User blog: Astrid Dinneen

Anyone in the world

In this blog, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Jamie Earnshaw explores best practice provision in relation to the placement of learners with EAL in 'ability' groups, sets or streams in primary and secondary school settings.  


Typically, any decisions on which group, set or stream to place learners in are based on their perceived academic ability. If learners with EAL are placed in groups, sets or streams merely according to their proficiency in English, or what they can demonstrate in English, it might take some learners many years before being able to access appropriately cognitively challenging tasks in the upper groups, sets or streams, given the timescales involved in learners reaching a similar level of English to their monolingual peers. For example, generally speaking, younger learners who start to learn English in Key Stage 1 can take between 7 and 10 years to acquire full cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) in their use of English across the curriculum. Older learners with better developed language and literacy skills in their first languages may take between 5 and 7 years to achieve CALP.
 
It is vital to keep in mind that a learner’s proficiency in English is not necessarily representative of their cognitive ability and of their understanding of subjects or topics if demonstrated in their first language (L1). Schools should therefore make any decisions to group, set or stream learners on a multitude of factors, not solely based on a learner’s level of proficiency in English, keeping in mind that a newly arrived learner of EAL is unlikely to have a sufficient level of English to demonstrate their full knowledge or abilities.
 
Therefore, when assessing learners with EAL, and consequently when making any decisions relating to the placement of learners in groups, sets or streams, schools should collect a range of information, including their prior education and skills in L1.
 
With this principle in mind, standardised tests should be avoided for early stage learners of EAL and results from such tests should not be used to inform the placement of learners with EAL into groups, sets or streams.
 


Why should L1 help to inform decisions on the placement of learners with EAL?
 
Research by Cummins (1984, 1996)[i] highlights the interdependency of a pupil’s academic skills in L1 and a second language – known as common underlying proficiency.
 
Later research suggests:
 

This common underlying proficiency allows some aspects of cognitive/academic or literacy-related skills to transfer across languages, including: conceptual knowledge, subject matter knowledge, higher-order thinking skills, reading strategies and writing composition skills[ii]

 
It might therefore be the case that a learner understands ideas or concepts in L1, including those which are more abstract and complex, and is confidently able to demonstrate this understanding in L1. However, when asked to demonstrate their understanding in English, they might lack the necessary language of instruction to fully understand the task they are being asked to complete, or, equally, they might not have a sufficient command of English vocabulary or language structures to be able to convey their understanding to school staff or peers, who do not share the same language medium.
 
Appropriate assessment of a learner with EAL will help to provide a more accurate determination of a learner’s existing knowledge and skillset, rather than merely what they are able to demonstrate through the medium of spoken or written English.
 


The importance of appropriate placement of learners with EAL
 
Research highlights the fundamental fact that all learners achieve more when they view the learning environment as positive and supportive[iii] and therefore, any decisions on groups, sets and streams should look to facilitate the appropriate level of cognitive demand for the individual learner. This is pivotal in ensuring the positive learning journey of learners with EAL and in supporting their progression to developing full CALP.
 
Furthermore, a key part of language learning is having access to a range of strong written and verbal models of English, which is most likely to be found in higher ability groups, sets or streams. This should be a fundamental consideration when making decisions on the placement of learners with EAL.
 

The Bell Foundation research highlights how it ‘seems as though EAL learners are too often considered to be ‘learning disabled’ and/or classified as SEN[D] rather than simply being less proficient in English’.[iv]

 
The distinction between EAL and SEND is explicitly stated in the Children and Families Act 2014, section 20 (4):
 

A child or young person does not have a learning difficulty or disability solely because the language (or form of language) in which he or she is or will be taught is different from a language (or form of language) which is or has been spoken at home.

 
Indeed, learners with EAL are no more likely to have SEND than any other learner. Learners with EAL should not therefore be automatically placed in lower sets with SEND learners.
 
Learners with EAL, like their monolingual peers, generally understand the principles around placement of learners in groups, sets or streams and are therefore aware that they are grouped with peers of a similar academic ability. By inappropriately placing a learner with EAL with other learners who are of low underlying cognitive ability or who have SEND, it is likely to be demeaning and demotivating for them. Indeed, according to research from The Bell Foundation, where learners were ‘not fully stretched because of insufficient staff assessment and knowledge of their prior learning and attainment, their motivation levels dropped and their behaviour in school could deteriorate’. i[v]
 
Furthermore, it is important that the activities and tasks offered to learners with EAL are appropriate for their cognitive ability. Thus, for example, offering a reading task to a pupil with EAL from a storybook that is well below their age may be counter-productive because although the language demand may be lower, the images and concepts may be inappropriate and serve to demean rather than help. Tasks for learners with EAL should be cognitively challenging and language is best acquired when there is a clear context within which the pupil is learning the target language.
 
With this in mind, back-yearing or deceleration, where learners are placed in a year group below their chronological age, should, in the vast majority of cases, be avoided.
 


What if a learner with EAL does not have prior knowledge or understanding in a particular subject area? 
 
The principle that a pupil’s proficiency in English will increase more quickly alongside accurate, fluent users of English, providing positive models for both language and behaviour, is widely accepted.
 
According to research from the DfE:
 

It is … vital that pupils learning English have the opportunity to hear positive language models, and so groupings need to be managed carefully to ensure that this happens[vi]

 
Schools should therefore keep in mind, even where it is determined that a learner with EAL lacks sufficient knowledge or skills more generally in a specific subject area, their placement in a group, set or stream should facilitate their access to positive language models. The placement of a learner with EAL in a mid to higher ability group is more likely to provide the range of opportunities to hear and see language being modelled appropriately - a vital part of language learning.


 
Conclusion
 
Fundamentally, the proper and accurate assessment of learners with EAL, to determine their academic proficiency beyond what they are able to demonstrate in English, is vital. Furthermore, when placing learners with EAL in groups, sets or streams, the need for access to appropriate models of written and verbal English, which underlines language learning, should be at the forefront of any such decisions.



Recommendations
  
1.)  Place learners with EAL in groups, sets or streams which facilitate access to a range of positive models of written and verbal English. This is a fundamental principle of language learning.
 
