings where the options can be set out for him, his views can be sought and he can ask any questions he may have.
Of course, all the while Rebin plays catch-up with his education, he is still recovering from his experiences of being trafficked to the UK, from his separation from his family and from uncertainties about his future – whether or not he will eventually be granted indefinite leave to remain. If all goes well, Rebin could, in spite of all the attendant challenges he faces, be successful in forging a new life for himself in the UK, and staff in schools have a key role to play in supporting him to work towards that end.
For advice and guidance on meeting the needs of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children, see the EMTAS website.
[ Modified: Tuesday, 9 March 2021, 2:23 PM ]
Anyone in the world
In this letter to her new born daughter, native speaker of French and Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Astrid Dinneen reflects on her first steps as a parent raising her baby bilingually.
Ma chère Elise,
Did you notice the different patterns and music of the languages spoken at home when you were still tucked into my tummy? Perhaps you recognised they were from different classes of language a couple of days after you were born. You see, your daddy speaks to you in English and I mostly speak to you in French, switching to English or a mixture of French and English when your daddy is within earshot in order to include him in our chitchat.
Long before you were born we always knew we would raise you bilingually – not quite strictly using the ‘one parent, one language’ (OPOL) approach where I would solely use French and your father English when around you. This method simply wouldn’t suit our family unit where - so far - I’m the only speaker of French and where English is the only language that everyone has in common. Instead we’ll use our own flexible approach where you’ll see me dip in and out of French and English and perform a lot of translanguaging.
Mixing languages didn’t use to be recommended as it was understood it confused children however advice is changing around this practice which is pretty common in multilingual households. So, rather than being brought up by two seemingly monolingual parents, you will grow up witnessing bilingualism in action in a dynamic, dual language environment where either French, English or sometimes a mixture of both will be spoken, read and written depending on context and audience – something I hope will help model how you too can use the whole repertoire both your languages have to offer.
This is all nice and well however you should know I suffer from a mild case of language attrition. You see, when you’ve lived in a country other than your own for as long as I have and speaking your first language only occasionally you become a little rusty – the words fail to roll off your tongue, you stumble and you fall mid sentence in a mess of grammatical approximations and incomplete idioms. This isn’t helped by the fact there is no cohesive local French speaking community that I know of hence the opportunities to regularly chat with compatriots are somewhat lacking, especially during a pandemic when even your French family is unable to travel and see us. This is definitely a concern when you think about how much input in French you’ll need to even have a chance to acquire it. But what a beautiful opportunity you’ve given me – the chance to reconnect with a language, identity and culture I am determined to pass on to you.
Talking to you in French all the time offers me much needed practice and reassuringly the words eventually come to me naturally even though false friends occasionally trip me up in my sleep deprived state. For example, the term bib in English is very close to the French word for baby bottle (biberon or bibi for short) hence why you often hear me use these words interchangeably! I’m sure you’ll soon join your daddy in making fun of my slipups but these will make superb opportunities for unpicking quirks and comparing our languages – a process which will soon become familiar to you as your metalinguistic awareness develops (that’s grownup for your awareness of how languages work).
Singing to you in French is a lot of fun and is great for repetition, rhyme and rhythm and you particularly love my rendition of Alouette. I’m rediscovering long forgotten songs and nursery rhymes. I’m discovering new ones too including translations of popular English classics such as The wheels on the bus. Interestingly, in French, the mums on the bus don’t chat, they say chut (shush) straight after the line where the babies cry. Can you guess why the translator made this choice? Have you also noticed how the body parts in Heads, shoulders, knees and toes are in a different order in French so it still rhymes? I’m sure translation will soon become another subject of conversation in our home and you’ll soon discover the skilful way we sometimes have to manipulate language and adapt text to suit our purposes (the metalinguistic awareness I’ve already mentioned will help you do just that).
Practitioners in pre school and school settings may consider you as EAL when they eventually get to work with you. This is such a big umbrella term however and children with EAL have varying experiences which lie on a wide spectrum. You will definitely receive a language diet that is different from your peers raised only in English. However, your exposure to French won’t be comparable to that of children born in an exclusively French speaking household either as their input in French will naturally be greater than yours. You will no doubt sit somewhere in the middle with skills and qualities developed through your exposure to two identities, ways of thinking and speaking.
