User blog: Astrid Dinneen

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by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 5 December 2023, 4:03 PM
Anyone in the world

By Hampshire EMTAS Team Leader Sarah Coles 

This blog is about terminology and our understanding of a specific group of children for whom English is an Additional Language: heritage language speakers. 

Most practitioners who’ve spent any time at all working with multilingual learners in schools will be familiar with the concept of the international new arrival; children who come to the UK from overseas having been immersed in another language from birth.  Where they are typically developing, these children’s first language skills will be broadly similar to those of anyone who’s had a monolingual start in life.  Older learners who have been schooled in their language (L1) in country of origin may have literacy skills as well as oracy, whilst younger children who’ve not yet started to learn to read and write may have age-appropriate oracy skills only.  Whatever their skills in L1, it is often shortly after their arrival to the UK that these children embark on the task of adding English to their repertoire, hence they might be described as ‘sequential bilinguals’; L1 first, followed by English.

Heritage language speakers are a bit different.  The term ‘heritage language speaker’ is used to describe a child growing up in a society where their home language is not the same as the majority language.  For example, a heritage language speaker might be a child born in the UK to Polish speaking parents.  The main language in use at home might be Polish but outside of the home, they will also have exposure to English, the societally dominant language.  For these children, the model of bilingualism is ‘simultaneous’; exposure to both languages from birth (or shortly after).  What this means is that whilst such a child might have access to good L1 role models at home, overall their access to Polish is typically less than had they been born and raised in Poland.  So they may present with different skills in L1 in comparison with a monolingual Polish-only child.

Many UK-born heritage language speakers have their first experience of being immersed for prolonged periods of time in an all-English environment at pre-school.  They will, from that point onwards, rapidly develop their vocabulary in English, alongside the continuing development of L1.  However, due to their more limited exposure, it would be expected that their L1 oracy skills might develop more slowly than those of a child born and raised in an essentially monolingual setting, where the main language in use in all social situations is L1. 

As they reach school age, heritage language speaking children suddenly experience a dramatic increase in the amount of time they spend in social settings where English is dominant.  This typically corresponds with a reduction in access to L1.  Whilst in Year R, they may find opportunities to continue to use L1, for example in their spontaneous play with other children who share the heritage language; but in adult-led activities they quickly learn that English is required.  Often, it is from the start of school that heritage language speakers’ L1 development plateaus whilst their English comes on in leaps and bounds.  There can develop a dichotomy in terms of the words the child knows in their two languages too, with the academic vocabulary known only in English and L1 increasingly beached in informal, home-based contexts.  Further, parents often notice that when addressed in L1, their child prefers to respond in English. 

Thus from Year R onwards, it takes considerable effort on the part of parents to ensure their child does not lose the heritage language.  This is where the Family Language Policy (FLP) comes in.  FLPs are important in determining whether or not the heritage language will be successfully transmitted to the child and maintained over time, and comprise the unwritten ‘rules’ around language use in the home.  In families where parents continue to use L1 at home, its transmission and maintenance tend to be more successful.  But in families where parents gradually abandon L1 in favour of English, which is especially likely in families where one of the parents is a monolingual English speaker themselves, the prognosis is much bleaker.  Ceding L1 in favour of English might be prompted by their children’s growing preference for the majority language, but the often unintended consequences can include those same children no longer being able to talk to their grandparents, with the chances of the heritage language surviving to the next generation, their children’s children, reduced to zero. 

So what does this matter to practitioners?  Well, especially in the Early Years, it is important that schools work closely with parents if the complete loss of the heritage language is to be avoided.  These days, ICTs gift us with lots of ways in which we can make space for children’s L1s in Foundation Stage settings, and it’s really important that practitioners avail themselves of these.  If they do not overtly value children’s L1s and encourage their use at school, children will quickly learn to leave their heritage languages at the school door to wait for home time. 

To find out more about ICTs that could be used at school to promote children’s heritage languages, see

Early Years (

Use of ICT ( 

[ Modified: Wednesday, 6 December 2023, 9:26 AM ]


    Anyone in the world

    By Astrid Dinneen

    In a previous blog, Hampshire EMTAS Team Leader Sarah Coles and Specialist Teacher Advisor Astrid Dinneen considered ways of supporting Hatice, a Turkish-speaking pupil in Primary school working within Band A of the Bell Foundation EAL assessment framework. In this blog, we catch up with Hatice and explore EAL practice which may support her as she continues her journey towards full academic proficiency. 

    It’s been nearly a year since we last wrote about Hatice, a new-to-English pupil literate in Turkish who joined Year 5 in her first UK school. Avid readers of our blog will remember that her teacher chose to put in place EAL-friendly strategies to help her access the curriculum alongside her peers. For example, a home-school journal was embedded so Hatice could discover, research and translate vocabulary in advance of lessons. In addition, grouping was considered to ensure she was exposed to sophisticated speakers of English as part of a trio. Finally, another powerful way to help Hatice engage with her learning in class was to build in opportunities for her to use her first language. She used translation apps downloaded on the class iPad and wrote in Turkish to annotate handouts as well as to demonstrate her learning. This resulted in Hatice feeling included and motivated to take part in a broad and balanced curriculum. 

    Fast forward to now, Hatice is in Year 6. She’s working securely within Band B and she is starting to demonstrate features of Band C, particularly with listening and speaking. Hatice is a popular member of the class. She has many friends and appears very chatty on the playground. She has formed good relationships with a range of adults in the school with whom she also enjoys conversations about her activities and the things she enjoys doing at home and at school. Hatice listens carefully in class and regularly takes part during lessons to contribute to whole class discussions and collaborative group activities. Her home-school journal is still in place hence she continues to be familiar with vocabulary linked to her subjects. She also has a good go at using her keywords in her contributions. Hatice feels more confident about her speaking in English hence she is increasingly attempting to write in English. However her teacher has noticed that whilst pre-rehearsing vocabulary in advance has helped Hatice become familiar with language at single word level, she appears to need further support at sentence and whole text level.  

    So what now? How can her teacher build on Hatice’s success? What does EAL practice look like for learners who are beyond the early stages of learning English?   

    It takes a long time for pupils to acquire both informal and more academic language – anything between 5 and 10 years. To make further progress pupils will continue to need support along the way through amazing teaching and learning. In fact Hatice’s teacher should feel reassured in the knowledge that keeping going with EAL-friendly strategies rather than a decontextualised English-first approach is recommended, even after the first few months. This means persevering with practice already in place for Hatice eg inclusion in the language-rich classroom, discovering vocabulary in advance, grouping with good language role-models and using first language as a tool for learning is still recommended.  

    With the latter in particular, pupils embarking on Band C will still benefit from reading texts in their first language. Technology to support this continues to evolve – colleagues are now encouraging the use of Google Lens and Immersive Reader which both allow pupils to read and listen to translations instantaneously. And whilst pupils like Hatice may increasingly produce their writing in English, it is important for opportunities for first language use to still be part and parcel of teachers’ planning. For example, Hatice may be planning her writing in Turkish and later completing it in English. Encouraging the use of first language at the planning phase reduces the cognitive load, helping pupils keep momentum for the writing phase. Likewise, routinely using translation tools will undoubtedly also continue to support pupils on their journey to full academic proficiency. 

    New-to-English pupils tend to make rapid progress initially, particularly from Band A through to Band B. This may give us the illusion that they require little EAL support after this point. However, after this initial stage it isn’t uncommon for pupils to reach a plateau as they embark on Band C ie ‘Developing Competence’. This is usually because ‘pupils with advanced fluency in spoken English are often left without support because their conversational competence masks possible limited vocabulary for curriculum purposes’ (Cummins, 1999). 

    So what else can Hatice’s teacher put in place to help her choose the best ways to express herself? 

