PhD student Debra Page updates us on her progress with her research on the Young Interpreter Scheme and invites schools to participate in the next steps of her project – extra brownie points for your EAL Excellence Award submission guaranteed!
Hello readers. I hope that you’re familiar with my name by now. I am conducting research on the Young Interpreter Scheme under the supervision of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism at the University of Reading and with Hampshire EMTAS as a collaborative partner. Our aims are to evaluate the scheme’s impact on children’s language use, empathy and cultural awareness by comparing Young Interpreter children and non-interpreter children. Additionally, we need to hear your experiences of teaching children with EAL and of running the Young Interpreter Scheme.
It’s been an interesting 5 months since my last blog and the world has changed. The team and I are busy adapting my PhD to fit in to this new normal. On May 4th, I was invited to speak at the first virtual Basingstoke EMTAS network meeting about contingency plans. It was great that so many were able to join and share their thoughts - and are still interested in being part of the research. If you didn’t make it, you can read some information below, with more details available on the PowerPoint slides from the network meeting (attached).
What’s happened so far?
MSc questionnaire findings
Some of you may recall completing my questionnaire for my MSc. This was about working with children with EAL and experiences of running the Young Interpreter Scheme. The main findings from this are available in my previous blog. The team also presented a poster summarising the findings at the NALDIC conference last November.
Planning and preparation
The first 8 months of the PhD have involved finalising the logistics of the research and data collection. Albeit now plans have had to change and we are working with schools on how best to adapt the data collection. Many decisions had to be made about how best to achieve our aims. This involved a lot of research, reading and discussions about the tasks to assess the children, the who, when and where of data collection, and all the requirements for ethical approval from the University of Reading.
Preparing assessment tasks
We have almost finalised a series of pupil-friendly tasks for the children involved. This includes non-verbal aptitude, vocabulary, empathy, grammar, intercultural awareness, and peer to peer interactions. Our job now is to think about how we can adapt these tasks to fit into schools’ new ways of working following the Covid-19 pandemic. My favourite task is the barrier game where children work together to reproduce a given route on a map of a school and school items. Further examples of the assessments are in the PowerPoint.
Young Interpreter Training
One focus of this project is to evaluate the Young Interpreter Scheme training with possible amendments. We want to see if specific training in word-learning strategies can enhance the set of tools Young Interpreters use with their buddies. After many ideas and discussions, I have modified two short stories to use in session 4 of the children’s training at KS1 and KS2. The stories use a strategy called Word Detective, which is from a book called Word Aware – Teaching Vocabulary. They should provide Young Interpreters with ways to help buddies understand new vocabulary using English. These were made in collaboration with EMTAS and we want them to be useful beyond the research project so please let us know your thoughts.
What would being part of the research look like for schools?
we would need agreement from your Headteacher, and they would need to complete our consent form
the Young Interpreter coordinator would need to identify 10-15 children ready to train as Young Interpreters. In total I aim to work with around 50 YI children and 50 non-YI children of the same age, across 3-5 schools
children need to be in Years 1-6 (some of the assessments we use require children to be at least 6 years old)
I will also assess non-Young Interpreter children of the same age and gender as the Young Interpreters you will have identified. These will be known as control group children and serve as a comparison between children who are Young Interpreters and children who are not
I would need help to distribute pupil information sheets and collect signed parental consent forms
I would need to liaise with you to arrange a suitable time for running the Young Interpreter training over a 4-week period; 1 training session per week
I would need to be involved with the 4th and final training session to deliver the training stories, either in school or via video chat
I need 1 week either side of the Young Interpreter training to complete the tasks with the children – 1 week for the pre-training assessment and another week for the post-training assessment. I will spend this time assessing the children immediately before YI training and immediately after training
6 months later I will liaise with the school to arrange an appropriate week for me to assess the YI and control children again
there are no assessments for teachers or parents to complete.