Will you have a preferred language when interacting with us at home or outside the house? Will this change when you start school? Will you tap into both languages to express yourself in the same utterance? Will you be happy to use French in front of non French speakers? Will you enjoy talking about how our languages work? Will translation interest you? Your development of language will be truly unique and one no one can really predict. One thing is for sure though – it’s how grateful I am ma chère Elise for putting French back into my life in addition to being the best thing that’s happened in 2020.
NB: Astrid is still on maternity leave.
words – Netflix, April 2020
What is translanguaging? – EAL Journal https://ealjournal.org/2016/07/26/what-is-translanguaging/amp/
How to plan for a bilingual baby? [English edition] – Kletsheads, a podcast with Eowyn Crisfield https://kletsheadspodcast.nl/2020/06/30/how-to-plan-for-a-bilingual-baby-english-edition/
Advice for parents and carers in our guidance library https://emtas.hias.hants.gov.uk/course/view.php?id=64
[ Modified: Monday, 22 February 2021, 4:27 PM ]
Anyone in the world
In this blog, Claire Barker, Operational Lead of the Hampshire EMTAS Traveller team, provides an update on the work of the team and gives an insight into future projects.
Hampshire EMTAS includes a very active
Traveller team who work closely with schools to support staff with cultural
awareness of our GRT communities, to help improve attendance and to engage with
GRT pupils about their attainment and aspirations for the future.
In the past, the team has worked in a similar way to our Bilingual Assistants, offering a number of fixed sessions of academic support for every GRT child referred to us. Over the last year as part of a regrouping exercise, we have evaluated the purpose of our work and reviewed the impact it has had. We all agreed the children enjoyed support sessions but once we finished, the children did not have face to face support from us again. This meant that the impact was short-lived. Unlike children who are new arrivals to the country and struggling with English, our GRT children do not experience a language barrier and can therefore be supported academically by the school day-to-day. We looked at issues around GRT children and their learning and found that the key recurring barriers to their progress and attainment are: poor attendance, lack of literacy and slower rates of progression in general. None of these issues can be alleviated by a fixed number of support sessions delivered across half a term.
The crux of working with the GRT communities is trust and we all agreed that this needs to be built up over time, working with the children and getting to know their families. As a team, we want to work with schools to look at their GRT cohorts and work out how to accommodate small mentoring groups that will be visited at least three times a year. On each visit, a member of the team will work with the children on literacy, attendance and attainment. This will be linked to the school participating in our GRT and Showman Literacy Ambassador programme. This programme is being further expanded to include an interschool GRT and Showman Book Club; this is still in its infancy so watch this space.
If you are interested in the GRT children
in your school being part of our mentoring scheme and you are a Hampshire
school, for more information please contact Hampshire EMTAS: EMTAS@hants.gov.uk
An important part of our journey moving forward is raising the cultural awareness of both staff in schools and agencies who work with our GRT communities. We do this in a variety of ways: we have a termly network meeting held on TEAMS where teachers and other professionals can come together to discuss good practice for GRT children within schools and learn about any new ideas and projects. We are also hoping to hold three GRT Roadshows to showcase good practice across the county. These will be in Basingstoke, Winchester and the New Forest in October 2021 and we will send out details in due course.
We also hold Cross Border meetings with
professionals from outside Hampshire with an interest in GRT communities and
education. These meetings are held on
TEAMS and if you would like to take part please contact Lizzie Jenner to be
invited: email@example.com Our next meeting on 1st March is
focusing on aspirations and aiming higher with presentations from Darlington
EMTAS and the University of Sussex.
Hampshire EMTAS is keen to raise aspirations in our GRT children from an early age and we believe our new way of working through mentoring should help this. We have coupled this with the introduction of Kushti Careers. This is a suite of short videos by people who are currently from Romany Gypsy communities, who share their stories of how they valued their education and where it has led them in their lives today. We hope to add others from the Showmen community, Irish Travelling community and Roma. The idea is to share it in schools to show that there doesn’t have to be barriers to education because of culture and background.