    Let’s explore whole class strategies that will not only benefit Hatice but also her peers, whether they are EAL or not. Her teacher may like to build on the pre-reading of keywords happening at home and plan in whole class word level activities such as bingo games, word races, dominos etc. For example, imagine that a final outcome for a whole-class topic was for pupils to write a balanced argument on whether climate change is natural or man-made. Hatice may have talked about climate change in Turkish at home and translated tier 1 and tier 2 keywords such as hemisphere, scientists, sea levels, etc. in advance. Back in class, the whole class could also focus their attention on this language. A word race for example would see pupils work in pairs or trios to find definitions hidden around their classroom and match them to the keywords. Alternatively, a bingo game would see Hatice’s teacher read out the definitions for pupils to cross off their card (bingo card generator apps can help resource this). 

    Having focussed pupils’ attention on subject specific language at word level, Hatice’s teacher could support language at sentence level. Sentence structure can be modelled and made explicit thanks to substitution tables - an extremely useful scaffolding tool to support speaking as well as writing. A substitution table is a simple frame which allows the learner to follow the correct syntax in a sentence whilst retaining autonomy over the choice of words. To continue with our theme of climate change, a substitution table could help Hatice (and others in her class) to express her views using more formal language, aided by an interactive opinion line activity: 

    Substitution table

    As for modelling whole paragraphs and longer pieces, Hatice and her class could be provided opportunities for listening and speaking to prepare themselves for writing. Dictogloss lends itself well to this as a What A Good One Looks Like (WAGOLL) activity. In Dictogloss, pupils listen to a pre-prepared model text and take notes. Then they use the language they’ve heard to work with their peers (first orally then in writing) to recreate a similar piece.  The end product is typically a piece of writing which includes some of the language and structures used in the model, but is not an exact replica. Dictogloss is an opportunity for pupils to hear a model that includes all the subject specific vocabulary, ideas and other things covered in class, and then to collaborate on using these same components to produce a cohesive piece of writing in keeping with the target genre.  

    To see what Dictogloss might look like in practice, readers can join one of our online network meetings. We will discuss the steps for Dictogloss and give a demonstration linked to our theme of climate change on January 10th and March 27th. If you cannot wait that long, why not talk to your EMTAS Teacher Advisor about whole staff training? You can also liaise with the English HIAS team to find out how EAL strategies can be woven through the English Learning Journey. For further resources, check our Guidance Library on Moodle and visit the HIAS team’s own platform. 
    Hatice is pronounced /hætidʒe/ 

    [ Modified: Wednesday, 22 November 2023, 2:27 PM ]


      Anyone in the world

      By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Astrid Dinneen 

      This term we are launching a new and innovative form of support for pupils in Years 5 and 6 and KS3/4 who are literate in their first language. 

      The EMTAS Study Skills Programme will be delivered to suitable pupils in withdrawal by EMTAS Bilingual Assistants. It aims to help pupils explore how they feel about their learning and their subjects and to equip them with different tools and strategies they can apply in their lessons and home learning. For example, pupils will explore and annotate texts using Microsoft Translator, learn to use Google Lens to create a glossary, have a go at using Immersive Reader to access information and much more.  

      The programme consists of 5 sessions of 50 minutes. Each session has been meticulously planned and resourced by the EMTAS team to offer a predictable and consistent scheme of work - regardless of the language in which it is being delivered. For instance, pupils will typically start their sessions by sharing how they have used the tools and skills covered in the previous session in class or at home. They will then consider how they feel about learning a new skill at the start of the session and revisit this again at the end. A new tool and strategy will usually be demonstrated by EMTAS staff and pupils will have the opportunity to have a go themselves using their own or school device. This will offer pupils the space to practise their new skill through the context of what they are currently learning in class. At the end of the final session, pupils will be awarded a special notebook for their hard work both during and between sessions.

      The Bilingual Assistant team has worked tirelessly over the last few months to upskill themselves in delivering the programme which is now reaching the end of the pilot phase. We are ready for a full rollout after the October break and look forward to working with you to make the programme as meaningful as possible for pupils. We have reviewed our procedures and adapted our communication folder. EMTAS staff will use this document to feed back on what the pupils have focussed on during their sessions, how they have participated and what skill and IT tool they will be applying in class. This written feedback, together with continued open conversations with our staff, will give you a chance to reflect and build these very skills into your own practice, allowing pupils to draw links between the programme and their lessons. To sharpen your own IT skills and keep up to speed with the technology we’ll be using with your pupils, why not join one of our network meetings? 

      To find out more about the programme, please visit our website and download a flier. Please also sign up for our free network meeting on Monday 6 November at 9.30. 

      [ Modified: Wednesday, 11 October 2023, 9:57 AM ]


        Picture of Astrid Dinneen
        by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 26 September 2023, 11:39 AM
        Anyone in the world

        By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors

        In this first blog of the new academic year, the Hampshire EMTAS Teacher team share important news and highlights. There is much to look forward to!

        We are very pleased to welcome five new Bilingual Assistants (BAs) to our team:  Olena, Alex, Lana, Vlad and Kevin. Olena, Alex, Lana and Vlad speak Ukrainian and Russian (Lana speaks German too), and Kevin speaks Cantonese. Olena, Alex and Vlad will be joining Olha (who is also a Ukrainian and Russian-speaking BA) to act as B-ELSAs: bilingual ELSAs who, thanks to government funding, will be helping to support the emotional wellbeing of our refugees from Ukraine. We have also had an increase in referrals from Hong Kong and so Kevin will be joining Jenny and Catherine, our Cantonese-speaking BAs. This will help speed up response times for BA support for our Cantonese-speaking pupils.
        GCSE results

        September is always an exciting time of the year as we see results pour in for the Heritage Language GCSEs. This year EMTAS supported 152 candidates with 11 different languages and our Bilingual Assistants were delighted to meet so many talented bilingual or multilingual learners. As in previous years, the student success is spectacular! Results are still coming in, but so far more than 85% of students have achieved grade 7 or above.

        Naturally it will soon be time to start the process all over again, so we are currently updating our training and processes to make everything run even more smoothly in 2024. We are grateful to all the schools who have given us useful feedback about their experience of EMTAS support and shared comments from the examiners’ reports. We look forward to achieving even more support requests for next summer when we relaunch our request form towards the end of the autumn term.
        SEND/EAL news

        After many years of operation, we closed the EMTAS EAL/SEND phoneline at the end of last academic year. However, we are still very much here to support colleagues in schools where there are concerns about a child for whom English is an Additional Language. Now, instead of waiting for Tuesday afternoon, you can phone us on our main office number at any time convenient to you during term time. A member of the team will either route your call through to the Specialist Teacher Advisor (STA) for your district OR take details from you so that your STA can phone you back. We hope that this will be a more direct, faster way of accessing support where you are working with children who are learning EAL and who may have additional needs.
        Study Skills Programme

        This academic year we are proud to be launching a new and innovative form of support for pupils in Years 5 and 6 and KS3/4 who are literate in their first language. The Study Skills Programme will be delivered to suitable pupils in withdrawal by EMTAS Bilingual Assistants. It aims to help pupils explore how they feel about their learning and their subjects and to equip them with different tools and strategies they can apply in their lessons and home learning. For example, pupils will learn to use Google Lens to create a glossary, have a go at using Immersive Reader to access a text and much more. The programme is being piloted this half-term with full roll-out planned for after the October break. To find out more about the programme and your role in ensuring it impacts classroom practice, sign up for our free network meeting on Monday 6 November at 9.30.
        GTRSB attendance project

        Some of our Traveller students have persistently poor attendance, and this inevitably impacts on their learning, progress and attainment. This academic year the EMTAS Traveller Team is going to be working in collaboration with four schools to pilot an Attendance Project. The aim of the pilot is to support school staff, Traveller parents and students to collaborate with the aim of improving the students’ attendance. It will involve regular monitoring of individual Traveller student’s attendance, regular communication with parents, coffee events and promotion of the EMTAS Traveller Excellence Award. It is hoped that this will result in a marked improvement in the attendance of the targeted students, and will also positively impact their academic progress.
        RSE book

        Relationships education became statutory for primary school children in 2020, creating a need for Traveller-specific approaches in order that children from our Traveller communities are able to access and engage with this area of learning.  EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors Helen Smith and Claire Barker have therefore developed two books which cover the relationship curriculum in line with Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boater (GTRSB) cultural sensitivities. With advice and support from members of these communities, ‘How We Keep Ourselves Safe (Jesse’s Story)’ and ‘How We Keep Ourselves Safe (Mary-Kate’s Story)’ will soon be available to schools. The books follow Jesse and Mary-Kate as they learn how to keep themselves safe as they grow up within their community and online. The books will be launched at the EMTAS conference on October 12th 2023.
        Training offer

        We have been overwhelmed by the positive uptake and wonderful feedback from our training sessions over the years. We're keen to maintain this momentum, so why not join us and ensure you feel confident, knowledgeable and equipped with how best to support our learners of EAL? There are several different training opportunities for you to take part in which include our pan-Hampshire network meetings. Our next network meeting takes place on 11th October 3.30-4.30pm with a focus on using ICT to support learners of EAL. Don't worry if you can't make it as we will revisit these sessions throughout the year. View all our training dates via our website.