Adaption of the tasks
We will continue working on how our series of tasks can be adapted in light of social distancing rules and government advice.
Revised data collection plans
The original plans for data collection had me in school now, piloting the tasks with children to allow enough time for refinement before the main data collection in September 2020. Realistically now, piloting will not happen before the end of this school year. Hopefully, I can start working with children in October and complete all data collection in the 20/21 academic year. Watch this space.
Creating a YI diary
We want to capture how frequently Young Interpreters are working with EAL peers, what kind of activities they are doing, and what they enjoy the most. If we can understand what works, and what isn’t being used, this would inform future resources for your school and EMTAS. The number and type of interactions can also be taken into account in data analysis. The idea is for children not to have to write too much, or at all, unless they want to add writing. We are in the planning phase for this and your views on the format are welcomed. Perhaps a weekly view, with example activities where children can tick and draw a smiley face? Or stickers they can use? We want your input on this so it’s useful for you and the children as well.
After your responses to my MSc questionnaire, it has been revamped for the PhD. The team and I encourage as many staff as possible to complete the questionnaire. This includes people who are running the scheme, who aren’t running the scheme, and staff who work with children with EAL. This anonymous online questionnaire should take around 15 minutes to complete and will allow myself and Hampshire EMTAS to discover what you really think about the scheme, your experiences of participation, and working with children with EAL. Finding out your views in running the scheme (or not) will help EMTAS improve and expand it, plus you will be helping to shape its future. Take part now and tell us what you think.
Please refer to the PowerPoint slides for further details and opportunities for you to provide feedback on the project. You can e-mail me your thoughts and register your interest in taking part in the research at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am looking forward to seeing you all again in person. Stay safe and thank you for all for your work and help with my research. And please complete and share the questionnaire!
In this new blog, Annie Kershaw shares her experience of using the EAL Excellence Award and Young Interpreter Scheme to develop practice at her school in Nottingham.
I am an EAL Co-ordinator for an inner city School in
Nottingham - Victoria Primary School. The headlines for our school are:
- The proportion of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds is well above the national average.
- There are 33 languages spoken at the school.
- The rate of pupils’ mobility is well above the national average.
- The proportion of pupils who are disadvantaged is well above the national average for primary schools.
In 2018, in response to the Local Authority cuts leading to a much reduced central service for supporting schools with EAL and BME achievement, Nottingham City sent out a request for experienced practitioners to apply to become an Advanced Practitioner of EAL (APEAL); The LA would provide specialist training and support for the APEALs and in return they would complete an in-school EAL audit and action plan, identifying current examples of best practice, an action research project, write up the report for publication on the LA website, and the APEALs would each deliver a workshop at the Local Authority EAL Annual Conference. In exchange, the APEALs received consultant support and training from the Local Authority, a network of cross-phase peers for support and specialised professional development, and access to the Hampshire EMTAS Moodle.
As EAL Co-ordinator, the Moodle was just what I was looking for. I quickly engaged with the e-learning packages for myself and for colleagues and it was great having a tool to hand which confirmed and supported our good practice in school. One of our proudest achievements was finding a way to formalise the support and training for our ‘Language Ambassadors’ through the Young Interpreters Scheme. We had already nominated children to undertake the role and asked them to do some tasks informally, but this really gave us, as a school, a structure to develop their role further, some well thought out materials to use in their training and an end goal through awarding certificates and badges. In fact, the role of the Ambassadors was recently acknowledged in our OFSTED inspection:
“Staff promptly assess the stage in learning English when pupils start school and tailor language development accordingly. They are assisted by 10 ‘Language Ambassadors’. These are pupils who have completed the accredited ‘Young Translators’ training and support other pupils, their families and staff.”