We hope to have one of the presenters of a Kushti Careers video delivering a keynote speech at the EMTAS Conference on 9th July 2021. Please make a note of this date in your diary. It promises to be a great day, focusing on best practice for EAL and GRT children in education.
These are exciting times for the Traveller Team moving everything forward, preparing to return to schools and encouraging our GRT families to come on the journey with us so that their children’s futures are aspirational and show how, in the 21st century, our GRT communities are benefitting from expanded horizons and opportunities.
[ Modified: Tuesday, 2 February 2021, 2:27 PM ]
Anyone in the world
Regular readers may recall from the Hampshire EMTAS blog a series of journal style articles documenting Sarah Coles’ PhD research into the language learning experiences of UK-born bilingual children. Now in the third year of her part-time studies at the University of Reading, Sarah has carried out some piloting of key data gathering instruments and is now focusing on recruitment for the data collection stage proper. In this blog she reflects on what was gained from the pilot phase of her PhD research.
I write this two weeks into the third national lockdown with mixed feelings about how the pandemic will impact on my research. Since the last time I wrote about my PhD studies back in 2019, I have kept myself busy reading and writing for my Literature Review and Methods chapters, completing two compulsory research methods modules run by the University, one on qualitative and the other on quantitative methods, and piloting the use of both visual methods and the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN) with a small group of Nepali-speaking children who attend schools in Rushmoor.
I had just finished the pilot phase when the first lockdown happened. It very quickly took over everything as most children stopped attending school, staff started grappling with the many challenges brought by a shift towards remote learning and we were all prompted to wonder if we should be wearing masks, stocking up on tinned tomatoes or taking day trips to Barnard Castle.
But much as I dislike how my glasses keep misting up when I put on my now compulsory mask, and much as I rue that I am obliged to continue to live in ignorance of the tourist attractions held by Durham and environs, I don’t want to spend too much time lamenting the impacts of the pandemic. Here, I want instead to refocus, remind myself and you of the purpose of my research and talk a little about the experience of the pilot phase and what was gained through it from working with the children, their families and practitioners at participating schools in Rushmoor.
My PhD research focuses on UK-born bilingual children. I aim to document the children’s language learning journeys from a point just before they start school through to the end of Foundation Stage. This is, I believe, a critical period of the children’s young lives, one that will have a profound and lasting impact on them socially, culturally and linguistically. It is my hope that my research will lead to new understanding of UK-born bilingual children’s lived experiences of growing up in two languages and that this new understanding will be useful to practitioners working in linguistically diverse Foundation Stage classrooms.
The reason for my interest in UK-born children is due to the ways in which they have appeared to me to differ from bilingual children newly arrived from overseas. Initially drawing on only anecdotal evidence, it seemed to me that the language development of UK-born bilingual children may differ substantively from that of the international new arrival. This I saw as important in an educational context mainly because of the way I was hearing practitioners talk about how they were noticing differences in terms of both the children’s home languages and their English. I started to wonder if UK-born children might benefit from subtly different kinds of support and a good starting point in determining what that might look like would be to first develop a better understanding of their experiences and their needs – hence my research focus.
So how are our UK-born EAL learners different? Well, for one thing their home languages are often not as well developed as those of children born overseas. Reasons for this are relatively easy to comprehend if we think about how children acquire language from those around them, both as participants in exchanges and as observers. In a monolingual context, they will hear only one language spoken both in the home and when out in the community. A monolingual experience in the early years, such as that experienced by children born in the UK into an English-only family, has informed practitioners’ expectations of typical language development for children in the Foundation Stage. However, the language learning experiences of children born in the UK into families where a minority language is spoken, eg Nepali, will differ in that they will have some experience of Nepali with family members and friends in the home and in some community settings and some of English, for instance when shopping at the supermarket, playing in the park or attending pre-school. In the EAL world, they may be classed as simultaneous bilinguals, acquiring their two languages together from an early age. This means that when they start school, they may not so uniformly match practitioners’ expectations of their language skills in either Nepali or English. Indeed, research tells us that such children will very likely know as many words as a monolingual child if you count both their languages but if you only count one language, then they may appear to have an under-developed vocabulary. Interestingly, it has been found that the overlap – those words the child knows in both of their languages – is very small; more typically the majority of the lexicon they have in each of their languages is discrete.