2.)  Use accurate and appropriate individual assessment of learners’ academic and cognitive ability, including through L1, to inform decisions on their placement in groups, sets or streams.
 
3.)  As part of the assessment process, collate as much information as possible about learners with EAL, including proficiency in L1, prior educational experiences and pedagogical approaches learners are familiar with.
 
4.)  Involve learners and their parents/carers in the decision-making process as much as possible. Seek the views of learners and provide regular opportunities for review. Be prepared to explain any decisions to parents/carers and provide opportunities for them to ask any questions they might have.
 
5.)  Avoid automatically placing learners with EAL in groups, sets or streams purely because there are additional adults available to support. This is only likely to be beneficial if staff have received specific EAL-focused language learning training.
 
6.)  Avoid relying on the results of standardised tests to inform the placement of learners with EAL in groups, sets or streams.
 
7.)  Ensure regular monitoring and tracking of learners with EAL and provide regular opportunities for reviewing the groups, sets or streams of learners with EAL.
 
8.)  Promote the use of a learner’s L1 in school to help with access to the curriculum. Training from EMTAS could help staff to identify how learners with EAL could use L1 effectively in school settings.
 
9.)  Recognise the difference between the needs of, and appropriate support for, a pupil with SEND, with that of an EAL learner without SEND.
 
10.)    Do not backyear or decelerate learners with EAL as a matter of course. This will only be appropriate in a limited number of cases and should only be done in consultation with Hampshire EMTAS so that the full range of factors of any such decision can be considered. 
 
11.)    Provide opportunities for learners with EAL to have access to peers who can model language and skills in an appropriate way. This will also facilitate opportunities for learners with EAL to practise using the target language in meaningful contexts. Ensure that EAL learners’ peers are trained effectively to support them in this way.
 
12.) Be wary of using KS2 SATs outcomes for learners with EAL in order to determine sets, groups or streams at KS3. Learners of EAL, particularly those who joined a UK school for the first time during Key Stage 2, may have suppressed KS2 results due to not having had enough time to fully ‘catch up’ with their monolingual peers. Any algorithm that generates end of KS4 predictions based on KS2 SATs results, or any setting decisions based on those suppressed KS2 SATs outcomes, may lower teacher expectations of what that learner may be able to achieve given a further 5 years’ education in the UK system.
 
Contact emtas@hants.gov.uk for further support and guidance. One of our Specialist Teacher Advisors will be able to provide further advice for specific cases.
 


Further reading

[i] Cummins, J. (1984) Bilingualism and Special Education: Issues in Assessment and Pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. ISBN: 0-905028-13-9
 
Cummins, J. (1996) Knowledge, Power, and Identity in Teaching English as a Second Language. In Genesee, F. (Ed.) Educating Second Language Children: The Whole Child, the Whole Curriculum, the Whole Community. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 0-521-45797-1
 
[ii] Rosamond, S. et al.(2003) Distinguishing the Difference: SEN or EAL – an effective step-by-step procedure for identifying the learning needs of EAL pupils causing concern. Birmingham Advisory Support Service, Birmingham City Council
 
[iii] Dorman, J.P., Aldridge, J.M. & Fraser, B.J. (2006) Using Students' Assessment of Classroom Environment to Develop a Typology of Secondary School Classrooms. International Education Journal, 7(7), 906-915
 
[iv] The Bell Foundation (2015) School Approaches to the Education of EAL Students: Language Development, Social Integration and Achievement
 
[v] The Bell Foundation (2015) School Approaches to the Education of EAL Students: Language Development, Social Integration and Achievement
 
[vi] Department for Education and Skills (2002) Access and engagement in ICT: teaching pupils for whom English is an additional language
                                          
 
Read the Hampshire EMTAS Position Statement on the placement of learners with EAL in groups, sets or streams on our Moodle here.
 
For further information on assessment of learners with EAL, see the section on assessment in our Guidance Library here. Also, see our e-learning module on assessing L1 here.
 
See the Hampshire EMTAS guidance on Standardised testing and EAL learners.
 
For further information on back-yearing/deceleration, please see the full Hampshire EMTAS guidance on deceleration for learners of English as an Additional Language.
 
Further guidance on the distinction between EAL and SEND can be found on the Hampshire EMTAS website here.


[ Modified: Tuesday, 11 January 2022, 9:52 AM ]
 
Anyone in the world

By Steve Clark, Hampshire EMTAS Teaching Assistant for Travellers


Hampshire EMTAS is pleased to announce the release of a new e-learning module for all school staff who support children and families from GRT backgrounds. This module - which complements existing EMTAS cultural awareness training - aims to offer CPD in a way, and at a time, which fits in with practitioners’ busy work schedules. It offers an insight, through self-driven exploration, into the linguistic and cultural aspects of several GRT backgrounds. There are phase-specific examples of how best to support children and families from GRT heritages and an opportunity to build an action plan to support your work with your GRT communities. 


So what does it look like?

The GRT e-learning course takes approximately 40 minutes to complete. The objective is to provide a general awareness of several GRT cultural groups, their languages, their history and from where these groups originated. It is designed to enable the learner to explore various aspects to the support offered by a school to its GRT pupils and their families.


Who should take this course?

This unit will be relevant for class teachers, Governors, TAs/LSAs, the GRT coordinator and any home-school link workers. It is particularly relevant for any trainee teachers and those at an early stage in their teaching career. It is also a useful addition to the training programme of any agency that supports children and families from GRT backgrounds, whether they are within or outside of Hampshire.


What does it include?


Find out interesting facts about GRT cultures around the world and listen to four podcasts about Roma, Irish Travellers, English Gypsies and Showmen. In addition, you can have a try at a language activity which will introduce you to Romany. There are interactive school maps where you can access phase specific information about catering for GRT families. You can learn more about the benefit of ascription for GRT pupils, their families and the school and there is helpful advice about attendance issues, dual registration, distance learning and how and when to use the ‘T’ Code appropriately. The unit culminates with the creation of an action plan to support your role as GRT Lead.
 
How can I access this module?

