Site blog

Anyone in the world

Written by Helen Smith, Lynne Chinnery and Sarah Coles, all of the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor team, this blog presents the latest addition to the suite of EMTAS e-learning modules, 'Developing Culturally Inclusive Practice in Early Years Settings'. The new module is aimed at practitioners working in Early Years settings with children and families for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL), or who are from Gypsy, Roma & Traveller (GRT) or Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds. 



The EYFS Statutory Framework states that “providers have a responsibility to ensure positive attitudes to diversity and difference. Not only so that every child is included and not disadvantaged, but also so that they learn from the earliest age to value diversity in others and grow up making a positive contribution to society”.  The themes of inclusion and diversity pinpointed in this statement form the foundation on which the EMTAS Early Years e-learning module sits.


Why Early Years e-learning?

Practitioners in Early Years settings often wonder if what they’re doing for the EAL, GRT and BME children in their care is good practice, as inclusive of the needs of all children and their families as possible.  Elsewhere, in settings that don’t have any children from these backgrounds – few and far between these days - work in this area is recognised as equally important.  Yet it can be a challenge to find affordable guidance and training to help develop practitioners’ knowledge and understanding of their inclusion brief, without which they may not feel entirely confident when it comes to delivering fully inclusive practice in settings.

There are many questions practitioners might have about their contributions towards the diversity and inclusion agenda.  For instance, what advice should they give families whose home language is not English?  Should they tell them to carry on speaking their home language(s) to their child or swap to English instead?  The answer to this one is that parents/carers should carry on using their strongest language with their child.  It really doesn’t matter what that language is; young children can cope with more than one language from an early age and for parents to continue using the home language whilst their child gained exposure to English in an Early Years setting would be one way of raising a child bilingually (there are others).  It is also the best way of ensuring that the child develops secure language skills whilst at the same time staying in touch with their cultural and linguistic identity. 

For some children, coming into an Early Years setting can bring many new experiences they have to learn to manage.  For GRT children used to an ordered, uncluttered home environment, the setting might seem chaotic and overwhelming with its bright colours, numerous toys and messy play.  GRT children may have played outside a lot and may therefore find being indoors sitting still at an activity very challenging.  The e-learning explains this and other aspects of GRT cultures so that practitioners can grow their understanding of how best to support GRT children attending their setting. 

Other children may come with limited or no experience of being in an English-speaking environment.  Accustomed to being spoken to in Urdu or Dari or Polish at home, this can be disconcerting and can result in some children becoming silent in the setting, especially at the beginning – which in turn can be a cause for concern to practitioners and parents alike.  The e-learning will help staff better understand things like the ‘silent period’ as well as know what to do to support a child through it.

The term “Black and Minority Ethnic” is more comprehensive and generally encompasses a much broader sweep of children and families, not all of whom will speak another language or have lived in another country.  The issues around diversity that staff in settings need to consider in relation to BME children may arise out of language differences, cultural differences, religious differences and/or differences relating to ethnic identity.  Images on display in a setting should positively reflect diversity, especially so in settings where the majority population is white.  Think also about the books used for story telling; do they include pictures of different kinds of families or of children of different ethnicities?  Have you thought about choosing stories that don’t focus on pigs if you work with Muslim families?  Or stories that reflect some of the home experiences of your GRT children?  If this all seems a bit overwhelming, take heart; the e-learning will help guide you through the diversity maze and empower you to make some carefully considered choices when it comes to provision in your setting.


Towards a more holistic view of the unique child

Cultural and/or language barriers can mask what children are able to do, hiding their interests, skills, abilities and home experiences from staff in settings.  Yet it’s really important that practitioners make efforts to find out what children bring with them to the setting.  This can help staff better tailor provision so each child receives the best experience from their attendance. 

Completing the e-learning will support practitioners to explore and understand what the features of a truly inclusive setting are. This will in turn help them develop their own practice so they give the best start to all their children.

 
Getting started

Try doing a learning walk around your setting with another member of staff.  Ask yourselves if what you see reflects the diversity that exists in the wider world.  Do the books you share with children include different languages and images of people from diverse backgrounds?  Do you have cooking utensils from other cultural traditions in your home corner?  What about the clothing in the dressing-up box? 

