Room for one more on top

3rd October 2014

The last seven days have absolutely stretched our school to the limit. They’ve also given this EAL teacher to a sensation of being on a very fast moving roundabout.

We have added 6 children, who have never been to school in the UK, to our roll. On top of the 4 admitted earlier this term.

This doesn’t sound like much as I write it down, but the reality is:

- 4 families who need time and welcome and possibly advice about living in the UK, that may be someone else’s job, but I see no-one stepping up to the plate.

- 6 individuals, all with different needs who need to be welcomed, supported and made to feel like they are the most important person in school.

- 6 teachers who need to be supported and made to feel like they are my number one priority.

- 6 classes (150 children) who need to be empowered to help, support and include our new children.

- 6 classroom assistants who need to given support packs, guidance and help.

- 600 attempts to create a working timetable that allows every child to get enough support to be able to cope within the classroom, not just this batch, but last term’s and the term before, and the term before (who have still only had 8 months of exposure to English at best).

In days like these people query the sanity of keeping children in class.
“Why not,” they ask, “why not create a New To English unit, keep them for a while and then send them into classes in a term or two?”

It would be easier for me, it would be easier for the teachers and assistants.
But it would not be better, it would not be morally right and it would not be within the spirit of the law. I also believe that OFSTED would be profoundly unimpressed, having read the latest guidance.

The reasons it would not be better are as follows; the children would be denied access to a peer group to learn from, they would not be socially part of the school, they would not get full access to curriculum entitlement, they would still have to make a move to managing in mainstream classes, they would not make such good progress.

“The best place for a new arrival is your classroom.”

So we will resist the lure of the cosy, well-equipped unit. We will run up and down stairs with our baskets of tricks, distributing visual prompts, vocabulary support, dictionaries, beginner boxes. We will read plans at 11 o’clock on Sunday night and try to add adaptations. We will take time to support our language ambassadors and buddies. It will get better.  Wish us luck.