This module is available free of charge to Hampshire LEA schools and Academies that have bought into the Hampshire EMTAS SLA. There is a charge for other institutions to access the unit. Please contact emtas@hants.gov.uk for details.


Where can I find out more about GRT?

Read our blogs

Visit our website and use the tabs to find out more about GRT resources, how to access support for a Traveller child, effective distance learning for GRT pupils, the GRT Excellence Award and Kushti Careers

Guidance for schools regarding attendance

A Study Into the Use of the T Code

Find out more about our suite of e-learning modules, including The Culturally Inclusive School


[ Modified: Tuesday, 4 January 2022, 12:14 PM ]
 
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 ]
 
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by Astrid Dinneen - Thursday, 11 November 2021, 9:37 AM
Anyone in the world

In this blog, the Hampshire EMTAS Teacher Team considers what best practice might look like in relation to catering for the needs of refugee children on roll in Hampshire Schools.

 
 

In recent months, Hampshire has hosted a number of refugee families from Afghanistan, some of whom will remain in the county permanently whilst others will eventually be found a permanent home elsewhere.  The children of these refugee families are starting to be taken onto roll at schools across the county, and this has raised a number of questions as colleagues have sought advice on how best to streamline support at this vital point in the children’s lives.

First and foremost, at the point of referral to EMTAS it has become apparent that not everyone is confident when it comes to telling the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee.  To cut to the chase, the term refugee is widely used to describe displaced people all over the world but legally in the UK a person is a refugee only when the Home Office has accepted their asylum claim. While a person is waiting for a decision on their claim, he or she is called an asylum seeker. Some asylum seekers will later become refugees if their claims for asylum are successful. 

The recently-arrived Afghan refugee children are here with their families and because of this they benefit from greater continuity in terms of support from their primary care-givers. Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC), on the other hand, are minors who are here on their own and therefore don’t have the support of their close families. UASC are accommodated in the care system in the UK but their status in the longer term remains in question.  They will be claiming asylum, which – if they are successful – will give them indefinite leave to remain and refugee status.  This will give them the right to live permanently in the UK and to pursue higher education and/or work in the UK. Check the EMTAS guidance for more detail on this point.

Moving on to talk about refugees, in many ways the needs of refugee children are very similar to those of any other international new arrival, hence staff in schools should, in the main, adopt the same EAL good practice with these children as they would any others.  There are, however, some additional things to bear in mind.

Refugee children (as well as UASC) may have had to leave their country of origin suddenly, bringing with them very few of their personal belongings and leaving much behind.  Because of this, some may experience a greater sense of loss than children whose move to the UK was undertaken in a more planned way.  Some refugee children will have left behind members of their extended families as well as friends, favourite toys and pets (where keeping pets is part of their culture), and may be concerned for their safety or not know their whereabouts or even if they are alive.  This can be compounded by having little opportunity to communicate with them to check if they’re OK.  Older children are likely to be more aware of and affected by this than younger ones, and their awareness may be heightened by conversations within their household as parents talk about and begin to process the events that brought them here.

Some refugee children will have experienced unplanned interruptions to their education, especially those who have spent time in refugee camps en route to the UK or those who have travelled with their families through various countries.  Lack of facilities might mean that some have missed opportunities to keep up with their learning, hence there may be gaps.  The longer the gap, the more they will have missed – hardly rocket science, but something to bear in mind when thinking about reasons why a child’s reading and writing skills may not be as secure as would normally be expected.  The advice with this would be to clarify each child’s education history with parents and then to consider what arrangements might be put in place to help plug any gaps – without causing them to miss even more eg through ill-timed/too many withdrawal interventions (see EMTAS Position Statement on Withdrawal Provision for learners of EAL). 

For most refugee children, routine really helps.  They benefit from knowing what each school day will hold, so things like visual timetables are helpful.  They also benefit from being supported to quickly develop a sense of belonging in their new school.  Use buddies – including trained Young Interpreters – to support them as they adjust to their new surroundings.  Bear in mind that the less-structured times such as break and lunch times can be more difficult for a newly-arrived refugee child, so check that they are being included and are joining in with play with other children.  Teachers may find it helpful to teach some playground games in the relative safety and calm of the classroom, with input and support from other children in their class, with the idea that these games can then transfer to the outside areas.

Support from their peers will be key to the induction and integration of a newly-arrived refugee child.  Sit them with peers who can be good learning, behaviour and language role models.  Try to match them with peers who are of similar cognitive ability.  Remember to reward all children involved with praise where things have gone well eg if they have shown the new arrival their book or repeated an instruction or the new arrival has accepted support from a peer or tried to involve themselves in a task or whatever.  With younger learners, consider using a Persona Doll to explore ways of supporting the new arrival with your class.

When it comes to accessing the curriculum, remember the benefits of using first language both to aid access and engagement and to give the child a sense of the value of the L1 skills they bring with them.  Use of L1 can be a great way of involving parents too, so make sure you think of ways they can support – perhaps helping their child look up key words or using Wikipedia in other languages to research a topic.  If you have a literate child in your class, encourage them to write in L1 and explore how translation tools can be used to build a dialogue with the child and give them the skills to communicate their ideas with others in accessible ways.  Many translation tools have an audio component too, so even children who can’t read very well in L1 can benefit from their use in the classroom.  For more information about translation tools, see ‘Use of ICT’ on the EMTAS Moodle.

The biggest issues often relate not to language barriers but to culture; there are lots of things we take for granted to be commonly understood, shared experiences which for refugee children will be new, alien.  These can include experiences of teaching and learning, for instance a didactic approach wherein the teacher conveys knowledge to the empty vessels that are their charges may have been the norm in country of origin.  People whose schooling embodied this sort of approach may find learning through play or learning through engaging in dialogue with others very ‘foreign’; uncomfortably new territory they need to negotiate without any prior experience on which to base their understanding or response.