A second difference is that UK-born bilingual children are more likely to share with their monolingual, English-only peers experiences of such cultural icons as Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy and of places such as the local library or soft play centre. This means they may have more experiences that are shared with the monolingual majority population than a child who comes as an international new arrival as well as some that most likely are not, such as taking part in Diwali celebrations.
A third difference can arise from the child’s position in the family. The first child is likely to have more experience of the home language than any siblings who follow. Often, parents report that especially where the first child has started school, more English is spoken in the home, particularly amongst the children. The younger siblings may in consequence have more English and less home language when they start school. Parents report that in these circumstances it becomes more challenging to keep the home language going, many observing that their children choose to respond in English when addressed in the home language.
In the pilot phase of my research, the children’s backgrounds were explored through the use of visual methods. Having first gathered information about the family context from parents, each child produced a visual representation of the people who were important to them and talked about the languages they used with those people. This ‘social mapping’ activity showed that for some children their concept of family was global, including geographically-distant relatives. For others, it revealed their personal fascinations, for example one boy depicted a dinosaur as a member of his family, alongside his parents. When talking about their languages, one child confidently asserted that she knew both her languages whilst another child was much less certain about there being present two discrete languages each of which had its own name. Talking about this with parents, it became apparent that in this child’s family everyone code-switched all the time, mixing English and Nepali in the same sentence so there was no clear delineation.
In addition to the social mapping, each child was seen on two further occasions to do some story-telling activities using the MAIN. The MAIN is designed to be used to assess narrative skills in children who acquire one or more languages from birth or from an early age. It evaluates both comprehension and production of narratives. Each child involved in the pilot phase had two experiences of the MAIN, one in first language and one in English. Each time, the session began with a model story using one picture sequence and then the child was asked to tell their own story using a different picture sequence. Only one child chose to use her home language, Nepali, to tell her own story after hearing the model MAIN story in Nepali; the others all chose to use English on both occasions. When analysing the children’s stories, the attributes I was able to identify included examples of code-switching, aspects of story structure the children had used and their use of particular grammatical features.
When analysing other data (transcriptions of the audio recordings) by coding them, which is part and parcel of qualitative data analysis, the code “confidence” seemed relevant across the children who comprised my sample. There was evidence of confidence when talking about their home culture, where clearly the children felt most secure, whereas when talking about school and their learning, especially their experience of early literacy (in English), more hesitation was apparent.
In the data collection for my substantive study, should confidence again emerge as a theme I will have more opportunity to explore it in depth as I follow each child through their first year of compulsory education. During that time, each child will produce a scrap book documenting their engagement with my research, which they will get to keep at the end. They will also be party to my field notes and they will share in the co-creation of their own personal narratives, all of which will give them first-hand experience of personal reflection and of research in education, hopefully experiences from which they will derive some personal benefit. At the end of the year, the MAIN story-telling activities will be repeated, enabling quantifiable comparisons of the children’s languages to be made.
As the fieldwork phase progresses, I will simultaneously be making observations of the children at school and gathering interview data from the children’s teachers and from their parents, these being key participants in the children’s lives. Parents’ and practitioners’ views of bilingualism and of the children’s home languages and cultures will be sought with teachers having the opportunity to talk about how they shape and adapt their practice to accommodate their diverse cohort. This part of my data collection will necessitate great care so as to avoid making unreasonable demands on people’s time. In exchange, I will be sharing my findings as people see fit, whether it be through an input to staff in participating schools at a staff meeting or through network meetings aimed at a wider audience of practitioners working in Foundation Stage or – already on the cards – at the EMTAS Conference on 9th July.