Finally, as with many of my increasingly isolated EAL Co-ordinator colleagues, I am always reflecting on whether my practice is ‘correct’ and ‘current’ or not. For me, validation for my school and for my own role came in the form of the EAL Excellence Award, developed by Hampshire. As a school, we decided to pursue the award as we accept that EAL is a big part of our identity and that we had made a lot of progress in recent years with our practice; the award seemed to us to be a good way to acknowledge that progress and a useful tool to raise the EAL profile of our school. As EAL Co-ordinator, it gave me a real structure for evaluating where we are, and how we can keep improving and moving forward with our practice in school. My colleagues were positive and encouraging and, when needed, were more than happy to provide the evidence and the support for me.
We were delighted to receive the Silver Award recently and I am already mentally preparing for our journey to Gold! The ‘Gold’ criteria has motivated me to think more holistically around our Parental Engagement and how we can make steps in this area. I look forward to the challenge!
Visit the Hampshire EMTAS website to find out more about the EAL Excellence Award and Young Interpreter Scheme.
By Mariana, Young Interpreter at Cherrywood Community Primary School
Hello everyone. My name is Mariana and I am ten year old. I am writing to share my experiences during the responsibility being a young interpreter for the last two years. I signed up because I like providing additional support to pupils who are learning English as an additional language.
When I was young, I went through the same thing as the pupils who I have worked with in the past terms. They did not know how to speak a lot while still needing help to join in. When I came into pre-school and Ash I did not know how to speak to people however luckily I had help from adults and even other children.
I strongly believe that I was chosen for this role because of my ability to communicate and help the other children to integrate in with their class and mates. I am also confident and do a lot of extra work around other languages.
On my first year of young interpreters all of us had special training to understand what we had to do in the different situations which might happen with Mrs Tagima, a very kind lady. Some of the things we done were playing a matching game around different countries, creating a map around us so we could learn new things around everyone and creating scenarios on situations and how we should act.
Last year I worked with a boy in year 1 which was from Nepal and this year I accepted a challenge by working with a new boy from Romania which cannot speak a lot of English.
During the role I have done lots of things which evolve:
- Helping them join into their PE lesson.
- Doing their work with them.
- Making sure that they understand.
- Helping with counting and reading.
Each year I enjoyed and had challenges to do with this role. Some of the things I found quite tricky were speaking and helping the boy because he nods but sometimes did not understand. I enjoyed quite a lot of things but here are some:
- Joining in with them.
- Helping them join in in class.
- Seeing their smiling faces.
Thinking of the book and game I made was easy. When I was in reception class my mum made a book for me to join in more. As for the game, when I was little I had a game like that so, when I observed him in class to see what he needed, I remembered that I could make him something like that to help him.
The games and books are to boost his confidence while learning English. As for one of the games, it is used to help him with his class work. Incredibly, I made the games only with household objects. My friend (Romanian) helped me translate English to Romanian.
You play the games by matching the words and numbers to their correct pairs. The book is really just to boost his confidence (like a picture translator).
Thank you very much for reading. I strongly hope you understand why I wrote this blog.
Mariana on behalf of the young interpreters at Cherrywood Community Primary School
Find out more about the Young Interpreter Scheme on the Hampshire EMTAS website.
In a previous blog, Masters candidate Debra Page launched a questionnaire aimed at exploring staff experiences of the Young Interpreter Scheme. Now officially a PhD student after successfully completing her Masters with a distinction, Debra updates us on the results of her questionnaire.
Hello readers. I hope that you’re familiar with my name by now, but if not I am conducting research on the Young Interpreter Scheme under the supervision of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism at the University of Reading and with Hampshire EMTAS as a collaborative partner. My Masters research dissertation looked at staff experiences of the Young Interpreter Scheme with a specific focus on motivation for participation in the scheme, views around teaching pupils with EAL and effects of running the scheme on children, staff and schools. Thank you to all that completed the questionnaire. The results are in! Findings are grouped within 5 main themes:
- Empathy, self-esteem and self-concept
- Opinions on home language of pupils with EAL
- Intercultural awareness
- Misconceptions surrounding concepts and use of Young Interpreters
- Effects on academic achievement
To find out more, download the summary by clicking the link attached to this article (see top right). You can also discover findings in a poster which the team and I presented at the recent NALDIC conference; here we are in action:
From left to right: Astrid Dinneen, Naomi Flynn, Debra Page and Ludovica Serratrice
We also were involved in making promotional videos for collaborative funded studentships, can you spot any of your Young Interpreters in the videos?