Refugee children from Afghanistan will almost invariably be Muslim and this in itself raises some issues that schools will need to address.  For some children, there will be issues with school uniform, with others, schools may need to rethink key texts they are using in class eg ‘The Three Little Pigs’ with younger learners or ‘Lord of the Flies’ with children in secondary phase may be problematic.  For guidance on these and other issues to do with having Muslim children on roll in your school, see the comprehensive guidance from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), posted in an open access course on the EMTAS Moodle here.

So to some final advice on how to negotiate this unfamiliar terrain.  For one, try to remember always that refugee children’s responses may at first seem strange or oppositional or even rude.  This sort of thing is likely to be indicative of a cultural barrier that needs to be overcome with both parties open to moving their respective positions.  To get the best results, try to be the party that is receptive to difference and willing to make the most moves to understand and accommodate.  If issues arise and you’re not sure what to do, EMTAS is here to support so do get in touch with us.


By phone 03707 794222
By email emtas@hants.gov.uk 


Find out more:

[ Modified: Tuesday, 11 January 2022, 2:53 PM ]
 
Anyone in the world


Part-time PhD student Sarah Coles is currently researching UK-born children’s lived experiences of growing up in more than one language.  In this blog, she considers the place of the home language in the linguistic landscape of bilingual children from linguistic minority communities.   


My research focuses on the development of both first language (L1) and English (L2) of bilingual children growing up as members of linguistic minority communities in an L2 context.  It’s a longitudinal study that follows a small sample of bilingual children through their first year of schooling.  Using picture sequences, I elicit stories from each child, one in L1 and another in English, their L2.  This will be done once at the beginning of the fieldwork phase and again at the end.  In this way, I hope to be able to identify how the children’s two languages evolve over time and to document any shift in dominance from one language to another that may occur.  I will also work with each child to explore their lived experiences of growing up in two languages.  Additional contextual information, including the detail of their own language use, will be gathered from the children’s parents.  Ultimately, through the children’s own narratives, I hope to deepen practitioners’ understanding of bilingual children in the Foundation Stage and to pinpoint some practical ways in which support for such children might be tailored to improve their engagement with their learning.



Setting the scene: two broad-brush models of bilingual development


Across the globe, monolingualism is not the norm for all children; exposure to more than one language and bilingual development from an early age is in fact more prevalent than a monolingual model.  Children may experience different routes in their journeys to bilingualism dependent on their immediate family contexts.  Some children will be born into households where each parent speaks a different language and the child has access to both from birth.  This might be described as simultaneous bilingualism.  Other families may be part of a settled immigrant community and the child may experience a monolingual start, being exposed to a minority language at home and, later in their development, the majority language outside of it. This would describe sequential bilingualism.

     
The outcomes for children growing up in bilingual settings are varied.  Some will go on to develop comparable skills - receptive and productive – in their two (or more) languages and will be able to function in different contexts – school, home, community – equally well in both/all.  At the other end of the spectrum, it is just as possible for a child to have exposure to two (or more) languages yet to learn to speak only one themselves. 



The possible impact of differential linguistic prestige


There are various factors that may influence the course and outcome of a bilingual child’s language development.  One that seems to be significant relates to people’s perception of the relative prestige of the child’s two – or more - languages.  A child from a linguistic minority community may experience a monolingual start to life with exposure to the minority language in the home from their main care-givers from birth.  Later, and because it is the language of schooling, the child is required to develop a second, additional language, English.  For such a child, the second language is where the cultural capital resides, it being the language of the majority community.  Because of its sociocultural dominance over the minority language, it is often the case that this second language becomes the child’s preferred one, eventually replacing their first, minority language.  


This is a scenario experienced by many children of Hampshire’s UK-born ethnic and linguistic minority communities.  They may, in their early years, be exposed to – let’s say – Nepali at home but later, when they start school, English.  From that point onwards, families may notice their child gradually ceases to use Nepali, preferring to respond in English even when addressed in first language (L1).  This end result is sometimes referred to as ‘passive bilingualism’ although as De Houwer (2009) notes there is “nothing passive about understanding two languages and speaking one”.



The possible impact of quantity of input experienced 


A second consideration is the quantity of language input experienced by the child.  In a monolingual context, the language of the home is the same as the language of the wider community and – often – of education too.  Everywhere the child goes and everyone they meet speaks the same language.  Hence the child has multiple models of the same, single language.  In contrast, linguistic minority children born in the UK may have exposure to L1 at home and L2 (English) outside of it.  Hence their overall exposure to L1 is – in most cases - reduced. 


The impact of reduced exposure to each of the bilingual child’s two languages has been explored by researchers with an interest in child language development.  One thing that’s emerged is the observation that a child’s lexicon (the words they know and use) in each of their languages reflects the amount of exposure the child has to each language – which is typically less for each language than the total exposure to their one language experienced by a monolingual child of similar age.  When their vocabularies in both languages are combined, however, the overall picture of these bilingual children’s lexical development has been found to be on a par with their monolingual peers.


Further, research has identified that if the words known by a bilingual child are listed, only about one third represent words that are translations of each other; i.e. two thirds of the words a bilingual child knows in one of their languages are known only in that language and are not shared with the child’s other language.  This is likely to be directly related to differences in the contexts in which each language is used and the communicative purpose being served.



The possible impact of context 


Some researchers have found there to be discrepancies between UK-born bilingual children’s skills in L1 (the heritage language) compared with those of children of comparable age but growing up in a monolingual context.  They suggest that the L1 skills of bilingual children growing up in the UK are unlikely to reach a level comparable to monolingual children growing up in country of origin.  This, they say, is largely due to reduced exposure to the heritage language from adult L1 models who may themselves be experiencing language loss due to lack of use.  The overall outcome, some have suggested, is likely to be ‘incomplete L1 acquisition’. 

Elsewhere in the literature, the notion that ‘incomplete first language development’ exists at all attracts criticism.  Some have argued that all intergenerational first language transmission, including that which takes place in monolingual settings, evidences change.  According to this view, what others may see as ‘errors’ in L1 in fact represent “normal intergenerational language change accelerated by conditions of language contact” (Otheguy, 2016).  According to this view, in immigrant populations new L1 norms will naturally develop, resulting in divergence between L1 use in an L2 immersion context compared with L1 use in a monolingual, home country context.  Hence context has a bearing on the language models to which a bilingual child might be exposed. 