        In addition to our network meetings, we are once again offering SEAL training. This course is the ideal starting point for teachers and TAs, particularly those who are taking on the role of EAL lead within their school. The course consists of 6 full days spread over 2 years, allowing plenty of time to slowly embed best practice within your school. More information about the SEAL course can be found on our website.

        We are almost at capacity for our EMTAS Conference which takes place on 12th October 2023.  It's set to be an incredible event with guest speakers Jonathan Bifield and Sarah Coles along with Jacob Parvin and Jack Hill. If you'd like to grab one of the last spaces, please follow this link for more information.

        Stay up to date with EMTAS news – sign up for the bulletin.

        [ Modified: Tuesday, 26 September 2023, 1:59 PM ]


          Picture of Astrid Dinneen
          by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 4 July 2023, 12:13 PM
          Anyone in the world

          By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors

          This has been an incredibly busy year for Hampshire EMTAS with 1089 pupils being referred to us by 30th June. In this blog we delve deeper into our data and share interesting trends. We reflect on our work with Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children and share highlights of our support to Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters. We also celebrate the end of the GCSEs, share an update to our late arrivals guidance and give details of our brand-new study skills programme. We reveal the list of schools who have successfully achieved their EAL Excellence Award and finish with a staffing update. Team Leader Sarah Coles has the final word in a concluding paragraph.

          This academic year in data

          Of the 1089 referrals received this academic year across the county, 825 were made by primary schools and 252 by secondary schools. Other referrals were made by special schools and the Virtual School. We have worked with around 303 schools and outside agencies, including some from outside of Hampshire. Rushmoor remains the busiest district for referrals with schools in this area submitting 249 referrals. Basingstoke and Deane followed closely behind, referring 188 pupils.

          The top five languages referred to EMTAS this academic year were Ukrainian (149), Malayalam (88), Russian (79), Cantonese (74) and Nepali (72). Not all of the Russian language referrals have Ukraine as the country of origin; they include referrals for pupils from Russia, Latvia and UK born.

          There has been a rise in the number of referrals from Albania jumping from 1 in the previous two years to 26 this year. Likewise Turkish referrals over the previous two years number 36 in total but this year there have been 38.

          EMTAS has also seen an increase in the number of African languages spoken by children in Hampshire schools with Afrikaans, Akan, Akan Fante, Ghanaian, Herrero, Igbo, Luganda, Lugisu, Malinke, Nigerian, Shona, Swahili, Tigrinya, Twi, Twi Fante and Yoruba all being referred.

          EMTAS has also seen a rise in the number of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) referred for profiling.
          Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC)

          According to the Refugee Council, in the year ending September 2022, the UK received 5,152 applications for asylum from unaccompanied children forced to flee their homes. The children we have met have come from Afghanistan, Albania, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Turkey and Vietnam. Some of these Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children (UASC) have been placed in care and therefore in schools across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, but we have also been working with the Virtual School to provide profiling assessments for children placed in other counties.

          Each pupil has undertaken a long and difficult journey in search of safety. They then have to learn to deal with a new language, a new school system and a new culture, without family and friends to support them. Many are resilient enough to manage this change incredibly well, whilst others find the new rules and restrictions of school in the UK too challenging, particularly if they had already left education some time ago in their country of origin or in some cases have never been to school at all. So, if one of these brave young people arrives at your school, please do get in contact with EMTAS as soon as possible so that we can work together to support them as they learn to adjust to their new life. For more information on UASC, see our Frequently Asked Questions.
          Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters (GTRSB) 

          As usual the Traveller team have been busy supporting all our schools, families and children.  Julie Curtis and Steve Clark, our two Traveller Support Workers (TSWs), have been in schools visiting all our primary aged children whilst Claire Barker, our Traveller Team lead, has been supporting students in secondary schools via our GTRSB clinics.  In total, we have supported 285 children this academic year, whilst throughout the year Helen Smith, our Traveller Team Teacher, has helped 22 GTRSB pupils to get places in Hampshire schools.

          The school year started off in September with World Funfair Month. We encouraged our schools to celebrate this and provided a pack of ideas and resources to help them get started. Fast forward to June, GRT History Month, and again we provided our schools with a pack of activities and resources to encourage pupils to take part.

          We have also launched a couple of new initiatives, including the GTRSB book club. Last term our pupils read The Show Must Go On by Richard O’Neill. One pupil was so inspired by the book that she made an amazing Lego model fairground ride that featured all the characters from the book. We posted a picture on Twitter and Richard O’Neill himself commented. We also launched a gardening club which has been successful in providing some alternative provision for two groups of boys in a primary and a secondary school.

          Most excitingly Claire and Helen have now completed the RSE book How We Keep Ourselves Safe and it is very nearly ready to be sent to the printer. We are hoping to be able to launch the book at our conference in October. See our blog for a preview.
          Heritage Language GCSEs

          As students come to the end of their time in secondary, it is great to see so many schools celebrating multilingualism by offering Heritage Language GCSEs. This year EMTAS supported more than 152 candidates with 11 different languages, mirroring the amazing diversity of learners in our county. Polish topped the tables with the largest number of candidates, and our Bilingual Assistants have been racing from school to school to carry out all the speaking exams within the assessment window. We are looking forward to results day on 24 August when students can celebrate their achievements and EMTAS staff look on with pride.

          Late arrivals

          While some students may view GCSEs as the end of an educational marathon, for others it’s a sprint! Late arrivals (students who arrive in the UK in Year 10 or Year 11) have very little time to settle into their new country and new school before they are faced with GCSE exams. Many are new to English and some must contend with an entirely new alphabet! While not all undertake a full complement of subjects in this short timescale, it is a testament to their fortitude and hard work that so many leave with at least one GCSE. This also reflects the commitment of a host of amazing teachers. Even the best practitioners sometimes need a little help from their friends, so the team at EMTAS have recently released updated Guidance on good practice in relation to Late Arrivals. This aims to help schools navigate the crucial period when late arrivals first join their school and ensure they provide the best advice and guidance.
          Study Skills Programme 

          Members of our team have been busy planning, rewriting and resourcing a brand-new Study Skills Programme for Bilingual Assistants to offer to schools in the new academic year. The programme will be suitable for pupils who are literate in their first language and are working within Band A, B and early stage Band C (particularly for reading and writing). It will be offered to pupils in Year 5 and 6 as well as pupils in Secondary school. The aim of the course is to help pupils explore how they feel about their learning and their subjects and consider different tools and strategies they can apply in their lessons/homework. It will consist of 5 sessions of 50 minutes to be delivered over half a term. As we write this blog we are excitedly putting the final touches to the programme and presenting it to EMTAS colleagues for feedback. We are also looking for schools where our staff could trial the sessions in the first part of the Autumn term. We thank all our schools for supporting us while we train our staff to deliver our new programme after the summer break.
          EAL Excellence Award (EXA) celebrations 

          What a pleasure it is to further celebrate all the schools who have worked to achieve an EXA award this year. Huge congratulations go to Sopley Primary, Gosport and Fareham MAT, Portway Infants, St Matthew's CE Primary, St Patrick’s Primary and St Bernadette’s Primary who all achieved our Bronze award. Also, to Roman Way Primary, St Jude's RC Primary, St Michael’s Juniors, Bordon Infants, Henry Beaufort and Oakmoor for achieving Silver. Congratulations also go to St Swithun Wells, Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College, Cove Secondary School and Talavera Juniors for achieving Gold. We would like to give a special mention to Merton Infants who are the first school to achieve a revalidation at Gold; an incredible achievement! We still have a couple of schools to be validated (at time of print) so please keep up to date by checking our Twitter page regularly. Well done to all involved and thank you for all your hard work in supporting your learners with EAL. 
          EMTAS Staffing update 

          At the end of the summer term we say goodbye to Lisa Kalim from the Specialist Teacher Advisor team. During her 21-year tenure, Lisa has covered schools in the New Forest, led on Refugees and Asylum Seekers for the team and operated the EMTAS EAL/SEND phoneline, ever-popular with schools. From September, a new system for accessing support for children with both EAL and SEND needs will come into effect so do keep an eye out for information about this change.