If you have any questions about
the research please email me – email@example.com.
By Debra Page, Masters candidate at the University of Reading
Hi readers. If you’ve not read about me in the Young Interpreters Newsletter, my name is Debra Page. I am conducting research on the Young Interpreter Scheme under the supervision of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism at the University of Reading and with Hampshire EMTAS as a collaborative partner. This is the first time the successful scheme will be systematically evaluated since it began 10 years ago. I have worked in research and as an English as a Additional language teacher since graduating with my psychology degree. Now, I am completing my Masters in Language Sciences before starting the PhD. My Masters research dissertation is looking at staff experiences of the Young Interpreter Scheme with a specific focus on motivation for participation in the scheme, views around teaching pupils with EAL and effects of running the scheme on children, staff and schools.
After months of behind the scenes work from the team, a questionnaire has now gone live! The team and I encourage as many staff as possible to complete the questionnaire. This includes people who are running the scheme, who aren’t running the scheme, and staff who work with children with EAL. This anonymous online questionnaire should take around 15 minutes to complete and will allow myself and Hampshire EMTAS to discover what you really think about the scheme, your experiences of participation, and working with children with EAL. Finding out your views in running the scheme (or not) will help EMTAS improve and expand it, plus you will be helping to shape its future.
If you haven’t met me yet, I will be at the Basingstoke Young Interpreters conference on 28th June. If you have any questions about the questionnaire, please email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you choose to help by completing the questionnaire. Please spread the word and share the link!
Several articles about the Young Interpreter (YI) Scheme and New Arrivals Ambassador (NAA) Scheme have already featured in the Hampshire EMTAS blog and many schools in Hampshire and across the UK are running either peer mentoring scheme - sometimes both - to support their new arrivals. Other schools have questions. Which scheme should we go for? Do they overlap? What difference is there? Our scheme managers Astrid Dinneen (YI) and Claire Barker (NAA) shed some light.
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2019
Q: How did the schemes come about? Why did EMTAS decide to develop two separate schemes?
Astrid Dinneen: Back in 2004 we saw an increase of new EAL arrivals in schools after the accession of several countries to the EU. To support the well-being of these children, Hampshire EMTAS worked with school-based practitioners in four Hampshire schools to develop the Young Interpreter Scheme. The aim was to create a special role and train children/young people to become buddies and help new-to-English arrivals to feel welcome and settled. We are very proud to have won several awards since piloting the YI Scheme. Can you believe that the scheme is running in over 900 schools now?
Claire Barker: The New Arrivals Ambassador Scheme was borne out of a need by Children in Care, Traveller Children and Service Children to gain extra support when they arrived in schools at irregular times of the school year. Like the Young Interpreter Scheme, the aim was to support the well-being of these groups of children and to ensure they had a smooth transition into their new setting. The idea was to provide a short, sharp, peer mentoring programme lasting about half a term or in line with the needs of the newly arrived child. The scheme evolved after a successful piloting period that involved six schools covering all three phases.
Q: So each scheme is designed to support different groups of children, is it?
Astrid Dinneen: Yes. If your aim is to support EAL pupils whilst promoting the linguistic diversity of your school community then you may like to consider the Young Interpreter Scheme.
Claire Barker: And if your aim is to support all children joining your school at irregular times of the school year, including Children in Care, Traveller children and Service children, then you may like to consider the New Arrivals Ambassadors Scheme.