The possible impact of the language modelled 


Another important consideration when it comes to a child’s language development is the nature of the language models to which they are exposed.  Typically, linguistic minority parents themselves do not function in a monolingual context and this can have an impact on their everyday language practices.  The result is often an incremental increase in both code-switching (characterised by swapping from one language to another at word/phrase level) and code-mixing (combining grammatical structures from both languages) where in their speech they move in a fluid, natural way between languages, swapping a word or a phrase here and borrowing a grammatical structure there. 


In the literature, code-mixing and code-switching are identified as common linguistic practices amongst bilingual populations.  Having been found to be rule-based and systematic, code-switching and code-mixing are these days viewed in a favourable light as opposed to the deficit view that prevailed in the past that stigmatised them as “…the haphazard embodiments of “language confusion” (MacSwan, 2017). 

Although limited in terms of the number of empirical studies into the impact on bilingual children’s language development of code-switching and code-mixing by their parents, research suggests that bilingual adults frequently engage in these practices in interactions with their children.  This is in line with trends identified in the broader sweep of studies into bilingual code-switching and code-mixing.  What it means for a child growing up in more than one language is that they are likely to experience code-switching and code-mixing in language inputs modelled by family members and other significant adults around them.  This may in turn prompt them to code-switch and code-mix themselves in their own speech.  


Code-switching and code-mixing in parental inputs appear to influence L1 development in children growing up as members of language minority communities in other ways too.  Some studies have found a negative correlation, with higher rates of code-switching and code-mixing by parents resulting in lower comprehension and production vocabulary sizes in young children.  Others have identified that code-switched input, arguably more challenging to process than input in a single language, has positive outcomes but only for those children with greater verbal working memory capacity who are capable of processing it.



What this means for my research 


To draw to a close, the above whistle-stop tour illustrates that bilingual language development is a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon.  It is affected by multiple influences, each impacting in different ways and to different degrees on the individual child in their own specific context.  Through my research, I make space for a small sample of UK-born bilingual children to explore these differences and to focus on their first-hand experiences of growing up in more than one language.  Once this has happened, any findings relevant to practitioners working with young, UK-born bilingual learners will be shared so that all bilingual children in Hampshire schools and settings receive a Year R experience that is sensitive to their developmental needs.   
 


References

De Houwer, A. (2009). Bilingual first language acquisition (1st ed., Vol. 2). Multilingual Matters.
MacSwan, J. (2017). A Multilingual Perspective on Translanguaging. American educational research journal, 54(1), 167-201.
Otheguy, R. (2016). The linguistic competence of second-generation bilinguals Romance linguistics    2013 : selected papers from the 43rd Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL),      New York, 17-19 April, 2013, New York.


[ Modified: Thursday, 14 October 2021, 11:07 AM ]
 
Picture of Astrid Dinneen
by Astrid Dinneen - Thursday, 30 September 2021, 2:54 PM
Anyone in the world

By Claire Barker


At long last we bring you the good news that the EMTAS conference will take place on 15th October 2021 at The Holiday Inn, Winchester. We are delighted that this will be an in person event; over the last eighteen months, the conference date has been moved several times because we really wanted to be able to meet and greet you face to face. This is, at last, possible and we look forward to welcoming practitioners who work in any phase of education from EYFS to KS4 to the long-awaited event.
 
The Conference is titled ‘All in this together – going from strength to strength’. This reflects the post pandemic fatigue felt by many of us and how we now need to move forward together to support our EAL and GRT children who have maybe struggled with their education during the pandemic. Many EAL and GRT children will have lost skills they’d acquired in English and will now be playing catch up. Many will have missed out on peer-to-peer interaction and the opportunities this provides to develop social language and interpersonal skills. On the positive side, some will have improved their first language skills as a result of spending more time living in that language. Others will have increased their ICT skills and their digital literacy and this will be a focus of one of our workshops, how to use ICT programmes to support literacy in the classroom. 

We are very fortunate to be able to welcome Eowyn Crisfield, who is a well know name in linguistic communities. Eowyn is a Canadian-educated specialist in languages across the curriculum, including EAL, home languages, bilingual and immersion education, super-diverse schools and translanguaging. Her focus is on equal access to learning and language development for all students, and on appropriate and effective professional development for teachers working with language learners. She is author of the recent book ‘Bilingual Families: A practical language planning guide (2021) and co-author of “Linguistic and Cultural Innovation in Schools: The Languages Challenge” (2018 with Jane Spiro). She is also a Senior Lecturer in TESOL at Oxford Brookes University.

Our very own Deputy Team Leader, Sarah Coles is currently studying for her PhD. Sarah’s longitudinal study, now in its fourth year, focuses on children with Nepali or Polish in their backgrounds. These two languages represent the greatest number of referrals made by schools to Hampshire EMTAS, hence the relevance of the research to the Hampshire context. In her presentation, Sarah will consider some of the features of the linguistic soundscape experienced by UK-born bilingual children. Drawing on findings from her pilot study, she will discuss the use of the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives, drawing attention to some points of note for mainstream practitioners with an interest in language development. 

Our third keynote speaker of the day is Leanda Hawkins.  Leanda is from a Hampshire Romany family with a long history of culture and heritage. She went on to Higher Education, and has carved a career supporting children with special educational needs. Her motivation is to help all children progress and thrive through education. Leanda will share her experiences of education as a child, student and artist now working as Behavioural Lead and HLTA in a federated school in Hampshire. 

The workshop offer will include a session with Eowyn looking at 'Language and literacy development for multilingual learners: What do we know and what can we do?'. There will be an interactive IT session looking at OT programmes to support literacy in the classroom led by Lynne Chinnery.  Jamie Earnshaw will lead a workshop focusing on the 'New Hampshire EMTAS first language support programmes'. Helen Smith will host a session on 'Literacy for GRT pupils and breaking barriers in the school community'. Sarah Coles will lead a session on ‘MAIN - Multi-Lingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives'.