For now though I want first and foremost to extend my thanks and gratitude to all school-based colleagues who supported me in the pilot phase, and to the EMTAS Bilingual Assistants who accompanied me to work with the children. I would also like to invite anyone out there who works in a school in Hampshire and who thinks they might like to be included in my research to get in touch. At this stage, you will need only to have a fair chance of having at least one UK-born child with either Polish or Nepali as their home language starting in your Year R class in September 2021. And, of course, the willingness in principle to allow me access to your classroom to do some observation, to work directly with participating children as described above (adapted as necessary to be Covid-safe) and to carry out a couple of short interviews with you about your views and experiences of working with young, bilingual learners.
Do email me – with questions, requests for more information
or offers of support: firstname.lastname@example.org
[ Modified: Wednesday, 20 January 2021, 11:56 AM ]
Anyone in the world
In this blog, Rosie Cayless, EAL Coordinator at Fernhill School, writes about her experience working towards and achieving Silver in the EMTAS EAL Excellence Award.
I was really keen to gain the EAL Excellence Award Level Silver for Fernhill School but, like everyone else, had no idea when I would have the time to actually do the work needed for this. Claire Barker from EMTAS visited me and went through the different criteria suggesting I could make a folder with all of my evidence and then fill in the online form too, but in less detail, as the documentation was in the folder. This galvanised me into action!
I decided to break the tasks down into ones that I knew as a school we were achieving, but needed to evidence (e.g parental engagement), and ones that required action to bring us up-to-date, such as CPD.
We arranged an EAL training session for NQTs (led by Claire) and opened it up to NQTs from other schools, which was well-received; we had a cosy pre-Covid roomful of over 30 teachers!
Some areas required a lot of detailed recording such as doing the Bell Foundation EAL profiles for selected students, while others could be demonstrated with photographs from events such as our Global Fair. The more evidence I collected, the more enjoyable it became.
I would say that the whole process increased my sense of job satisfaction; it was rewarding to examine all aspects of EAL provision and ask: ‘Are we doing the best for our students and their families and what can we improve?’ One of the most useful aspects of undertaking the challenge was to completely re-write our school’s EAL policy, which underpins our whole approach and proved to be a vital part of our application. And the most enjoyable was collating examples of some of the wonderful writing Fernhill students have done in their first language.
The moderation visit was conducted by Astrid Dineen - it was very thorough, one could even say rigorous! But by the end of the (lengthy) session, no stone was left unturned and I was left feeling hopeful that we would gain the award.
It was great to receive the email with the shiny Silver Award logo attached, Astrid sending congratulations as well as encouragement to go for the Gold Award next time!
Congratulations to Rosie and Fernhill School for achieving the Silver Award!
[ Modified: Tuesday, 5 January 2021, 1:50 PM ]
Anyone in the world
In this blog and accompanying videoscribe, Chris Pim, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor, provides an overview of the needs of more advanced learners of English as an additional language (EAL) and identifies some ways in which schools can support this group of learners in their journey to full proficiency in their use of English across the curriculum.
Most schools have a range of children working at different stages in their learning of English as an additional language. Those schools which actively track progress using a specific EAL assessment framework will be aware that rates of progress vary enormously depending on the context of the child, their age and the specific curriculum area within which they are working at any given time.
Broadly speaking, pupils who are new to English or at an early stage of learning EAL make rapid progress with inclusive teaching and learning practices. However, research shows that more advanced learners, those who have been studying English for around two or more years, can plateau in their learning at various points in their school career. More advanced EAL learners often require specific types of literacy-based support for many years after acquiring oral proficiency.
So, who are our more advanced EAL learners? These learners, who are often but not exclusively British born, appear to speak and understand English at an age appropriate level, yet still require specific support to overcome the cognitive and academic challenges of the curriculum. Some, but by no means all, will also be literate in one or more other languages.
These pupils sometimes slip under the radar of schools, whose focus is often more on beginners; in some cases, they may not even be flagged up on the school’s data systems as EAL at all. There are obvious indicators to look out for, such as reading miscomprehension of key texts and evidence in writing of typical grammatical errors or where writing has obviously been copied from peers or indiscriminately drawn from online sources. However, a more rigorous focus on diagnostic assessment is the only sure way of identifying the specific areas that need attention for each pupil.