Astrid Dinneen: Of course some Service children and Children in Care (and particularly Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) will also have English as an Additional Language so it's worth considering your school's needs carefully. Some schools are successfully running both schemes.
Q: How would running both schemes look?
Astrid Dinneen: An important feature of the YI and NAA schemes is that each is delivered by a designated member of school staff. In schools where both schemes are running it’s a good idea for each to be led by different people who can cater for their own scheme’s specificities and also collaborate on joint work. For example, the Young Interpreter Co-ordinator will buddy up Young Interpreters with new EAL arrivals. When a new EAL arrival also happens to be a Service child, then Young Interpreters can work alongside New Arrival Ambassadors to show them the ropes.
Another important aspect of running the Young Interpreter Scheme is that the Co-ordinator regularly meets with the Young Interpreters to guide them and keep them motivated in their role. This follow up phase could be another opportunity for joint work and there are suggested activities on the YI’s Moodle. For example, why not work together to promote both NAA and YI roles by creating a movie trailer?
In terms of pupil selection I think the qualities you would look for in Young Interpreters are similar to those you would expect from a New Arrival Ambassador. Pupils should be friendly, empathetic, welcoming and good communicators. Young Interpreters can be speakers of English only and they can be speakers of other languages too. The same could be said of the NAA, couldn’t it?
Claire Barker: It certainly could and the schemes complement each other when both are running in the same school setting. It is worth remembering that the NAA Scheme is a timed transitional intervention whereas the YI Scheme is ongoing with its support. The aim of the NAA is to develop the self-esteem and self-confidence of the newly arrived child so they are able to function independently after half a term.
I agree with Astrid that the two schemes work better when managed by different people in the school so the lines of what each scheme has to offer do not become blurred. Whilst the skills and qualities of a Young Interpreter and an Ambassador are virtually the same, the job description is very different and each has its own demands and specialist areas for the trained pupils. NAA pupils have to learn to build relationships and trust quickly as their support is delivered over a short period of time. Schools do utilise the trained Ambassadors in different ways throughout the year. Some schools use the Ambassadors to support the new intake in September and to work with classes and tutor groups throughout the academic year. Many schools use the Ambassadors alongside their School Council to represent the school on Open events like Parents’ Evenings. Some schools use their Ambassadors to support existing pupils who are struggling with their well-being and life at school. The scheme has flexibility to be adapted to the setting it is being used in.
Both schemes complement each other and pupils who are Young Interpreters and Ambassadors are highly skilled and proficient peer mentors who can offer linguistic support, well-being support and transition support. Both schemes develop self-esteem and confidence in the Young Interpreters and Ambassadors as well as in the pupils they are supporting and provide opportunities for personal growth.
Q: Where can our readers find out more?
Astrid Dinneen: You can learn more about the Young Interpreters on our website, follow us on Twitter or Facebook or read the December issue of the Young Interpreters Newsletter.
Claire Barker: There is information about the NAA on our website. You can also use the tabs below to read other blogs relating to both schemes.
Astrid Dinneen shares the exciting news
Left to right: Astrid Dinneen, Chris Pim, Michelle Nye & Sarah Coles
The Young Interpreter Scheme® has featured in several articles since the inception of the Hampshire EMTAS blog and this was mostly with a view to share best practice when using children and young people as buddies in school. In this article we are blowing our own trumpet and telling you about the latest award received by Hampshire EMTAS for the scheme.
On Wednesday 14 November, The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) held their annual award ceremony which celebrates "the importance of language and cultural understanding, the value of languages to business and industry and excellence in language learning". Awards were given to individuals, teams, organisations, schools and language centres who all demonstrate excellence in language learning, translation and interpreting. The Threlford Memorial Cup, CIOL's most prestigious award was given to the Young Interpreter Scheme®.