The Conference promises to be exciting and informative.  Delegates will have the opportunity to participate in two workshop sessions as well as time to visit the stalls that will promote and highlight resources to help support EAL and GRT students.

If you would like to continue your studies in EAL best practice the new Supporting English as an Additional Language(SEAL) course begins later this term. If you are interested in this course please contact HTLC to book a place or email: Claire.Barker@hants.gov.uk for more information. 

We are looking forward to seeing you at our future events.


References
Language and learning loss: The evidence on children who use EAL (bell-foundation.org.uk)
Languages in lockdown: Time to think about multilingualism | LuCiD

[ Modified: Thursday, 7 October 2021, 1:21 PM ]
 
Picture of Astrid Dinneen
by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 7 September 2021, 11:44 AM
Anyone in the world

By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors 


Welcome to this new academic year. The EMTAS team is feeling refreshed after the summer holiday and looks forward to continuing their work. We’re particularly excited to support more schools this year as they work towards achieving an EAL or GRT Excellence AwardIn this blog you will find out what’s in store for 2021-22 to support your professional development as well as your award submission. You will also learn more about our Heritage Honours Award, find out about staff changes in our team and catch up with important research projects.


Network meetings 

The dates of our EAL network meetings can be found on our websiteWe will also be holding specific network meetings for Early Career Teachers, the details of which can be found on the same page of our website. The termly GRT-focused network meetings will continue to be held online this year. Like our EAL network meetings, they are free to attend for Hampshire-maintained schools. To find out when the next ones are, check the Training section of the EMTAS website.


EMTAS conference 

We are very much looking forward to the EMTAS Conference on Friday 15th October at the Holiday Inn in Winchester. It promises to be an enlightening day with Eowyn Crisfield as one of our keynote speakers. She is an acclaimed expert in languages across the curriculum and has a wealth of knowledge in this field. Sarah Coles will be sharing her research findings on ‘Pathways to bilingualism: young children’s experiences of growing up in two languages’ and Leanda Hawkins will speak of her experiences of education from the perspective of belonging to the Romany community. There will also be a selection of cross phase workshops for delegates to take part in and stalls to see some of the latest resources available to support EAL and GRT pupils in education. Everyone who signs up will receive a free set of the latest EAL Conversation Cards valued at £45. There are limited spaces so please sign up as soon as possible. For further information and online booking please see our flyer attached to this blog. 


New e-learning 

We are pleased to announce that we have new E-learning modules now available: 

- Supporting children and families from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) backgrounds

- Developing culturally inclusive practice in Early Years settings

- The appropriate placement of learners with EAL in groups, sets and streams.

Our e-learning modules are free to access for Hampshire-maintained schools. To find out how to obtain a login, please see our Moodle.



Awa

Heritage Honours Award

The EMTAS Heritage Honours award, launched last academic year, celebrates the achievements of children from BME, EAL and GRT backgrounds at school and within the home/community. Children and young people can be nominated for an award by the school they are currently attending. More than 60 successful nominations were received last year. Reasons for nomination variously include success in heritage language examinations, practical and creative use of first language within the school environment, sharing cultural background with peers, acting as an empathetic peer buddy, success in community sporting events and excellent progress in learning EAL. Nominations are now open for this year. To find out more about how to nominate a pupil, see our Moodle


Research 

Debra Page is entering the third and final year of her PhD researching the Young Interpreter Scheme. Data collection happened online due to the pandemic and the first and second wave of data collection with 84 children across 5 schools is now complete. The third and final data collection will be in November and all the data will then be managed and analysed. In her last update, Debra shared a YI diary and additional training resource she created. She delivered this virtually with each school during their YI training session and initial feedback has been very positive. It is hoped that these extra resources will form part of the YI training in the near future. The children are excited to complete their diaries about the work that they do as a Young Interpreter. If the diary is something that you are interested in, please get in touch. We look forward to finding out results of what is learnt about the Young Interpreter Scheme. 

diary

Sarah Coles will update us on her own PhD in a separate blog very soon. Her PhD is part time and she’s just embarking on her fourth year of study. She’ll mainly be involved in data collection this year and a number of schools with children from Polish and Nepali families starting in Year R have agreed to support this. Sarah is hoping the families she and members of our Bilingual Assistant team approach will be similarly willing to be involved. 


Staffing

At the end of last term, we wished Chris Pim a happy retirement and welcomed back Astrid Dinneen following her maternity leave. As a result, we have made some changes to the geographical areas the specialist teacher team will be covering:

Sarah Coles – Winchester

Lisa Kalim – New Forest

Astrid Dinneen – Basingstoke & Deane

Jamie Earnshaw – Eastleigh, Fareham and Gosport

Claire Barker – Hart, Rushmoor and East Hants

Lynne Chinnery – Havant, Waterlooville and Isle of Wight

Helen Smith – Test Valley

Sarah, Claire and Helen will also cover GRT work across the county.

We also welcome Abi Guler to our Bilingual Assistant team. He will be working with our Turkish families. We are delighted to have also newly recruited Fiona Calder as our new Black Children's Achievement Project Assistant. 


We are all looking forward to continuing working with you. In the meantime, be sure to subscribe to the blog digest and visit our website.


[ Modified: Friday, 10 September 2021, 11:29 AM ]
 
Anyone in the world

By Hampshire EMTAS Traveller Teaching Assistant Steve Clark


The big leap from Year 6 to Year 7

First steps into secondary school can be difficult for any pupil. Secondary schools are usually much bigger environments with more pupils and staff than most primary schools. The differences are noticeable: pupils move between lessons rather than staying in the same room all day and there is a complex school layout and timetables to negotiate. Pupils for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL) and pupils from a Gypsy, Roma, Traveller heritage (GRT) find the transition challenging. Rather than making the leap into the unknown, some GRT pupils withdraw from mainstream education and opt instead for elective home education (EHE).

This year more than any other year it will take a concerted effort from EAL and GRT children, parents, carers and schools to support their transition. The Coronavirus has led to a long absence from school for most pupils and many will find adjusting to the routines of the school day and entering a new learning environment particularly challenging.