Practitioners need to consider the language demands of the curriculum in order to ensure that they plan to teach the specific language and literacy elements presented by each subject area. And practitioners shouldn’t underestimate the significance of the cultural context of the curriculum either. EAL learners, whether UK born or not, sometimes grow up lacking a degree of cultural capital that means they miss important nuances that inhibit understanding. That’s why the best practitioners make meaning explicit for all their learners through well-planned sequences of lessons using a range of multimodal sources; this helps to make messages abundantly clear.
Abridged texts, simple English versions of key information and translated sources, where appropriate, will aid reading comprehension. Digital texts can be made more accessible via text to speech synthesis. Pupils will also benefit from specific guidance on how to make the most of dictionaries and thesauri.
Schools which cater well for more advanced learners of EAL often have a whole school focus on developing academic oracy and talk for writing approaches; strategies which benefit all pupils. Well planned collaborative activities, drama and role-play, presentations, Dictogloss and Socratic talk activities will convert thinking and talking into better academic writing across the curriculum. Recording thoughts and conversations and replaying them prior to writing has also been shown to improve the cohesion of pupils’ writing.
Another beneficial strategy is a specific focus on pre-teaching and rehearsing the use of key vocabulary, both technical and academic, including exam terminology. A specific focus on Greek and Latin stem and root words can be helpful. Call-out games like follow-me, Bingo and vocabulary Jenga are fun ways to consolidate vocabulary knowledge. Card-based matching games are also very useful. Word clouds drawn from key texts are a great way to get children thinking about subject content, text-type and genre.
Converting thinking and talking into great writing is a perennial problem for some more advanced EAL learners. Technology has a role here - supportive word processors and in-built soft keyboards can help pupils compose digital texts – for example through speech to text, word prediction and integrated spellcheckers and thesauri. The process need scaffolding using knowledge organisers, writing frames and key word banks. And text-types like recount, persuasion and argumentation need modelling to help pupils understand the conventions most frequently required for each specific subject area.
Above all, more advanced EAL learners want approachable teachers who understand their needs, make explicit the next steps in their learning and maintain high expectations at all times.
Hampshire EMTAS Guidance Library - Advanced EAL Learners
Aide-memoire of best practice
Ensuring the attainment of more advanced learners of English as an additional language
Bell Foundation EAL Resources (search by language level)
[ Modified: Monday, 14 December 2020, 5:24 PM ]
Anyone in the world
In this blog, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors Lisa Kalim and Sarah Coles discuss current thinking in the cross-over territory where EAL and Dyslexia meet.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning difference that falls under the umbrella term “neurodiversity”. It is thought to affect around 10% of the population, cutting right across the range of abilities.
It is known that different people with dyslexia experience it in different ways. Although in the past dyslexia was often viewed as a barrier to learning, these days it is accepted that there are positives to thinking differently and many dyslexic people are now recognised for their strengths in areas such as reasoning, problem-solving, oral skills and in visual and creative fields.
According to the British Dyslexia Organisation, “as each person is unique, so is everyone’s experience of dyslexia”, thus every child with dyslexia will have a different blend of strengths and weaknesses. In school the focus on an academic curriculum can cause some children difficulties in certain areas such as:
reading, writing and spelling
Some people may
experience only mild impacts whilst others may experience much more significant
difficulties across multiple areas – which may be more noticeable in a
Does dyslexia exist in other languages?
Yes, it does. Research suggests that its impact in terms of difficulties children with dyslexia may face may be more pronounced in some languages than others. This is to do with transparency (NALDIC, 2020). Some languages are more transparent than others ie the relationship between phonemes (units of sound) and graphemes (written symbols that represent phonemes) is more straightforward in some languages than in others.
More transparent languages include Italian, Spanish, Kannada and German. The relationship between sound and symbol is consistent.
More opaque languages include Tamil, English and French. In these languages, it is more difficult to predict spellings and pronunciation because the relationship between sound and symbol is not consistent.
