Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Dec 6 13:55:19 UTC 2006

Moves to tackle language barrier in classroom being finalised
Dire need for support: union chief

By Kathryn Torney

05 December 2006 The Department of Education is in the final stages of
developing a policy for Ulster schoolchildren whose first language is not
English. The department has confirmed that its English as an Additional
Language (EAL) draft policy should be issued for public consultation by
January 2007 and be finalised by early 2007. During a recent joint meeting
of the WELB and SELB education committee, concerns were raised about
insufficient funding to support ethnic minorities in schools, plans for a
regional service without department policy being finalised and increasing
pressure on board officers. There are currently 1,500 ethnic minority
children within the two education boards (1,200 within the SELB) speaking
36 different languages - a 30% increase over just two years.

The October 2005 census figures indicate that there are now 2,679 EAL
children and young people in schools across Northern Ireland, an increase
of 623 on the October 2004 census figures. The total Department of
Education allocation for EAL is 3.4m for 2006/07. A department spokesman
said that an Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) is due to be
established from April 1, 2007 to ensure the correct level of support
throughout all schools across Northern Ireland. An interpretation service
and translation of documents service will also be set up in early 2007.
Avril Hall-Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union,
said today that schools in Northern Ireland are in "dire need" of funding
and support if they are to adequately cope with growing numbers of migrant

She said: "It is vital that children from ethnic minority backgrounds
receive adequate support in schools and I would urge the Department of
Education to address a number of areas including helping children cope
with differences in language and culture, correcting weaknesses in the
curriculum which inhibit this and developing a database on the performance
of children from ethnic backgrounds. "Despite promises that the Department
would consult with teachers on the development of a policy for these
children, we have heard nothing to date. "It is scandalous that there is
not yet an official policy for such an important and growing part of the
education service.

"We, as teachers, also need training so that we are prepared and can help
smooth the way for new children from other countries. "While we all want
to enjoy the richness that a multi-cultural society can provide, many
class teachers are faced with an added call upon their skills in trying to
integrate pupils from other cultures whilst at the same time having to
cope with, for example, the preparation of pupils for transfer tests and
all the demands that incurs. "Many schools are in dire need of help and
support, especially since the boards' cutbacks meant a decimation of the
English as an Additional Language (EAL) support staff service."

A SELB spokesperson said: "In an attempt to develop a cohesive regional
approach to this issue, the boards are working with the Department of
Education in the establishment of a regional service for children whose
first language is not English."

The Department of Education's plans

English as an Additional Language (EAL) draft policy to be issued for
public consultation by January 2007 and finalised by early 2007. An Ethnic
Minority Achievement Service (EMAS), incorporating EAL, will be
established from April 1, 2007. It will be hosted by the North Eastern
Education and Library Board until the establishment of the single
education authority. An interpretation service and translation of
documents service will be set up in early 2007 through the EMAS. This will
establish access to interpreting services and provide key documents in
various languages for teachers, EAL pupils and their parents. Schools can
be reimbursed for any interpretation costs incurred from September 2006
until the new service is active.


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