Many EAL families may have experienced high levels of anxiety about Covid-19 and isolation especially where they have not been able to go and visit relatives or, in some cases, have any contact with them at all. Some families will have suffered bereavement and their children may benefit from bereavement counselling and/or ELSA support. EMTAS can also offer first language support for schools and families, mentoring for pupils and cultural advice for staff.

Many of our GRT families are fearful of the impact of the virus on their children and their communities and may be very reluctant to allow their children to return to school for this reason. If this is the case, schools can ask for EMTAS support for staff and the GRT communities affected. 

Many GRT families are self-employed and due to the nature of their work may be experiencing high levels of anxiety due to the impact of the lockdown on their ability to continue working.  Some families may be trying to off-set this by travelling further afield to secure work.

Hampshire EMTAS is, as always, ready to support all concerned with transition. Usually, we offer a transition programme for GRT pupils and EMTAS staff visit pupils in person to support and facilitate their journey from primary school into secondary. However, this year, because of social distancing, EMTAS staff are instead offering this support via telephone and can liaise with EAL and GRT parents and carers this way to answer any questions they may have and to support them with the transition. In October, after the child has started in their secondary school, an EMTAS member of staff will arrange a follow-up visit to see them to check they are settling in.


What EAL and GRT pupils, parents and carers may want to know

Lunch systems - Many schools are cashless and operate a fingerprint recognition system to pay for lunches. It is important to stress to GRT and EAL pupils and their families that their fingerprint will not be used for any other purpose.

Mobile phones - It is important to communicate to GRT and EAL pupils, parents and carers, the school’s expectations around the use of mobile phones during the school day and to clarify how they can contact each other in exceptional circumstances.

Homework - Starting a conversation between school staff and GRT and EAL pupils, parents and carers can prove highly effective in ensuring that any potential problems with completing homework are identified early on and flexible solutions found.

Uniform and equipment - It is recommended that schools have a full and clear conversation with GRT and EAL parents and carers prior to the child starting in Year 7 about what equipment the pupil will need and what is acceptable uniform including jewellery and hairstyle. This may give school staff an opportunity to address any concerns the family may have regarding cost.

Cultural factors should be considered e.g. clarification about the provision of separate changing facilities for PE and modesty -related issues to do with PE kits etc. These are particularly relevant to Muslim students and their families.

Religious observance - Sikh boys may wear a patka (head covering) or other hair covering and may, for religious reasons, not have their hair cut; hijabs may be worn by some Muslim girls. Many Muslim pupils, especially once they are in secondary phase, will observe fasting throughout Ramadan followed by Eid, a day they may request permission to take off school for religious observance.

Attendance - Communication between GRT and EAL pupils, parents, carers and school staff is vital to ensure a good level of attendance (96% or above) is maintained. Clear guidance should be given to GRT and EAL pupils and parents on how to report any absence. Maintaining a good relationship with the GRT and EAL families will help to continue the conversation and to help identify any problems with attendance.

Art, Design & Technology, Food Tech and Science – Discussions between school and parents and carers about funding and the supply of ingredients and materials for these subjects can help avoid any potential misunderstandings or disruption to the pupil’s learning.


Ideas for schools to build confidence from Day One in September

The better prepared a pupil is for their transition, the more smoothly it will go. It is a good idea for the primary school to show pupils a timetable from a secondary setting and explain to them what it means. If the secondary school can provide a digital tour of the school this year to help ease anxieties about what the new environment looks like, this would help pupils gain a little knowledge about what to expect to see on their first day. A short film introducing key staff and the Year 7 Tutor team would allow the pupils to recognise these people more readily. 

Communication with EAL and GRT parents and carers in the next few weeks will help identify and hopefully answer any questions the child and parent may have.

Schools running the Young Interpreter Scheme or New Arrivals Ambassador Scheme will be able to guide pupils into supporting their peers’ transition into school.

Hopefully all our EAL and GRT children will transition successfully in September and settle back into the learning environment quickly, making new friends and picking up with old ones. Give them time to think and process as the language and pressures of a new setting may take time to build up their confidence and to participate.


For further advice and guidance please visit the Hampshire EMTAS website and the Guidance Library for EAL and GRT.

Also see our dedicated pages for: 

- GRT Advice and Guidance

- EAL Advice and Guidance

- Distance Learning including Covid-19 advice and guidance

For further information please contact Sarah Coles at sarah.c.coles@hants.gov.uk or the EMTAS office at emtas@hants.gov.uk. 


Subscribe to our Blog Digest (select EMTAS)

[ Modified: Monday, 29 June 2020, 9:19 AM ]
 
Anyone in the world

By Rights and Diversity Education (RADE) adviser Minnie Moore


The shocking images on our screens of the death of George Floyd have resonated across the globe and led to many protests and demands for change across all areas of society in addressing and challenging systemic racism which is being characterised as an insidious and pervasive pandemic affecting every institution.

In Hampshire, through our education services, we have strived for many years to address discrimination and prejudice and to promote positive attitudes to difference across all our school communities. We support practitioners to enable them to provide a truly inclusive culture in their settings and there are many opportunities that teachers can access to enable them to continue to reflect on and develop existing practice.

Hampshire schools are in the enviable position of having access to a Rights and Diversity Education centre crammed full of teaching and learning resources which enable practitioners to embed good quality diversity education right across the ethos, environment and curriculum in their schools.

“It is firmly embedded in our staff psyche to source our topics from the RADE Centre as it is a treasure trove of resources and information covering a range of issues associated with rights, diversity and community cohesion in the UK particularly.” Headteacher Hale Primary School

CPD opportunities include training on race equality, diversity, equality teaching, pupil voice, prejudicial behaviour and Rights Respecting education and are all available to book in a range of formats tailored to individual school requirements.

'It was a great session. One of the best training sessions I’ve had to do with school including insets in my own setting.” Assistant Head teacher,Tanners Brook Primary School

We have recently produced a Hampshire Toolkit to support schools in challenging and responding to prejudicial language and behaviour which includes a new tracking form, a pupil survey and a leaflet for parents and carers. This is available to download by clicking on this link (FREE to Hampshire schools, please get in touch for a password). 