          We also say good bye to Rekha (Hindi), Kubra (Dari) and to Kasia P (Polish) from the Bilingual Assistant (BA) team. We wish them well in their next ventures. 

          We welcome Kevin to the BA Team. Kevin joins our Chinese BA Team and will be working with Cantonese-speaking children from Hong Kong once he has completed his induction. We welcome Olena and Alex too, both of whom will be working with children from Ukraine. They will be our very first Bilingual ELSAs, joining Olha and Vlad, existing members of the EMTAS team. Together, the four of them will cover referrals for children from Ukraine as well as providing specialist ELSA support. The new Bilingual ELSA role will begin in the new term with ELSA training from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Educational Psychology (HIEP) team. After their training Olha, Olena, Vlad and Alex will be deployed to schools. There they’ll work in partnership with school-based ELSAs to enable Ukrainian children to access ELSA support by removing any barriers caused by language and/or culture. 
          Finally, a conclusion by Team Leader Sarah Coles 

          As you can see, 2022-23 has been no less busy for EMTAS than 2021-22. Stepping into the role of Team Leader has brought with it both challenges and opportunities and whilst I’ve got used to these, the team has continued to work hard around me to make sure our Service continues to deliver professional, high-quality support to children, families and schools. Being at the forefront of developments in the EAL and GTRSB worlds has long been a source of pride to us, and this year we have continued to innovate and to inspire in all sorts of ways, some of which you have read about in this blog. I look forward to continuing in post in September as EMTAS enters its thirty-second year. 

          [ Modified: Monday, 10 July 2023, 2:57 PM ]


            Anyone in the world

            By Hampshire EMTAS Bilingual Assistant Eva Molea 

            In Diary on an EAL Mum, Eva Molea shares the ups and downs of her experience bringing up her daughter, Alice, in the UK. In this instalment, Eva supports Alice with her GCSE option choices. 

            Here we go again! Alice is finally in Year 9 and, after whizzing through Year 7 and Year 8 with full colours and a School Council Cup for receiving more than 500 achievement points in Year 8 (clever cookie!), our trepidatious wait has finally ended: she will finally choose her GCSE subjects!

            As many of you might know already from my previous blogs, in our family we like to investigate, plan, think ahead, be ready… in other words: to stress unnecessarily. Taking GCSE options is throwing open a door on the uncertainty of “what’s next”. Which college? What are the requirements? Which university? Where will our precious daughter move to pursue her career? Just helping you read between the lines, this last question means: where are we relocating to be close to Alice and support her? Ah, the dramas of an Italian mum and dad! 

            Anyway, invitations to the GCSE guided choices evening had been gratefully received and calendars dutifully marked. Nothing could stop US from being there early and take the necessary time to explore ALL of Alice’s interests.

            While Alice was taking taster sessions in school and trying to find out if she really liked what she thought she would like, we (read the royal “We”) started doing the groundwork by searching the Internet for information.

            First stop, Alice’s school website. Here we found a whole section solely dedicated to GCSE options with lovely short videos made by the teachers to explain what each course entailed, what the assessment would look like, and which would be the target students for said course. There was also a booklet with all the information, to be perused at one’s own leisure. Very interesting bedtime reading… I found the videos very informative and a great way for me, as a parent coming from a different education system, to discover more about the curriculum and to start forming an idea of which subjects would most suit Alice (or maybe which subject I wished suited Alice...).

            The website and the booklet explained clearly which were the core subjects, the extended core, and the other options, and how to combine all these. It also stressed the importance for the students to take their decisions according to their personal interests, skills and future career ambitions rather than being in class with their friends.

            Once I found out which were the exam boards for each subject, I quickly examined some past papers to find out what they looked like and to judge which options Alice might enjoy the most. I had no clue.

            I then searched BBC Bitesize to see how the GCSE section was organised and discovered that contents had been divided according to exam boards, offering for each of them different topics or perspectives. I thought this would be a good starting point because students could look at the content of other boards as well and gain more information, potentially…

            Before the big event, we had virtual parents evening, where in 5-minute slots I was given as much information as possible about my daughter’s achievement and progress. All teachers told me that Alice had an outstanding attitude for learning and that she was always engaged and participative in class and, most importantly, very polite and well behaved. This was a very proud-mummy moment. 😊 Many of them hoped that Alice would take their subject, which meant that she had lots of options (great!), but this didn’t make the process any easier (umpf!).  

            On the GCSE options evening, I left home with a very nervous Alice. She was worried that we might not have enough time to visit all the subjects that she was interested in (Spanish, History, Dance, Drama, Food Tech, Graphics, Photography, and all the mandatory ones). She was also concerned about the exam requirements for each subject, because she doesn’t enjoy tests one bit… can’t really blame her!

            On a chilly and clear spring evening, we got to school before the event started and attended the Deputy Head Teacher’s opening speech. It was a very clear presentation, addressed to the students. It was explained to them that, besides the mandatory GCSEs (English Language, English Literature, Maths, Sciences, and RS*), one subject among History, Geography or MFL was to be picked as extended core. There were two more options to be taken from the extended core and/or all the other subjects offered by the school. Heritage Language GCSEs through the EMTAS service were also encouraged. We were very grateful for this opportunity because it would help Alice keep her home language up to the mark and have her skills recognised.

            After the speech, we set on our discovery journey, going from room to room to find out about the different subjects. Many teachers had gone through the effort of creating very captivating and informative displays and were providing detailed information about the curriculum and the exam, as well as answering the questions from apprehensive parents (present!) and undecided students.
            I soon realised that we were being submerged by loads of information, but none was helping Alice to take any decision. All subjects seemed very appealing so I changed strategy and started asking all teachers just two questions: 1. Why would their subject be a good choice? and 2. Why, of all the children in their year, should Alice take it?

            Some teachers stressed the academic appeal of their subjects, others praised Alice’s attitude and abilities, but the selling point for her was being very capable and competent in a subject. This was such a confidence booster for her! Another very good selling point for her was the (limited) amount of writing that the subject required.😉

            By the end of the evening, we came home with some clearer ideas, but still with a lot of question marks. We decided to leave any decisions to the Easter holidays, as we would have more time to consider and discuss each individual subject. During the school break we sat at a table, with Dad as well, and we discussed pros and cons of each subject. Only five made it to the next round: Spanish, History, Dance, Drama and Food Tech.

            For Alice, Spanish was non-negotiable, and this was her extended core subject. She had to pick two more, and would have picked Dance and Drama, which would have helped with her career as “Famous Hollywood Actress” (reach for the stars, girl!), but Dad had different ideas. The pragmatism of the engineer, and the insider knowledge of university selection criteria, made him push for a more academic subject that would unlock other doors, should the long and winding road to Hollywood lose its sparkle.

            It took a lot of persuasion, and the promise to pay for a performing arts academy, to get Alice to choose History over Drama. Her decision taken, we filled in the form – which actually included two back-up options, Drama and Food Tech – and hit the “Send” button.

            When I questioned Alice about the whole process and whether she had enjoyed it, it came out that she had mixed feelings: she enjoyed the taster sessions in school because they cleared some doubts; she felt the pressure of having to choose and would have welcome more tailored guidance from the school; and she rejoiced when we sent the form because she didn’t have to worry about it anymore and could get back to her normal activities. Everything was in the school’s hands now, and Alice was confident that they would have at heart her best interest when confirming the options.