Figure 1: Continuum
showing the approximate degree of transparency of various languages (NALDIC,
Figure 2: Approximate
relative transparency of different languages & features which may present
difficulties for learners with dyslexia (NALDIC, 2020)
What about languages that are not alphabet-based?
Some languages don’t use an alphabet eg Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean. In Mandarin:
the basic speech unit is the syllable
the basic orthographic unit is a character
the rules in the sound-script correspondence in Mandarin are very different from those present in English
In addition to the above differences, Mandarin is a tonal
language; a change in tone changes the meaning.
These differences apply not only to Mandarin but also to other languages
that work in a similar way eg Japanese and Korean. A dyslexic Mandarin speaker, for example, may
not experience any difficulties when learning to read and write in Mandarin but
may find learning to read and write in English much more challenging.
How come English is more opaque than other languages and what does this mean for someone with dyslexia?
English is often cited as one of the most difficult languages for children with dyslexia to learn. Here are some reasons why:
Weak correspondence between phonemes and graphemes eg compare how ‘-ough’ is pronounced in cough, bough, tough, through and dough
Mapping between sound and symbol is more inconsistent in English than in most other European languages
In combination with weak phonological awareness and slow processing, these inconsistencies present particular difficulties for someone with dyslexia.
Here are some difficulties that someone with dyslexia may experience:
Reading speed can be impacted for children with dyslexia
Processing time may be longer – learners need to scroll through various possibilities in order to retrieve the correct phonologically assembled label. Eg similar labels (‘god’, ‘dock’, ‘bog’) need to be rejected before ‘dog’, the correct label is chosen.
It can also be the case that a child’s dyslexia is mild in
their more transparent first language but more pronounced in English with the
latter presenting phoneme-grapheme correspondence problems they didn’t
encounter in their first language. For
instance, a Spanish-speaking child may experience only minor difficulties
reading and writing in their first language as Spanish is very transparent
whereas in English, a very opaque language, they may struggle more.
What does all this mean when it comes to MFL?
It is thought that more transparent languages may be easier for a dyslexic person to learn, so in school, the outcomes for a person with dyslexia may be better if they were to take Spanish or Italian then if they took French.
So how can we support children learning English as an Additional Language who also have dyslexia?
The support strategies recommended for monolingual children with dyslexia are equally relevant to children learning EAL and may include:
Approaches that help with self-esteem
School staff should consider sharing information about dyslexia with the individual child and with their parents/carers (ie that it’s a specific difficulty that affects particular areas and does not mean that the child is ‘stupid’ or cannot learn)
Collaborative approaches – peer support
Grouping – children with dyslexia should not be in the bottom group but with children of similar cognitive ability
Extra time for processing eg slowing down the rate at which instructions are given and allowing more time for pupils to respond to questions
Limiting the amount of written work required and using alternative ways of recording information/responses to tasks set
Use of diagrams and visuals to assist with memorisation
Use of technology
- Auto-correct in word processing software, spell checkers, predictive text
- Speech-to-text software. See the EMTAS Guidance Library ‘Use of ICT’ course for some suggestions of Supportive word processors and soft keyboard helper applications to try.
Exam concessions eg use of an amanuensis or reader
Some people think that the use of
coloured overlays or different coloured paper or background colours on screen
are helpful but empirical evidence for this is limited and the jury’s still out
on these points.
An individualised approach will be
needed for each child with dyslexia.
Children with dyslexia who are learning English as an Additional
Language will still need EAL support appropriate to the stage they have reached
in their acquisition of English. See the
Bell Foundation EAL Assessment Framework for an example of an EAL-specific
framework that maps progression and allows practitioners to track progress.
For further advice on individual bilingual children in your
school who you’re concerned about, see the
EMTAS website for a step-by-step process to follow and a downloadable,
editable form for recording relevant information.
[ Modified: Tuesday, 1 December 2020, 10:25 AM ]
Anyone in the world
In this blog, Dawn Tagima, Cultural Ambassador at Cherrywood Community Primary School, writes about her experience achieving Gold in the EMTAS EAL Excellence Award.
My name is Dawn Tagima and I am the Cultural Ambassador at Cherrywood Community Primary School.