The cup was first presented in 1935 by Sir Lacon Threlford, Founder of the Institute of Linguists. In the archives of the time the cup was described as "the world's greatest trophy for fostering the study of languages" – so a huge achievement and a massive honour for Hampshire EMTAS which I was proud to represent alongside my colleagues Michelle Nye, Sarah Coles and Chris Pim seen on the photo above.
This historical cup stays with the CIOL however we are keeping an engraved medal and a certificate which I look forward to showing everyone involved in the scheme. I particularly want to dedicate this award to everyone who has contributed to the success of the scheme over the years: the children and young people, the schools, the Young Interpreter co-ordinators, the practitioners who shaped the scheme right from the beginning, the whole Hampshire EMTAS team and all our supporters in the field of EAL.
I know that Young Interpreters and practitioners in schools across the UK - and beyond - will be so excited at the news. And who knows, perhaps one day the CIOL will be giving accolades to linguists who started off as Young Interpreters… So watch this space!
In the meantime why not log into your Young Interpreter Moodle account, sign up to the scheme, follow us on Twitter or Facebook or read the December issue of the Young Interpreters Newsletter?
By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Claire Barker
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018
‘I really need the toilet but I don’t know where it is!’
‘Will anyone like me?'
On speaking to many children their biggest fears when joining a school are the toilets and making friends. Many worry that they won’t know where the toilet is; some worry that they will be too scared to ask to go and some worry that there are certain toilets for certain year groups. Many children worry that they won’t make new friends and that no one will like them. They are missing their friends from their old school and lack the confidence to break into established groups to find friends.
Starting a new school at an irregular time of the academic year can be a daunting and frightening experience for some children and cause them great anxiety.
The New Arrivals Ambassadors Scheme
This programme is a hybrid peer mentoring course specially designed to train pupils to support the needs of new entrants into your school community with a focus on vulnerable pupils like Service children, Looked After children and Travellers. Its aim is to ensure that no pupil joining a school at an irregular entry point in the year is left to feel alone and confused.
The New Arrivals Ambassador Scheme trains a cohort of established pupils to guide a new entrant through their school day and to explain how it all works.
This programme is designed to be low key and informal within a limited time. The Ambassadors will learn skills in listening and communicating and they will help the new entrant to grow in confidence and independence in their new setting.
How does the Scheme work?
Each school chooses a member of staff who will have responsibility for choosing the children who are to become Ambassadors. This can be done in a variety of ways: cherry picking the most suitable children, asking for applications for the new role, using the existing school council. It is entirely up to the school how they pick their children – it has to be what works best for you and your setting.
The designated member of staff informs parents of the children that their child is going to be trained for this specialised role and how this role will impact on the whole school community.
The chosen pupils then undergo around four hours of training and this too is delivered in a way that suits your school best.
However, the good news is, you are given all the resources and lesson planning and the letters home in the New Arrivals Ambassadors pack so there is no additional work for you to do if you are the designated adult. You only have to photocopy and deliver!
When the children are all trained they are then ready to be let loose on any new children arriving in the school. It is your job as the designated adult to choose the best Ambassador for the new child to help them settle down quickly and happily.
What are the benefits for the school?
This programme is very effective when planned within the whole school context and is designed to form part of the school’s response to improving outcomes for children and young people particularly from vulnerable groups. It is well placed in Citizenship and PSHE, Healthy Schools, FBV and SMSC. It is valuable in promoting good attendance and behaviour and the development of social skills by pupils. It promotes pupil voice and pupil leadership. The main benefit for the school is new children arriving and feeling safe and secure with a known peer to support them.
How does the NAA scheme differ from the Young Interpreters Scheme (YI)?
