Practical guidance, processes and adaptable resources to develop a whole school framework for supporting EAL learners in Post-Primary
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Fully supporting EAL learners means fully engaging with their families.
This can be a challenge when parents are learning English as well.
Engaging can be harder still during a pandemic when schools may not see families face-to-face.
Use a culturally responsive approach.
We encourage home language use in the classroom, this can be extended to how we communicate with families too.
The most important thing schools can do is communicate with families in a language they can understand.
Here are some ways schools can navigate not speaking the same language as their students’ families.
Be warm and welcoming
Schools need to take time to ensure that families are welcomed.
The process begins the first time a family steps inside the door.
A positive experience at first contact can set Home-School Communication on the right course and provide a strong basis for future parental involvement.
Greet a new family with a smile on your face.
One of the first things I do is let families know they can contact me in their home language.
Provide the family with a 'Welcome letter' in their home language ( have a stock ready to go or print a translated version using Google Docs).
Set a date for admission interview ( insert date/time on welcome letter).
It is better to conduct the admission interview at a later date, give the school time to prepare.
For further advice on the Admission process see Admission's page.
Learn about cultural differences
In Ireland, parental attendance at Parent- Teacher meetings and school events is the norm.
We have to keep in mind that many of our families come from cultures where this is not the case.
In some cultures, schools do not encourage parents to get involved in school affairs.
Some schools do not even allow parents to speak directly to the teachers.
This doesn’t mean parents don’t value education, the ways they engage may just be less visible.
The Hampshire Services ETMAS guides are a useful resource for schools to find out about parental involvement in school life.
Guides are available for students who speak Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Cantonese, Finnish, French, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Malayalam, Tamil, Nepali, Tagalog, Filipino, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Roma students from Eastern countries, Turkish, Shona, Russian or Romanian as a first language.
Parents often have little knowledge of our education system and require more information.
School procedures including homework, uniform and discipline policies can be explained in a ‘How Our School Works’ welcome booklet or video.
Such initiatives can make an important statement about the kind of school you are – welcoming, inclusive, supportive, multilingual and diverse.
Attached are some sample pages from our School Welcome Booklet with a voice over in Pashto.
Tailor Home-School Communication
Home-School Communication needs to be informative and mindful of the needs of EAL learners and their families.
Every family has their own preferred way to communicate.
Talk to parents to find out their communication preferences and needs.
Ask them what support they would find helpful.
Texts, letters, emails, phone calls and audio clips.
These are low cost, straight-forward, easy to introduce approaches that can prompt wider engagement, better attendance and impact attainment.
Communication should be two-way.
Consulting with parents about how they can be involved is likely to be valuable, and increase the effectiveness of home-school relationships.
Let families know they can contact the school using their home language.
Translation tools are not perfect, but in the absence of other resources, they can really help bridge the gap.
Google or Office Forms can be used to create a Home-School Communication Survey that can easily be translated for families.
Schools can use Google or Office Forms to create surveys at any time during the school year.
You may find it helpful to use translated letters when communicating with families.
It is a good idea to photocopy the translated letter onto the back of the original letter so that a family receives both versions.
Google Docs and Word both have built in translation tools that can be used to translate school communication.
Here is a tutorial on how to use the translation tool in Google Docs to communicate with families.
* If using Microsoft Word
- Type up your document
- Select Review in the menu bar
- Select translate
- Select Choose Translation Language
Information simply translated from English to another language will work for some but not for all.
Be mindful of the literacy levels of the recipient when translating documents.
School Polices/ DES Guidance may need to be simplified before translating in order for families to access.
Inclusion Europe have an Easy-to-read checklist I find useful to make sure information is easy to read before translating.
Say Hi Translate is a great free app to translate text, WhatsApp, Viber or facebook messenger.
Translated written material will not work for all.
Some families will require Audio Clips/ Voice-Over versions of documents.
Reach out and connect with EAL Learner families, community groups or organisations to source trusted reliable native speakers you can call on as and when needed.
We get great support from the Afghan community and the Imam for our Pashto students and their families.
Set families and learners up with the right tools
Host tech training sessions to help families and learners familiarise themselves with the technology, apps and extensions needed to better improve communication and support learning.
Promote, model and demonstrate the use of effective digital tools and allow time for families and students to practice.
Make sure necessary apps and extensions are downloaded on phones, tablets and laptops.
Show learners and families how to hotspot devices and use phone data in homes where Wi-Fi is an issue.
This can be done remotely if needed through the use of home language 'Tech buddies' via Google Meet or prerecorded using Explain and share screenshots.
Download necessary apps and extensions on any device being loaned by the school.
If necessary schools can gift 'phone credit' to learners to ensure access to online materials.
Parent- Teacher Meetings
Address barriers to parental involvement in Parent-Teacher Meetings.
Work schedules, limited transportation, and lack of childcare can prevent participation.
Recognise that financial security may be a primary concern.
When planning school events and scheduling parent meetings, make a deliberate effort to make them accessible to all families.
Offer multiple Parent-Teacher Meeting time slots or make a home visit instead.
Language can also be one of those barriers.
Meeting with 9/10 teachers can be a daunting experience.
Invite families to meet with the EAL Coordinator the first time the attend a parent-teacher meeting.
Gather information from subject teachers in advance and prepare visual feedback.
Here is a sample Visual Feedback form from the EANI toolkit teachers can adapt.
A similar form can be used when sending Christmas/Summer reports.
Once famiies are familiar and comfortable with attending parent-teacher meetings teachers can use the free Microsoft Translator app to set up a real time multilingual parent-teacher meeting.
List of languages supported available here
Reach out to families in their native language and invite them to a live, translated parent-teacher meeting using the Translator app.
Microsoft even provided pre-translated letters explaining how parents can download the app from their phone or device and join a conversation!
Download pre-translated letters here
Information Evenings and other School Events
The Microsoft Translator app can be used to provide real time translation and live captioning during information evenings.
Microsoft PowerPoint , Google Meet and Zoom also provide live captioning and translated subtitling of a presenter’s notes in many languages including English.
These subtitles enable families of EAL learners to follow along with information sessions and school presentations.