After achieving the silver Award in 2019, this April the school was delighted and very proud to be awarded the first Gold EAL Excellence Award from EMTAS. The Award was developed by the EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisory team and is an online school self-evaluation framework to help monitor the impact of provision to all EAL children.
I was introduced to the Award at one of the EMTAS Network meetings run by Claire Barker. I quickly realised that not only would it be amazing for our school to be recognised in this way, it was going to be of huge benefit to me in my role.
The Excellence Award covers 5 broad areas-
Leadership and Management
Pedagogy and Practice
Data, Assessment and Progress
Teaching and learning
Parental and Community Engagement
Using this framework (which has become an invaluable tool), I was able to make sure that we, as a school, were ensuring the provision we were offering was making the best impact on our children.
I was still relatively new to the role and will admit to initially feeling a little overwhelmed, especially as we have a high percentage of EAL pupils in our school, so when the Award was shown to me I thought it perhaps seemed a scary prospect and was concerned it may add to my work load BUT how wrong was I! I was able to clearly see what was needed in our school and how this could be achieved.
I made the decision to keep a file, breaking it down into the 5 areas. I was able to add photographs, pieces of work children had completed, assessments etc to use as evidence. Personally I like things in ‘paper’ form that are easy to refer to. Equally, I know of other schools that have done the whole Award online which has also worked well for them.
One of the things we worked hard on in school to move from Silver to Gold was to ensure we were encouraging our children to use their first language in the classroom.
Some examples of this were one of our Yr 6’s wrote a beautiful piece of work about Word War 1 which was proudly put on a class display in Portuguese. She was very proud of this and shared her work with her peers. Another child in Yr 2 sat and wrote out the numbers from 1 to 100 in Nepali which again was displayed in class on the maths working wall and became a real topic of conversation.
The use of first language is also shown around the school environment with ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’ signs written by the children in the entrance hallway in many different languages and a ‘changeable’ sign outside that at present says’ be happy’ written in Pashto and translated to English.
Using first language in the school/classroom environment not
only embeds their first language but makes the children feel included, accepted
I was offered support from EMTAS throughout the whole process whether it be asking questions by e-mail or visits to the school to help inform me of our next steps and what we could improve on to reach our ‘goal’.
When I felt we were ready to be validated, I sent all the evidence to EMTAS and was then visited by a Specialist Teacher Advisor from another area, Astrid Dineen. I shared my file and we discussed what we were doing as a school and how we were ensuring we were embedding the best practice for our EAL learners and their families.
By using the Award as such an amazing tool, we have been able to make sure we are offering best practice in all areas but most importantly making sure we continue to do so in the future. As the school's Cultural Ambassador, I now feel so much more confident to know what this ‘best practice’ looks like which helps me in my day to day role. One of the criteria was to make a three year development plan so this is now in place to refer to and also reaching Gold has made the SLT team, the named Governor and all the teaching staff aware of what we have achieved and what we need to do moving forward. I am also carrying out observations in classes and auditing what resources are needed regularly.
Obviously we are living in a very different world at present
and all our children are needing extra support to settle back in. We as a
school are finding different ways to make sure our children still thrive and
learn. Our EAL children have come back happy and ready to learn and we are
determined this will continue!
I would encourage any school to use it. Everything is so clear and laid out for you and gives you the ability to see what you are working towards to become an ‘excellent school'!
Congratulations to Dawn and Cherrywood Community Primary School for achieving the Gold Award!
[ Modified: Monday, 16 November 2020, 4:36 PM ]
Anyone in the world
In this blog, Debra Page, PhD student at the University of Reading, shares two video updates with us on her research on the Young Interpreter Scheme.
Hello readers. First of all, a huge well-done on making it through a very difficult term!
In this first video, I update you on where I am at with my PhD research evaluating the Young Interpreter Scheme. The project is now all online and I am looking for schools to take part...
In this second video, I talk about some new resources that I will be using during the research project:
If you would like to be involved in the research, or have any questions, please
email me: email@example.com.
We look forward to hearing more from Debra soon!
[ Modified: Wednesday, 11 November 2020, 1:39 PM ]