If you’re not sure where to begin with a learning walk like this, the EMTAS Early Years e-learning can help.  It presents guidance and information about a range of issues related to inclusion and diversity using images, short pieces of text and interactive activities like the one shown below. 



Screen shot of an interactive activity from the Early Years e-learning module

Included in the module is a checklist practitioners can use to evaluate practice and provision in their setting.  It will support you to develop an action plan appropriate to your own children, staff and setting, so any developmental work you undertake will be focused and meaningful, delivering positive change.  It also signposts you to further sources of guidance and to resources you might use with children in your setting, many of which are free.

Contact EMTAS to discuss how to gain access to the Early Years e-learning for staff in your setting.  The price varies according to the number of registrations you need.

 
Further reading/resources

Free guidance for EYFS from The Bell Foundation:
https://www.bell-foundation.org.uk/app/uploads/2019/01/Guiding-principles-for-EYFS.pdf
 
Food for thought plus signposting available from Entrust:
Reflecting on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Early Years | Entrust (entrust-ed.co.uk)
 
Suppliers of multicultural books:
Multicultural Diversity Children's Books - Letterbox Library
Mantra Lingua UK | Dual language books and bilingual books and resources for bilingual children and parents and for the multi-lingual classroom.
 
Free comprehensive guidance pack from Hampshire EMTAS:
Guidance for Early Years/Year R settings | Hampshire County Council (hants.gov.uk)



[ Modified: Monday, 14 March 2022, 10:18 AM ]
 
Anyone in the world

Starting school can be a tricky time for any child and their family but for learners of English as an additional language (EAL) it can be a particularly anxious time. In this blog Specialist Teacher Advisor Helen Smith discusses ways to support new EAL learners and help them and their families settle into the school community.  



 

It can be difficult for some EAL parents to understand the equipment that their child needs for school, such as a P.E. kit, book bag and spare clothes. They may also welcome some guidance on what is appropriate and usual to put in a lunch box. Some parents may not be aware that their child needs to be able to dress themselves, take themselves to the toilet, feed themselves etc., and they will need some support with helping their child become more independent with their self-care. Families may also not fully understand the school system. In some countries for instance, children do not progress from one school year to the next without passing exams. Some parents may not be familiar with the concept of learning through play and will need help to understand all the learning that is taking place in a busy Reception classroom. In many counties their child would not be expected to start school until they are 6 or 7 years old. This can make parents feel more unsettled and worried about their child beginning their school journey at a young age.

There are some simple steps that you can take to help your EAL families feel welcome and more settled. This starts with finding out as much background information as you can. As well as the usual new starter information, it will be useful to know about all the languages spoken in the home. You will need to ensure names are pronounced correctly and that naming conventions are understood. It is also important to know if the child was born in the UK or if they’re a new arrival to the country. If the child is not UK born, try to find out about the circumstances of their relocation and about their journey – was it difficult or traumatic? It is also useful to find out if the family is isolated or if they have strong family and community links.

All this information will help you in putting the right support and resources in place. For example, you may like to share translated or simplified information available on our website. You can also direct parents to the EMTAS phonelines or ask a Bilingual Assistant to help interpret. An effective way to ensure good communication is to hold weekly/half-termly drop-in sessions for EAL parents to discuss any letters or concerns.

Tapping into children’s languages will help EAL learners feel welcomed and settled in the classroom right from the start. You may consider using a peer mentoring programme such as the Young Interpreter Scheme or source multilingual signs and labels as well as multilingual books and resources. You can also invite speakers of other languages into your classroom and learn basic words in a child’s first language. The use of first language should also be encouraged in play and the rehearsing of speech and writing. Head to our Moodle to find out how the use of first language as a tool for learning can support your learners in making solid academic progress.

Another effective tool to help a child transition in school are Persona Dolls. They can be used to introduce a new member of the class and learn about other cultures but also to help children to learn ways to challenge unfairness and discrimination. They help with emotional wellbeing and self-esteem, highlight diversity and commonality and are also a great tool to encourage talk in the classroom. It is important to remember that the doll is a member of your class, not a toy. Persona Dolls can be borrowed from our Resources Centre and training on their effective use is available from EMTAS. Please contact the EMTAS office - EMTAS@hants.gov.uk - if you would like to book a session.