            From my perspective, I was left wondering why schools handle GCSE options in different ways? Surely the expectation was that all children came out of school with the same amount of knowledge and the same mandatory subjects, right? Why did some schools take options in Year 8 and others in Year 9? Once you filled in the form, were your options set in stone?

            The only thing left to do now was sit and wait, which required a lot of patience and poor Alice had not realised that I would be asking her every day “Have your options been confirmed yet?”.
            PS: We are in a very lucky position because, despite the education experience in the UK being new to us, our understanding of the English language is good. But not all families are in the same position, in particular the ones that have recently moved to the UK. Here are some ideas that might help make their sailing through secondary school smoother:

            - check whether or not parents require an interpreter to discuss their child's progress at parent evenings

            - translate invitation letters using translation tools (eg see Review tab in Word) and follow up by a text message. Consider also using the EMTAS language phonelines

            - talk about processes for GCSE options in clear terms. Avoid acronyms and write down important points for families to take home

            - ensure your website includes a facility for parents to translate information in their own language. Demonstrate how this works

            - have tablets available at options evenings and offer the use of Google Lens for parents to access information on displays

            - provide information about Heritage Language GCSEs. Source past papers and add these to the Languages Department's display

            - Have KS4 Young Interpreters available to welcome parents at options evenings, give tours and talk about their subjects - not to discuss other pupils' progress

            - Use the Immersive Reader and Read Aloud facility on websites such as BBC Bitesize to translate and listen to content relating to GCSE options in parents' languages. Videos hosted on YouTube can also be subtitled in different languages.

            *Alice does not enjoy RS, she would rather not go to school when she has that lesson. In advance of the GCSE guided choices, I tried to sweet talk the school to make the subject optional, but I was not persuasive enough.

            [ Modified: Monday, 19 June 2023, 9:20 AM ]


              Picture of Astrid Dinneen
              by Astrid Dinneen - Tuesday, 28 March 2023, 4:07 PM
              Anyone in the world

              By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Kate Grant 

              In this blog, Kate Grant interviews Albanian born Persona Doll Avdi. She asks how practitioners can work with EMTAS Persona Dolls to engage young learners with topics such as diversity, culture and stereotypes. 

              The Persona Dolls approach affords children an engaging, enjoyable and interactive safe space where they can address challenging issues, share their lived experiences and have their voices heard and valued.  It helps our youngest learners to develop their emotional literacy and empowers children to use their voice.  The approach is designed to facilitate dialogue around bias and stereotypes which so many of our youngest learners will have already encountered. 

              If you have used EMTAS Persona Dolls previously you will have noticed that they have been taking a well-deserved rest.  After all, it’s not easy visiting lots of schools and making friends all over the county - just ask Avdi!  Whilst the dolls have been relaxing, Kate has been working behind the scenes on making the use of EMTAS Persona Dolls in school more accessible, relevant and most of all fun.  So without further ado please welcome Avdi to tell us more…



              Avdi: Përshëndetje (hello) everyone, my name is Avdi and I am from Albania.  Kate has asked me to share with you how working with Persona Dolls can help support your youngest learners in school.  This is the perfect topic for me to talk about as I have been a Persona Doll my whole life!

              Kate: What do you like about being a Persona Doll?

              Avdi: One of the main things I love about being a Persona Doll is that I get to travel around the county, meeting lots of children and learning about different schools.  I am always amazed by how warmly the children welcome me into their classroom - they sometimes even give me a school uniform to wear.  But most of all, I love hearing the brilliant things children say when I go to visit their school and it often surprises their teachers too as we delve into conversations about issues they might not ordinarily get to discuss such as discrimination and inequality.  Big topics for our youngest minds.

              Kate: How do you support the children? 

              Avdi: I find that the children see me as being just like them. This helps create a safe environment where they are happy to share and talk about aspects of life they may not normally get to discuss.  I think of it as providing children with a window into someone else’s life, but they often find aspects that mirror their own too.  That’s what life is all about, learning about yourself and others and embracing the similarities as well as the differences.

              Kate: How will teachers find time to use Persona Dolls? 

              Avdi: We work within the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1/2 curriculum, so we are not an add-on. In fact we’re a different approach to teaching Personal, Social, Emotional Development, Knowledge and Understanding of The World and Relationships and Sex Education.  Kate has linked all the relevant parts of the curriculum with our guidance documents so that teachers can see the objectives they can cover whilst working with us.  For example you will see we provide an authentic way to approach the People, Culture and Communities element of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum [1] and the Respectful Relationships aspect of the Key Stage 1/2 curriculum [2].

              Kate: What happens when you visit schools?

              Avdi: I normally visit once a week for a half term.  When I first go into a school, I explain that I am feeling a bit nervous about being somewhere new with people I don’t know yet, and the children discuss how they could help make me feel more comfortable.  It’s lovely to hear how kind the children are and accepting of new people - I wish people were always like this.  The next week when I return, I am more confident so I let their teacher share a PowerPoint I have made to tell them a bit more about myself, my home, my language and my interests.  The children always want to tell me about themselves too and we find similarities and differences with each other. 

              By week 3 I am really enjoying being with my new group of friends and I share that something has been worrying me. For example, another child has been unkind to me because my hair is different to theirs. The teacher helps me talk to the children and they respond with so much empathy.  A lot of the time, the children tell me they have experienced similar things and we talk about what helped them eg speaking to an adult at school.  My new friends always give me good advice, so I go away and try some of their ideas.  When I return for my final visit, I feel so much better because they supported me.  I explain that I must return to my school again and might not see them, but we will still be friends.  I like to surprise them with an e-postcard after my final visit. This shows I am still thinking of them and gives me an opportunity to ask them to write to me about our time together. 

              Kate: What is different about the way EMTAS Persona Dolls work now? 

              Avdi: Kate is working on making everything available online because we know how busy teachers are and we want everything to be readily accessible in the moment.  Once everything is ready to go, it will all be uploaded to our Moodle where you will find the guidance documents, a list of all our Persona Dolls, suggestions for what to do during each visit and some social stories for teachers.

              When I visit your school I will have a lanyard with a QR code so that teachers can find what they need instantly. When teachers share the Persona Doll’s PowerPoint it will contain video links to find out more about the culture and language(s) of the doll’s country of origin together with traditional dances and nursery rhymes in first language. 

              Kate: Is there anything else you want to tell everyone?

              Avdi: Just that I am really excited to get back into schools and to meet lots of new friends.  Oh, and if any schools would like to pilot our revamped way of working please email Kate at


              [1] Explain some similarities and differences between life in this country and life in other countries

              [2] The importance of respecting others, even when they are very different from them (for example, physically, in character, personality or backgrounds), or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs. 


              [ Modified: Wednesday, 29 March 2023, 3:01 PM ]


                Anyone in the world

                By Hampshire EMTAS Team Leader Sarah Coles and Astrid Dinneen, EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor for schools in Basingstoke & Deane 

                With the increase in numbers of children joining our schools from overseas with very little English, practitioners in schools are asking how best to proceed.  Should they first focus on teaching the children English or is there another approach? 

                EAL best practice tells us that the best thing to do for such children is to include them in the full mainstream curriculum being delivered in schools via the medium of English. This can be scaffolded in various ways. The children should not be withdrawn to be taught English separately or as a prerequisite to being allowed to join their peers in regular lessons. But this immersion approach can seem an alarming response; surely the children will not be able to understand anything and will flounder and fail, people may think. So instead some opt for an ‘English first’ approach. They buy in an online English teaching app or print off worksheets for the children to learn the days of the week and the colours in English whilst their peers are learning about how plants grow or the story of The Titanic or Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

                The problem with the English first approach is that far from helping, it actually slows down the children’s progress in their acquisition of English, as well as making it harder for them to feel welcomed and included in the life of their new school. Plus it adds to teachers’ workloads; now they are having to source materials for an entirely separate curriculum as well as plan for the rest of their class.    