The Voice of our children and young people is key to informing the work we do to embed inclusive practice across our schools and they have been instrumental in promoting equality and challenging discrimination in their school settings.

The Equality and Rights Advocates (EARA) is a group of students from secondary schools across the county who work collaboratively to promote equality and child rights in their schools, based on the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act and the UNCRC. The group has recently expanded to include primary age children and have been making their voices heard across a range of different platforms across the county. For more information on the work they do please click on this link. We are always looking for new members so please give your students the opportunity to get involved!

For more information on any of the above please contact Minnie.moore@hants.gov.uk

Visit RADE's website 

Contact RADE: Rade.centre@hants.gov.uk

[ Modified: Tuesday, 16 June 2020, 3:43 PM ]
 
Anyone in the world

By Hampshire EMTAS Bilingual Assistant Eva Molea 


In my Diary of EAL Mum I share the ups and downs of my experience of bringing up my daughter Alice in the UK. After 9 weeks of lockdown and with the happy prospect of school re-opening, I reckon it is time for me to reflect on the last couple of months, especially on the irregular shape that Alice's education has taken.

I would like to start with a big shout out to all teachers, TAs, and school staff in general. You, guys, are my true heroes. Where do you get all your patience from? How can you manage with 30 children, day in - day out for 39 weeks a year, when my own one has driven me round the bend in not even 10 weeks??

Anyway, let's get back on track. When the nation was told that the 20th of March would have been the last day of school for the foreseeable future, I was hit by an education frenzy, so I went to the bookshop and bought: 

- as many learning packs as I could possibly carry 

- two books that I believed Alice should read (=I wanted to read) and one that she had asked for

- a pack of story cubes

- a notebook as we are always short on paper, and a letter set should she ever feel the need for correspondence

- a jigsaw puzzle of the periodic table of elements

- sketchbook (hoping that Alice would keep a diary of this peculiar period).

Proud of my shopping, I showed it to Alice when she came back from school on the 20th of March, but her reaction was far less enthusiastic than I had expected. I wondered why...

The school had provided her with SATs buster test booklets for maths, SPaG and reading and a grid of activities on Ancient Greece. They had also set tasks on the digital platforms for the children to complete.

On Sunday the 22nd of March, I sat down with my husband (aka the Headmaster) and made a learning plan for the first week: 5 days, 5 subjects per day. I was very proud of my broad and balanced curriculum. 


So, on Monday morning, bright and early, we sat down to work. We focused on the booklets and the digital activities and easily Week 1 was out of the way.

On Week 2, having completed all the booklets and digital tasks, we approached the Ancient Greeks grid. I really enjoyed this topic. In Southern Italy, also known as Magna Graecia (Big Greece), Ancient Greek culture had shaped ours well before the Romans, and we learnt the ins and outs of it in school, so it was lovely to be able to share this with Alice. We did some learning on the BBC Bitesize website; we read some myths from books we had brought with us from Italy; we used the story cubes to write Alice’s own myth. But I was not satisfied. So, we had a Greek Day, where we:

- tried to learn Sirtaki, the Greek traditional dance, following some videos on YouTube;

- dressed Alice up as a Greek Goddess (YouTube tutorial);

- learnt the alphabet and the polite words in modern Greek, and looked at how Greek language has influenced most European languages, including English;

- cooked pastitsio and tzatziki, following the recipe that my lovely Greek colleague, Eva P, had recommended. And bought baklava…yum!

This was a great way for the whole family to learn new things and share our knowledge with Alice. 

Weeks 3 and 4 of lockdown were the Easter holiday, and my lovely child decided she was not going to touch any schoolbooks and the Headmaster agreed, so I could be off task too and enjoy the sunshine. We did a lot of drawing tutorials on the YouTube channel of the children’s illustrator Rob Biddulph, that are glued in the sketchbook. 


Alice devoured one of the books I had bought for her (The boy at the back of the classroom), and tried the other one (When Hitler stole pink rabbit) but found it too hard (or not interesting enough, I’m not sure). Fortunately, dance and gym went virtual that week, so we had enough to keep her entertained. We also played some traditional Italian card games.

Getting back to work on week 5 proved to be quite hard. By then, Alice was feeling very lonely and bored because we did not have the skills to keep her interested and, not to be underestimated, we also had some work to do. But fortunately, the school set more structured homework for the children and we were not sailing in the dark anymore. Having daily work to complete was very helpful, as Alice had some tasks she could carry out independently and ask for the occasional help, whereas when she had to make research on the Internet I was a bit concerned about the appropriateness of content she might come across. For guidance, I also re-read the EMTAS information leaflet on safeguarding and wellbeing which includes online safety .  

From week 5 onwards, home learning has been an emotional rollercoaster. We have gone from enthusiastic reactions to some tasks to flood of tears for others, covering all the shades in between. Obviously, had Alice been in school, her learning would have been tailored to her abilities (including the right challenges) and more interesting for her. But I have to say that I really enjoyed learning with her, especially because we all had a very intense EAL experience as we used Italian to investigate, question, explain and reinforce everything and both the Headmaster and I have noticed that Alice’s Italian has improved and her vocabulary has widened, with many new and more interesting words being used. She has also enjoyed listening to audiobooks in Italian and asked me to read to her in Italian at bedtime. EAL parents will be interested in this survey on multilingual language use during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

I pushed my luck and asked her how these 9 weeks had been for her. At first, I got a single word answer: “Boring”. I was expecting that. But then she told me that using Italian for maths had made the subject easier as she still counts in Italian (I didn’t know that), that she felt that her translation skills had improved, and her vocabulary in both languages broadened. 

Despite the strangeness of this lockdown period, I really enjoyed playing school with Alice and loved seeing her eyes brighten up when there was something that interested her or when she had finally secured the concepts she was struggling with. But now we all, especially her, can’t wait to get back to school. 

PS: The lovely learning packs I had bought have never been touched in these 10 weeks. I will have to force them upon Alice during the Summer holidays…

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Visit our Distance Learning page

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[ Modified: Monday, 22 June 2020, 8:54 AM ]