EMTAS Coffee Events revamped 


Hosting an EMTAS Coffee Event is another way to help EAL families feel settled and welcome in school. The aim of a coffee event is to provide parents of EAL learners the opportunity to find out a little bit more about the routines and expectations of their children’s school and help them to feel more engaged with their child’s learning and the school community. It is good practice for one or two Bilingual Assistants representing the school’s most prevalent languages to be on hand to interpret as needed.

During the summer term we began a shake-up of our EMTAS Coffee Events programme. After all the lockdowns we felt that a lot of schools and parents would welcome the opportunity to get together face-to-face once again and start building partnerships. The sessions involve a suite of slides that can be adapted to suit the individual needs of the school. To ensure that we cater for all the languages spoken by our families, the coffee events and slides are designed to be simple, visual and informative. Coffee events are interactive and allow the parents ample opportunity to ask questions and voice any concerns or worries. To facilitate this, we have designed the slides to be based around questions, so it is more of a conversation than a presentation. Questions covered in the slides so far include: 

What is Hampshire EMTAS?

What does my child need to be able to do for him/herself?

How can you help your child to settle in?

What does my child need to bring to school each day?

What should I put in my child’s lunchbox?

Should my child maintain first language?

How can you support your child’s reading?

What can you do at home to support your child’s learning?   

Currently our slides our very Primary based. However we are working with Secondary schools to develop some secondary based slides. If you would like to book a coffee event for your school, you can contact the EMTAS office - EMTAS@hants.gov.uk.

More advice and guidance can be found on our website. This includes information about making a Year R referral and how and when to make a Year R transition referral. In addition more ideas and resources can be found in the guidance library on our Moodle. If you would like to improve your EAL practice in Early Years you can also sign up for our EYFS E-Learning on our MoodleThe course takes you through an introduction and gives you some starting points and some context about the different languages that are spoken across Hampshire. There are top tips and help with assessment and action planning as well as advice on the best use of resources.


[ Modified: Friday, 7 January 2022, 4:27 PM ]
 
 
Anyone in the world

In a previous blog, Hampshire EMTAS colleagues Smita Neupane and Sudhir Lama discussed the use of persona dolls in a project aiming to support transition in Early Years and Key Stage 1 with a particular focus on Service children. In this blog, Cherrywood Community Primary School’s EAL Co-ordinator Dawn Tagima shares one year group’s experience of working with Himal.


Year 1 children at Cherrywood Community Primary School in Farnborough were delighted to welcome a brand new member to their class, Himal who was from Nepal. Cherrywood Community Primary School has a high number of children with EAL however not many are from a Service background. The school does have experience of working with the local Nepali community and the Year 1 classroom teacher leading this project is herself Nepali. So when the school looked for creative ways to support transition, the persona doll project (and specifically Himal) fitted the bill.

Himal came with his own passport and a 'talking book' which told the children all about his country. The children were told about the fact that Himal was new to this country and how he must be feeling. This encouraged conversations from our children about their own experiences and their own family situations.

Himal was given his own special place to sit in the classroom and the children involved him in every aspect of the school day. They particularly loved sitting and reading to him!

The children made a book about their plans for Himal both in school and at home. Himal was lucky to go home with many of the children to take part in family celebrations and trips out. The children shared this with the class, brought in photos and wrote about it in Himal’s scrapbook.

Himal helped to introduce a brand new topic about feelings and this encouraged the children to produce some amazing work.


Himal has now gone off to another school much to the disappointment of our children but they are always reminded of him with a lovely display in our main hallway and we hope he can come and visit us again when he returns from his 'travels'.

The children gained so much from Himal’s visit. We talked about religious traditions, diversity, beliefs, equality, inclusion, self-esteem, ideas, opinions, sensitivity and pride.

I encourage Early Years and KS1 settings to consider using persona dolls with the children. Simply contact Hampshire EMTAS to discuss the loan of dolls and resources.


[ Modified: Wednesday, 5 June 2019, 10:15 AM ]