                To illustrate this in more detail, consider these two approaches for the same newly arrived child whom we shall call Hatice*. Assume Hatice is new to English (Bell Foundation EAL Assessment Framework Band A, to those in the know) and literate in Turkish.
                Scenario 1: English first

                The teacher decides to plan separate provision for Hatice, because they feel their mainstream English lesson is too challenging for Hatice’s level of English. So whilst the other children are preparing to write a letter persuading their Head Teacher to shift the start of the school day back by an hour so they start at 10.00 instead of at 9.00, Hatice will sit on her own and work through some sheets that focus on learning the English words for some colours and common classroom objects. In one example below Hatice is required to draw and colour the correct classroom object in the empty box.

                It is a…
                It is an…











                Fortunately, Hatice is compliant, meaning the teacher can get on with teaching the rest of the class.  Hatice spends the whole morning working on these worksheets on her own. She doesn’t disrupt anyone but the teacher notices that she regularly has her head down on the desk and appears to be dozing. 

                At the end of a couple of weeks at school, Hatice is still very much on the periphery of things in the classroom and needs frequent reminding when she is included in instructions given by the teacher, for example when it’s time to get ready for PE or line up to go to assembly. She spends long periods of time gazing out of the window and generally seems to lack motivation and enthusiasm for anything other than home time.

                There has also been a deterioration in her output and she now very rarely completes the worksheets she is given. Where she has had a go with tasks that require writing, her handwriting is much less tidy and it seems she is taking increasingly less care over her work.

                With regards to friendships, it seems to be still very early days and Hatice has not formed any strong relationships with her peers. She continues to spend most of her time at break and lunch times on her own.

                Her teacher reflects on practice and provision so far. It has taken a lot of time planning, resourcing and marking the worksheets for Hatice, yet she does not seem to be making progress. He is not sure what else to do but feels this is not a sustainable approach in the long term. He is interested in finding out about alternatives…
                Scenario 2: immersion using EAL-friendly strategies

                Hatice’s teacher plans to include her in the lesson along with everyone else from the get-go. First off, before the series of lessons begins, the teacher sends Hatice home with a list of words in English to be translated into Turkish with the help of parents.  He asks them to talk to Hatice about the concept of ‘persuasion’; what does the word itself mean and in what in real life scenarios might we use persuasion to get the outcome we desire? The teacher recommends the family use a translation tool like Google Translate to help them to do this:


                English word/phrase

                Turkish (Türkçe) 

                Persuade (someone to do something)

                ikna etmek

                We think



















                The words the teacher chooses for this are drawn from a model letter which will be used in the lesson the following day. The teacher chooses to write the model himself to incorporate the language of persuasion, different persuasive techniques and ideas already suggested by the children themselves. At other times, he might have used ChatGPT to generate a model in no time.

                Before the lesson starts, Hatice’s teacher considers his seating plan and decides to place her next to two articulate speakers of English to form a talking trio.  He hopes this will help alleviate any pressure to speak before she feels confident to do so while still exposing her to good language role-models.  Her buddies are very chatty and supportive and are sure to create lots of listening opportunities for Hatice.

                Having diligently completed her pre-learning at home with the help of her parents and discussed the concept of persuasion in Turkish, Hatice is very proud to bring in a dual-language glossary she has started in her special book.  She places it on her desk next to her pencil case. Her new buddies seem to be taking an interest in the stickers she has stuck on her book and this adds to her feeling of pride.

                She is also pleased to recognise the vocabulary she has researched and translated in a handout placed on her desk by her teacher. Everybody else is given the same handout. Hatice is intrigued and delighted to see she might not be doing different work today.  Plus a Teaching Assistant approaches her holding a tablet and shows her how to scan the text to translate it into Turkish.  Hatice smiles and chuckles as she reads the translation and discovers the text is a letter asking their head teacher to delay the start of the school day.

                Highlighters are distributed and her buddies start a conversation. They’re highlighting parts of the letter. Hatice checks the tablet to see the translation again and tries to match the highlighted text to the translation. She starts to neatly annotate her letter in Turkish. Her teacher looks happy so she continues her annotations and adds to her dual-language glossary words such as ‘firstly’, probably’, ‘clearly’ etc. Her buddies highlighted them so Hatice thinks they must be important.

                Later on, the children are to write their own letter using features of the original. Hatice’s teacher suggests to her that she could write her letter in Turkish. Hatice happily engages with this, writing fluently and at length, sometimes self-correcting and adding punctuation. She writes in paragraphs and her sentence starters seem to vary. She even attempts to incorporate some English vocabulary eg ‘firstly’ and ‘clearly’. This reassures Hatice’s teacher who can see she has lots of ideas and things to say. He notices Hatice sometimes looks at her peers’ writing - both are quite happy to show her their work – and is making use of the tablet to communicate with them using translation apps.
                What now?

                Experimenting with EAL pedagogy has proved promising as it’s meant Hatice has felt included, motivated and able to meet curriculum objectives in a differentiated way. Her teacher would like to build on this by trying other EAL strategies such as substitution tables and Dictogloss, planning further opportunities for listening and speaking and continuing the use of Turkish as a tool for learning. To explore these further why not join one of our online network meetings?

                EMTAS training courses | Hampshire County Council (

                *This child's name is pronounced /hætidʒe/

                [ Modified: Monday, 23 January 2023, 10:56 AM ]


                  Picture of Astrid Dinneen
                  by Astrid Dinneen - Monday, 9 January 2023, 11:11 AM
                  Anyone in the world

                  By Astrid Dinneen, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor with responsibility for the Young Interpreter Scheme

                  In this vlog, Astrid Dinneen discusses how child interpreters and buddies can be trained, guided and supported as part of the Young Interpreter Scheme. Viewers will learn how to set up the scheme successfully, discover material and consider good Young Interpreter practice and safeguarding. The video is crossphase and showcases content at infant, junior and secondary level.  


                  Further reading:

                  [ Modified: Monday, 9 January 2023, 11:29 AM ]


                    Anyone in the world

                    By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors Lisa Kalim and Astrid Dinneen

                    In the academic year 2021-22, Hampshire EMTAS saw its highest ever increase of referrals for asylum seekers and refugees with over 300 referrals made by schools. The majority were for children and young people from Afghanistan and Ukraine. The former was caused by the Taliban reclaiming power in Afghanistan in summer 2021 and the latter by the war in Ukraine starting in spring 2022.   

                    In order to better support these children and families, Hampshire EMTAS welcomed new Bilingual Assistants on to the team covering Pashto, Dari, Farsi and Ukrainian languages. The Teacher Team caught up with these new colleagues to find out more about the backgrounds of these children. This highlighted many areas which school practitioners will find useful when settling and supporting their new arrivals. Lisa Kalim and Astrid Dinneen summarise these key areas before concluding with a list of recommendations and further resources.  


                    In general, Afghanistan has extremely cold winters and hot summers, although there are regional variations. Most of the precipitation falls between December and April, with the summer months being very dry apart from in the south-eastern region. Afghan children may not consider our winters to be particularly cold or our summers particularly hot and may for example not feel the need to wear a coat in winter or short sleeves in summer.  

                    In contrast, Ukraine has a temperate climate, with winters in the west being considerably milder than in the east. In summer, the east often has higher temperatures than the west. Summers are much wetter than winters with June and July being the wettest months.  The west of Ukraine tends to have more rainfall than the east. 


                    Afghanistan is a landlocked country in south-central Asia. It borders Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, and the states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north. It also has a short border with China in the extreme north-east. It covers an area more than twice the size of the UK. Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces, each of which is sub-divided into 421 districts for administrative purposes. There are extensive mountainous areas, as well as high plateaus and plains. Mountains cover about three-quarters of the land area, with deserts in the south-west and north. The people of Afghanistan mainly live in rural areas in the fertile river valleys between the mountains, although the desert areas of the southwest are also becoming more populated. About 4.5 million people live in the capital, Kabul, in the east of the country.   

                    Ukraine is located in eastern Europe and has borders with Belarus to the north, Russia to the east, Moldova and Romania to the south-west and Hungary, Slovakia and Poland to the west. In the south it has over 1,700 miles of coastline along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. It also covers an area more than twice the size of the UK but is slightly smaller than Afghanistan. Ukraine is a largely flat, relatively low-lying country consisting of plains with mountainous areas only in small areas near its southern and western borders. The majority of people live in urban areas in Ukraine with rural areas being much less densely populated. The east and west of the country have urban areas with higher populations, together with the cities of Kyiv in the north and Odessa in the south. 