Both schemes are mentoring and buddying schemes but the focus is different. The NAA scheme is a short sharp peer mentoring scheme that aims to support all children within your school who arrive at irregular times of the academic year,with the main focus on Service children, Looked After children and Gypsy, Roma, Traveller children. The Young Interpreters Scheme is aimed at supporting children with English as an Additional Language (EAL); like the NAA, the scheme encourages schools to enrol children from all types of backgrounds and not only those that are the main focus of the schemes. Both schemes look at issues like safeguarding, being friendly though not necessarily a best friend, negotiation skills and ways to build up self-esteem and confidence through the training of the Interpreters and the Ambassadors. Both schemes can run concurrently in a school as Young Interpreters and New Arrival Ambassadors target different pupils.
Where do I go from here?
The resource pack costs £45 including the resources CD and film DVD as well as an information DVD. To find out more visit our website.
If you would like a chat about NAA please contact me: email@example.com
If you would like a chat about YI please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or alternatively, if you are raring to go, visit the EMTAS shop for an order form.
A small scale piece of research into the ‘Any other White background’ (WOTH) ethnic group in Basingstoke & Deane painted a fascinating picture of the experiences of Polish families in UK schools. Parental engagement and home-school communication emerged as an important area for both parents and practitioners – and an aspect of EAL practice that can be difficult to get right.
What are the challenges?
Despite schools’ best efforts, induction can be a delicate time. Parents may struggle to get to grips with school systems, such as getting uniforms right, understanding timetables, knowing how to pay for school dinners, learning about the purpose of different virtual learning environments, etc. – whilst having to fill out forms in an unfamiliar language.
Keeping up to speed with the school calendar might be another difficulty. Parents of EAL learners may struggle to understand letters concerning events such as parent evenings, trips, data collection, and other special occasions such as sports days and INSET days. In fact, the very use of acronyms such as ‘INSET’ is sometimes another hurdle for EAL parents who are new the UK system and often also new to English, especially when these acronyms can be confused for a common everyday term like ‘insect’!
Parents are very keen to support their children with homework and whilst subject knowledge may not necessarily cause them concern, instructions and key words are more problematic due to the more academic nature of the language. However most of all, parents seem to struggle with never being quite certain whether or not they are in the loop. Often, support comes in the form of an EMTAS Bilingual Assistant who is able to interpret for school systems, routines and curricula. Watch this video clip to learn about their experience.
In addition to the use of bilingual staff, parents find a simple text message is very helpful in reinforcing the content of school letters, especially when these contain a lot of information to process. Text messages offer condensed details highlighting the most important facts e.g. dates and times of meetings, things to bring to school, reminders, etc. and help parents to keep track of what is happening and when. Yet this is not always a system in place in all schools.
Other parents are another important resource for families. When unsure about any aspect of school life, EAL parents may look to other parents – EAL as well as English-only. However whilst other parents may be a source of reassurance for some, those who aren’t confident with their English to approach other parents may continue to feel lost and isolated at pick up and drop off times. Some schools have tackled this issue by approaching established parents to become helpers in order to offer support to newly-arrived families.
Receiving feedback from their child’s teacher at the end of the day is another way for parents to feel reassured. In our study, EAL parents said they appreciated school practitioners initiating a conversation about how the children had coped during the day, what they had achieved and what they needed to work on. Sometimes, a thumb up and a word of praise was enough to alleviate parents’ anxieties. This was even more appreciated when parents weren’t confident to take the first step to approach staff themselves. In some cases, EAL parents still felt they were only approached by classroom staff when their child had done something wrong.
EAL parents spoke about the advantages of knowing what was coming up in class from one week to the next. This gave them opportunities to discuss topics in advance at home and in their first language, allowing their children to take a more active part in lessons. Parents found general information shared on the school website about what the children were to learn over the half-term less useful because this information contained less details and didn’t focus on the particular needs of their child.
A network meeting was held in Basingstoke to share findings from the research with local infant, junior and secondary EAL practitioners. Delegates discussed specific aspects of home-school liaison they wanted to improve at their school and collaborated on a checklist. To follow up on the practice discussed at the network meeting, practitioners at The Vyne School organised a coffee morning event for parents of EAL learners joining Year 7. The event was attended by key staff along with the school’s Young Interpreters who spoke to the children and families and gave tours of the school. The event was well-attended by pupils and parents from a range of feeder Primary schools who felt supported in their transition to Secondary education.
