Practical guidance, processes and adaptable resources to develop a whole school framework for supporting EAL learners in Post-Primary
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A new school can be daunting for any student facing into a new country, a new culture and a new language.
The key to a successful admission is not to rush the admission process.
Take time to ensure that students and parents are welcomed, informed and supported, staff are prepared and information is gathered and communicated effectively.
*The focus here is on new admissions
If the student is transferring from a local primary school or another Irish school, it is important to find out:
•how long the student has been in an English-speaking school.
•date student started receiving language support.
•what progress in English (s)he made in that time.
•what strengths or weaknesses have been evident in curriculum concepts.
•CEFR proficiency levels.
It may also be useful to ask for samples of the student’s work that illustrate ability or problem areas.
Sample Data Collection form
Arrange a tour of the school with first language support for new students and parents
If there are other other students in the school who speak the same home language, allow them to lead the tour.
This shows you really value Bilingualism.
There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ EAL learner.
Each student will have a different background and life experience.
A student arriving with their family to take up employment or study, copes differently from a refugee escaping conflict.
Each student will have different pastoral, social, linguistic, academic, and cognitive needs based on their background and life experience.
Consider what questions should be asked in order to gather information that will be useful in supporting the student’s learning and well-being.
Here is a sample data capture form from EANI Toolkit for Diversity.
Sample Data Capture Form
Schools can use Google or Office Forms to create their own data capture forms.
Invite the parents to fill out in their homelangauge during the admission interview.
Free Online background collation tool
SEGfl.org have a free collation tool available in many languages (Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Lithuanian, Nepali, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Somali and Sylheti.
Schools can invite parents/ guardians to fill out in their home language.
Information is automatically translated and a profile can be printed off for school records.
The student profile can be share with relevant staff and placed in student support file.
Interpreting Service for Schools
An interpreter may be essential in order to gather vital information about a prospective student.
Use of an interpreter can help avoid potential misunderstandings between school and home and also serves to reassure parents and students.
For confidential matters and accuracy it is better to use a professional interpreter.
The Big Word offer face to face, telephone or video interpreting.
Initial Language assessment
It is good practice to give the EAL learner a period of time to settle in before carrying out any formal testing of English proficiency.
A quick informal assessment however, will help determine the level of support and resources needed in the first few weeks.
It is worthwhile to ask the learner to read something in their home language.
You can get a general impression of a young person’s literacy skills from seeing how confidently they approach the task and how fluently they read.
A dual language ‘welcome letter’ is excellent for this, you can follow the English version.
Nothing says welcome to our school more than a welcome letter in your home language!
Benefits of being bilingual leaflets
Ensure that parents are aware of the benefits of being bilingual.
Explain that maintaining and developing the first language will help their son or daughter to learn English and to make good progress at school.
Encourage parents to use the home language at home.
The Aberdeenshire EAL Service and The Hampshire Services ETMAS have both published excellent leaflets for parents in many languages. ( Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, English, Finnish, French, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malayalam, Nepali, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Turkish, Urdu).
Sample ETMAS Leaflet
Sample Aberdeenshire Leaflet
Agree a start date
Arrange for the EAL learner to start school the week after their admission interview, preferably midweek.
This gives both the school and the family time to get organised.
A full week can be exhausting- best to start on a Wednesday or Thursday.
Give the family a copy of the Welcome to our School booklet if available.