                    More than 30 languages are spoken in Afghanistan. Many Afghans are bilingual or multilingual. There are two official languages, Dari (also known as Farsi or Persian) and Pashto. Dari is more widely spoken than Pashto, with over 70% of the population speaking it either as a first or second language. It can be heard mainly in the central, northern, and western regions of the country. It is considered to be the language of trade, it is used by the government, its administration and mass media outlets. However, it is estimated that less than 50% of Dari speakers are literate. The primary ethnic groups that speak Dari as a first language include Tajiks, Hazaras, and Aymaqs.   

                    Around 40% of the population are first language Pashto speakers, with a further 28% speaking it as an additional language.  It can be heard predominantly in urban areas located in the south, southwest, and eastern parts of the country. Pashto is used for oral traditions such as storytelling as a high proportion of Pashto speakers are not literate in the language. Although spoken by people of various ethnic descents, Pashto is the native language of the Pashtuns, the majority ethnic group.  

                    There are also five regional languages - Hazaragi, Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, and Pashayi.  Hazaragi is a dialect of Dari. Additionally, there are around 30 other languages spoken by minority groups in Afghanistan including Pamiri, Arabic and Balochi. 

                    There are at least 20 languages spoken in Ukraine. The most widely spoken is Ukrainian which is the country’s official language. Russian is spoken as a first language by approximately 30% of the population, mainly in the east near the border with Russia and in the south in Crimea. Generally, Russian speakers are more likely to live in cities, and are not found in large numbers in rural areas. Many first language Ukrainian speakers will also speak Russian as a second language. However, recently the Russian language has become a very sensitive issue for Ukrainians and now many Ukrainians do not want to use Russian at all. Other minority languages spoken in Ukraine include Romanian, Crimean Tatar, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Armenian, Belarusian and Romani.   

                    School starting age   

                    School starting age in both Afghanistan and Ukraine is much later than in the UK. Typically, Afghan children will start school at the age of 7. Many new arrivals into Hampshire will have attended school however many were not able to attend due to factors such as having to work to support their family, school being too far from their home, fears of terrorist attacks on schools, gender and of course COVID. As a result, the formal education of many children is fragmented or minimal. This can make it harder for these children to settle in school in the UK as many are not used to attending school regularly. When attending school in Afghanistan, children would attend half a day (about 3 ½ hours a day) hence attending a full school day in the UK would be very tiring for many new arrivals initially. 

                    In Ukraine, parents will send their children to school between the age of 6 and 7. Until then, children will typically attend nursery where the curriculum is play based and where children still nap in the afternoon. This means that these children will find it hard to complete a full day in Year R and Year 1 due to tiredness as they are used to sleeping in the middle of the day. Additionally, it is common for children to go to bed much later than is usual in the UK ie between 22.00 and 23.00. This can also contribute to tiredness and settling in issues including behaviour problems. In primary school the academic part of the day usually finishes at around 1 pm and children attend clubs in the afternoon. 


                    In Afghanistan children may be accompanied to school by family members or neighbours in the early days of the academic year and they will usually walk to and from school without an adult for the rest of the year. Some children may choose not to attend and have a day out instead. Parents may not find out about their children missing school because absences are not routinely reported, particularly in state schools. In private schools however children have a home-school diary which supports communication between home and settings and any issues such as lateness, absences, lack of homework etc. are reported in writing.  

                    In Ukraine, expectations around attendance are different from that in the UK. For example, children with a runny nose and a mild cough are considered by their families to be poorly hence they are kept away from settings for long periods of time eg a week or two. This tends to be encouraged by teachers in Ukraine. Similarly, parents in Ukraine will often take their children out of school to go on holiday or for an extended weekend away.  

                    It may be necessary for school practitioners to have conversations with parents about expectations and the law around attendance in the UK and the requirement to let the school know if children are going to be absent. 

                    School facilities 

                    In both Afghanistan and Ukraine, facilities depend on whether schools are state or private and on whether they are located in a city or a remote village. 

                    In Afghanistan, girls and boys are educated separately in state schools. However in private schools they are taught together. Class sizes in Afghanistan tend to be very large. Facilities in private schools may include buildings with classrooms and sometimes IT and Science equipment whereas in rural areas classes may take place outside as there may not be a building (it might not exist or may have been destroyed). State and private secondary schools are now closed for girls since the Taliban took over in Summer 2021.   

                    In Ukraine there are also regional disparities affecting school facilities as well as differences between private and public sectors. Facilities eg interactive whiteboards may also depend on donations from families. Class sizes are similar to those in the UK.  

                    Teaching and learning 

                    In Afghanistan, children wear a uniform at school. Dari and Pashto are taught in both private and state schools together with Maths, Science, Geography, History and Art. English is taught from Year 4 in state schools and from Year 1 in private schools. IT is taught where facilities allow – sometimes through textbooks, sometimes through practical work. Since the Taliban came back to power there is more of a focus on religious studies than other subjects. Children in Afghanistan are usually taught from the front and are not expected to speak to each other or to work collaboratively, just copy from the board. When children deviate from this, corporal punishment is used to discipline them.  

                    In Ukraine the range of subjects is similar to that offered in the UK. The language of instruction is Ukrainian across the whole country and most pupils, including Russian speakers, use Ukrainian for academic purposes. Russian is not taught in schools and is not part of the curriculum. Often even Russian speaking children are not literate in Russian. Younger children may know only the basics. Older children may be more confident with reading and writing in Russian however this is usually because they have taught themselves or learnt with their parents. Children do not wear a uniform. The teaching style in state schools is traditional with children being expected to sit passively and not move around the classroom. This means that new arrivals in the UK will have to adjust to a more active and collaborative approach to learning. In fact, newly arrived Ukrainian children sometimes report that they cannot distinguish the difference between lessons and break times in the UK.  

                    In Ukraine pupils are used to receiving plenty of homework daily and families – usually mothers – tend to spend large amounts of time supporting their children with this every day. Outside of school families will commonly also employ private tutors. Families arriving in the UK have reported their surprise at how little homework their children receive in comparison. They also report not having a good grasp of how well their children are doing here because of the differences in grading work completed at school and at home. Homework is also very important in Afghanistan and children receive it daily. 

                    In Ukraine, children would not be expected to play outside when it rains. In fact, settings should be aware that water play – even in the summer months – is not a well-accepted learning activity because the children may get wet. Similarly, sitting on the floor is not acceptable in Ukraine - particularly for girls. 
                    In both Afghanistan and Ukraine children are required to pass assessments in order to progress to the next year group. In practice it is rare for Ukrainian children not to progress but it is relatively common in Afghanistan. 

                    Extra-curricular activities 

                    In Afghanistan children may attend private language centres to learn English outside of school. They may also attend taekwondo or karate clubs as well as private art courses. Some children work part-time to support their families however many families prefer to live modestly to be able to afford extra-curricular activities for their children. Football and cricket are very popular sports in Afghanistan. 

                    Music schools are popular in Ukraine and it is usual for children to attend up to three times a week. Many children will have brought their musical instruments to the UK to continue practising. Sports such as athletics and gymnastics are also very popular and clubs are attended just as often. Children’s assiduity means their skills can surpass that of their UK peers. Settings should make every effort to find out about children’s interests and signpost ways for them to continue developing those skills in or outside of school. 


                    Children with SEND do not usually attend school in Afghanistan, particularly in rural areas. Instead, it is likely that they would be kept at home. There is very little educational provision available in Afghanistan for children with SEND at present, but this is beginning to change. There are a few schools that specialise in children with SEND in the larger cities, but these are mostly private and so parents would need to be able to afford the fees for their children to attend. Kabul has the country’s only school for visually impaired children which is government funded and there are also schools for hearing impaired children in Kabul and Jalalabad. Additionally, there are other small schools in Kabul catering for children with a wide range of SEND, some of which do not charge fees as they are funded by charitable donations.  For those children with SEND who are able to attend standard schools, no additional support is available. These children will not be able to progress to higher year groups if they fail the end of year exams and so may have to repeat a year several times. Many of these children will eventually drop out of school as a result. 