What action would you take to help improve home-school liaison at your school? Over to you now: read the full research report, learn about the First Language in the Curriculum (FLinC) project, set up the Young Interpreter Scheme® and share the strategies you have found most successful at your school in the comment box below.
Pairing up new arrivals with pupils who speak the same language is a good way of alleviating the anxiety of the first few weeks when everything is new, different and sometimes overwhelming. Coping in an unknown language for academic as well as social purposes over long periods of time is extremely tiring.
Newly-arrived pupils need appropriate support as they adjust to their new surroundings and routines and it makes complete sense to allow pupils to learn school routines, meet new friends and settle in at school through a language that is familiar to them. It also makes sense for pupils to engage with their learning through first-language, as anything that is cognitively challenging can then be discussed more easily and in greater depth. In short, first-language is an asset and a useful tool for learning as well as for settling in – so much so that for some, it might appear reasonable to ask bilingual pupils to interpret in all sorts of situations.
The use of children and young people as interpreters
There is limited guidance on the use of children and young people as interpreters at school and limited research around this theme, especially in the UK. What we do know is that ‘child interpreting’ is an underestimated role. Somehow, children and young people rarely have any concept of what a fantastic skill they have. What we also know is that whilst some feel extremely proud of being able to support their family through interpreting, others may perceive this to be a burden.
This is the case particularly when children and young people are requested to interpret in situations where the language and concepts involved are too difficult or unfamiliar for them to understand and relay accurately. Research also suggests that in the context of lessons, child interpreters are comfortable interpreting for routine tasks that require everyday language but struggle to interpret for new concepts where the language is more demanding due to its academic nature.
So, is it fair to ask Kacper to translate photosynthesis into Polish for us?
Some pupils who have been to school in their home country and studied this subject already may be quite confident to do so. However, more often than not learners will rely on English keywords when discussing their work in first language. Therefore, we should be careful not to assume that children and young people can cope with the language demands of the classroom to such a degree than they can replace bilingual assistants, professional interpreters and good quality, EAL-friendly teaching and learning. This is not to say that Kacper can’t help. In fact, he would benefit from his school setting up a peer-buddying programme such as the award-winning Young Interpreter Scheme®.
Young Interpreter Scheme
The Young Interpreter Scheme® is a successful, low-cost, self-sufficient framework consisting of training for learners aged 5-16, designed to skill them up to help new arrivals with English as an Additional Language feel welcome and settled in their new school environment. It supports pupils by giving them the tools to use their qualities and language skills effectively to help other pupils. The scheme also upskills school practitioners in charge of delivering the scheme thanks to guidance informed by research, self-explanatory resources and interactive e-learning material. These resources enable Young Interpreter Coordinators to train pupils and guide them in their role whilst preventing them from being used in inappropriate scenarios. The Young Interpreter Scheme® provides very clear guidance on the situations where pupils should be operating. For example, showing non-English speaking visitors around the school, buddying with new arrivals during breaks and lunchtimes and demonstrating routines, not interpreting for concepts in the classroom.
The Young Interpreter Scheme® gives children and young people who, like Kacper, interpret on an ad hoc basis, real recognition of their skills through a high-profile role defined, by clear parameters which ensure their safeguarding. Through this, the scheme also sends positive messages about multilingualism. This impacts pupils’ sense of identity and belonging at school, their relationships with pupils from other language groups as well as their leadership skills. The Young Interpreter Scheme® also provides a stepping stone to pupils who may like to consider interpreting as a career in the future.
Astrid Dinneen is co-ordinator of the Young Interpreter Scheme.
Article first published in April 2017 by ATL https://www.atl.org.uk/latest/kacper-what%E2%80%99s-photosynthesis-polish