                    In contrast with Afghanistan, children with SEND in Ukraine do usually attend school. In the past, these children were educated away from the mainstream in either special schools for those with SEND, including boarding schools, or in separate classes held in a mainstream school with no interaction with other children without SEND. However, although many children still attend segregated provision, Ukraine is now moving towards an inclusive approach where children with SEND are given the opportunity to attend mainstream schools. This means that many children with SEND now attend standard classes with their peers. Specialist centres conduct assessments of SEND and decide upon the most appropriate form of education for the child in consultation with the parents. Additional support is provided as needed, eg through the provision of Teaching Assistants. 

                    In both Afghanistan and Ukraine SEND can be a sensitive subject for parents with some feeling a sense of stigma or shame around having a child with SEND. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of this possibility when discussing the subject of SEND with parents.  

                    Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) 

                    In Afghanistan children do not learn about sex and relationships at school. In Year 10, pupils may learn about anatomy and how babies are conceived as part of the Biology curriculum but this input excludes girls who do not attend secondary school. They learn about periods at home from their mothers, older sisters or friends and the quality of information is variable. Families may respond differently when informed about the RSE element of the school curriculum in the UK. Some may be happy for their children to receive well-informed advice at school whereas others are more reticent and may prefer to withdraw their children, especially in relation to the theme of same-sex relationships which are not permitted in Afghanistan. It is recommended that settings clarify the content of the RSE sessions and highlight themes such as healthy relationships with parents so they can make an informed decision based on the facts. 

                    In Ukraine, subjects such as Health Education and Biology cover parts of sex education however relationships is not an area that is explored in detail and schools may not provide consistent guidance. Some families may not be comfortable discussing sex education with their children while others may try to do so using books and other resources. 

                    Family and home life  

                    Family is very important in both Ukraine and Afghanistan and it is common for children to live with their extended family, particularly their grandparents. They play a big part in the children’s lives. In fact, grandparents help so much at home that it has been noticed by UK Early Years settings that Ukrainian children can be less independent than their peers with routine tasks such as getting dressed or putting their shoes on. At the same time, it is also usual for Ukrainian parents to leave their young children alone at home to go to work and it can come as a surprise to them that in the UK parents are not expected to do this until children are much older. Similarly young children in Ukraine would usually go to the park or walk to school on their own hence it is useful for settings to be mindful and have conversations about this early on. 

                    Families are also very close in Afghanistan. It is common for several families to live under the same roof and under the responsibility of the grandfather who is the decision-maker. Women are responsible for cleaning, cooking, and taking care of all the children. It’s not unusual for aunts and uncles to raise their nieces and nephews as their own children, which may explain why schools may welcome more than one ‘sibling’ within the same year group. To colleagues in the UK children may not strictly fall under our notion of brother or sister but for the children themselves the relationship is very strong indeed. Questions around children’s dates of birth should be asked sensitively and we must be reminded that not all will know their birth dates anyway.  

                    For Afghan families who practise Islam the routine of the home revolves around prayer. Some families (Sunni Muslims in particular) pray 5 times a day while others (Shia Muslims) may pray 3 times a day. They wake up early for morning prayer. There is another prayer late in the evening after which families will have their dinner hence it is not unusual for children to go to bed late at around 23.00. In Ukraine, parents finish work at 18.00-19.00 to collect their children. Life starts then – families may go out and meet with friends. Children will also tend to go to bed late. Families moving to the UK from both Ukraine and Afghanistan have had to adjust to different routines and synchronise their body clocks to that of UK children who usually go to bed earlier and get up earlier too. 

                    Food and diet is another area that families and children from Ukraine and Afghanistan have struggled with since moving to the UK. At the time of writing many families from Afghanistan are still housed in bridging hotels where they are unable to cook their own meals from fresh ingredients or at times of their choosing. Schools have also commented that many children are hungry during the day because they do not like school dinners. Instead they may bring in hard-boiled eggs and bread from the hotel breakfast buffet which is not always enough to sustain them until the end of a busy school day. In Ukraine, families will typically have a big breakfast consisting of waffles, omelettes, fruit, etc. and will usually have a late lunch consisting usually of soup followed by a main meal. Chips, pizzas and sandwiches and other foods offered at school are not considered a proper lunch.

                    To conclude this section on family life it is important to note that many refugee families coming to the UK have had to leave family members behind. For example, most Ukrainian children have moved here without their fathers and older brothers because they are required to fight for their country (there are some exceptions). Many Afghan children have also left members of their extended family behind and this can cause a lot of anxiety to those who are unsure about the safety of their loved ones. Families, including mothers who have moved to the UK with their children on their own, are having to cope without their usual support network. We must be reminded that for them juggling everything unaided for the first time can be stressful, particularly in a new country where systems, customs, education and much more are so unfamiliar. 

                    Important dates 

                    School settings should note important religious dates for which families may wish to withdraw their children (they have the right to 1 day for each festival).  Schools may wish to take an interest and celebrate these dates through cards, assemblies, etc. 


                    Independence day: 19th August  

                    New Year’s day in Persian calendar: 21st March 

                    Eid al-Adha: June 29th 2023 

                    Ramadan: will start around March 23rd 2023 and last approximately 30 days 

                    Eid al-Fitr: end of Ramadan, April 21st 2023 


                    7th January – Orthodox Christmas 


                    Birthdays and name days 

                    First Communion 


                    Summing up - recommendations 

                    Find out as much as you can about the background experiences of your new arrivals eg previous experience of school if any, literacy levels in home language(s), etc. 

                    Use Google maps to find out where the children lived before moving to the UK. Did they live in a city or a rural area? Consider how this might have impacted access to services, education and other infrastructures. Consider also how this may have impacted their life experiences eg Afghan children will not be familiar with coasts and may for example need support to access stories and language relating to going to the beach and playing with a bucket and spade 

                    Be aware that some Ukrainian parents may not be comfortable conversing in Russian, particularly to a person who is Russian rather than Ukrainian, even though they may be very competent in speaking Russian as a second language. Bear this in mind when planning to use an interpreter for meetings with parents – if a Ukrainian speaking interpreter is not available and you are considering using a Russian speaker instead always check with the family how they feel about using a Russian speaker before proceeding 

                    Set up a home-school communication book to share details of topics covered at school. This helps families become aware of what their children are learning and is also an opportunity for them to discuss their learning at home in first language 

                    Use ICTs to support communication with parents eg Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, DeepL Translate, SayHi, etc.  Note some apps have audio features for some languages and not for others so check this in advance. For example, SayHi recognises speech in Ukrainian and Farsi but not in Pashto and Dari (these require the user to input text using an appropriate keyboard). When talking to parents also give a note written in English so they can get help from others to understand any key messages 

                    Focus on pastoral care and support settling in initially 

                    Discuss routines including bedtime 

                    Clarify expectations regarding behaviour, attendance and punctuality  

                    Explain what children should be able to do by themselves depending on their age eg getting dressed and what they should still be supported with eg walking to school 

                    Be open-minded about children’s wider conception of what close family means 

                    Provide ELSA and bereavement support where appropriate. Use interpreters where required 

                    Talk to pupils about how they would like to observe their faith at school. Offer a space to pray 

                    Provide Muslim children with a vegetarian or fish option. Ensure families understand that these meals are appropriate options for their children 

                    Find out about children’s interests, skills and talents they may have developed in their country of origin eg art, sport, music, cooking, etc. 

                    Clarify content of Relationship and Sex Education sessions  

                    Be mindful that for some parents the subject of SEND can be sensitive 

                    Attend training on how to best cater for the needs of refugee arrivals (see Hampshire EMTAS network meetings)  

                    Further reading and resources 

                    Coming soon: more information about children speaking Pashto, Dari and Ukrainian will be added to our collection. 

                    Many thanks to Olha Herhel, Kubra Behrooz and Sayed Kazimi for supporting the creation of this blog.  

                    [ Modified: Thursday, 24 November 2022, 9:05 AM ]