An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Evaluation of English as an Additional Language (EAL)

REPORT

 

Presentation Secondary School,

Presentation Road, Galway

Roll number: 63000E

 

Date of inspection: 10 October 2008

 

 

 


 

Evaluation report on English as an additional language

Whole-school support and provision for EAL

Planning and co-ordination

Teaching and learning

Support for EAL students

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

 

Report on Provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL)

 

 

Evaluation report on English as an additional language

 

This report has been written following an evaluation of provision for students learning English as an additional language (EAL) in Presentation Secondary School, Presentation Road, Galway. It presents the findings of the evaluation of provision, teaching and learning of EAL and makes recommendations for the further development of EAL in the school. The evaluation was conducted over three days during which the inspector visited support and mainstream lessons and observed teaching and learning. The inspector held meetings with the principal and with groups of teachers and students, and reviewed school planning documentation, teachers’ written preparation, and students’ work. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and EAL teachers. This report forms part of the evidence base for a forthcoming composite report on EAL provision in primary and post-primary schools, intended to inform Department of Education and Science policy and to promote good practice in schools. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Whole-school support and provision for EAL

 

Presentation Secondary School, Presentation Road, Galway is a long-established voluntary secondary school for girls that offers a range of programmes to help develop the full potential of its students. Its programmes include the Junior Certificate (JC), the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), Transition Year (TY), the Established Leaving Certificate (ELC), and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). In addition, the school provides FETAC Level 4 and Level 5 (Post-Leaving Certificate) courses. The school is a member of DEIS, an educational inclusion initiative of the Department. Due to the school’s proximity to the National University of Ireland, Galway and to University Hospital Galway, it has a history of educating the daughters of international lecturers and medical staff for the past twenty years. Over the past decade, the school’s international population has become more diverse, incorporating students who are asylum seekers and refugees, economic migrants, and exchange students as well as the international students it has traditionally catered for. The school operates an open and inclusive admissions policy and a broad range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds is represented in the student body.

 

At present, one university graduate with TEFL training constitutes the core EAL teaching team in the school. That individual brings very relevant background experience to EAL support, having previously worked with EAL students and parents/guardians before starting work in the school. The EAL teacher has a clear understanding that the emphasis in EAL should not just be on equipping students for communicative and social uses of language, but also to teach them the range of language skills needed to access the curriculum, to make progress within it, and to take the relevant examinations (the language of instruction). Looking toward the future, the school is over quota and this presents a particular challenge to maintaining and building the school’s capacity for providing EAL support. It is advised that within the capacity available to the school, a means of continuity for providing EAL support should be pursued.

 

Over the past few years, school management has worked to establish a standardised system of support for EAL students and to establish a weekly, formal link with the EAL teacher, and this is commended. The school has an allocation of two whole-time teacher equivalents, which is forty-four hours, for EAL support. It is currently using its allocation in two ways: providing timetabled EAL withdrawal lessons to each year group when Irish is being taught and using some of the allocation to help create smaller JCSP or FETAC Level 4 classes to support students who, according to the scores of standardised tests utilised by the school, have learning as well as language difficulties. Timetabling for EAL was satisfactory in most years and programmes. A few areas for development were noted during the evaluation. First, a small number of EAL students in JC and LC programmes, who had been granted language support hours by the Department, were not attending EAL withdrawal classes and were unknown to the EAL teacher. Secondly, when an EAL student is placed in a JCSP or FETAC Level 4 class, she no longer receives specialist EAL teaching. Thirdly, where a very large group of EAL students happen to be in the same year group, this creates a very large EAL support class unsuitable for providing effective language support for students at different levels of English language proficiency. Fourthly, language support should not be sought from the Department for exchange students. To address these issues and further enhance the school’s deployment of its EAL allocation, the following recommendations are offered. A copy of the register of students for whom EAL support has been applied for and granted by the Department should be provided to the EAL teacher, to ensure that all eligible students receive that support. Some focused EAL support needs to be incorporated into the timetables of EAL students placed in JCSP or FETAC Level 4 classes. Where a potentially very large group of EAL students happens to be in the same year group, consideration should be given to dividing the group between two teachers for EAL support. Lastly, given the requirement under Circular 15/2009 that applications for an additional year of EAL support beyond the two-year period will need to be accompanied by results obtained using the English as an Additional Language: Post-Primary Assessment Kit issued in February 2009, it is recommended that some time for administrative/testing work be included in EAL teachers’ timetables in the future.

 

The enrolment process for incoming first-year EAL students is the same as for incoming first-year Irish students. Application forms and school enrolment processes are all through English. It is advised that the school have its application forms and a document summarising key information about the school and its most important rules translated into the main home languages of its EAL students through the Galway Migrant Service (one of the constituent community development organisations of the Galway City Partnership) to assist EAL students and their parents. Similarly, copies of documents describing aspects of the Irish post-primary system already translated into a number of languages other than English that the school was made aware of during the evaluation should also be made available to EAL students and their parents to facilitate their enrolment. Lastly, it is hoped that the recently-established “Galway Education Initiative,” in which the school’s home-school-community liaison (HCSL) teacher is involved, will also aid the enrolment process for all incoming first-year students, by establishing a standardised questionnaire for transferring information on primary pupils enrolled in Galway schools to their post-primary schools.

 

EAL students seeking enrolment in the school during the school year are usually interviewed by the principal. During that meeting, the principal gathers standard enrolment information and also some information about their prior educational experiences. To help facilitate such enrolment interviews, the school encourages parents of EAL students to bring in friends or relatives who are more proficient in English. Also, while not an ideal solution, the school may also ask students to act as translators to facilitate communication. In the course of such interviews, the principal takes notes of key information gleaned. It is suggested that the type of questions generally asked by the principal in that interview now be reviewed in relation to pages 31-32 of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)’s Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School: Guidelines for Schools and that a standard questionnaire for the interview be created. If the information gathered by that questionnaire were to be compiled electronically and pasted into the “New Student Slip” currently distributed to teachers, it would further support the teaching and learning  and integration of EAL students. Key details for inclusion in that slip should be the home language(s) of the EAL student and her parents/guardians, phonetic renderings of their names, whether students are living with parents/guardians or on their own, students’ level of English language proficiency (to be assessed by the EAL teacher), and the number of years of English language support previously accessed by the student in Irish primary or post-primary schools.

 

All incoming first-year students sit assessment tests after enrolment. In the case of EAL students, “non verbal testing” may be undertaken by the learning-support teacher and/or “the numerical ability of the international students is taken into account as a non-language based subject” (draft learning support policy, 2008). To date, the placement of new students into particular classes has been largely determined by the principal, in consultation with the deputy principal and class teachers, based on prior information gathered and the assessment results produced by the special needs department. It is recommended that the assessment of EAL students’ English language proficiency by the EAL teacher also be taken into account when such placement decisions are being made.

 

School management wishes to provide the greatest range of subjects for all students and this is acknowledged and commended. Although most EAL students following JC and LC programmes are withdrawn from Irish to receive language support, some EAL students who were studying Irish in primary school continue to do so. It was pointed out during the evaluation that a difficulty is sometimes encountered when EAL students were withdrawn for language support in primary school when Irish was being taught and never studied the language as a result, even though they were not entitled to an exemption from the study of Irish under Circular M10/94. To help maximise the number of LC examinations EAL students can prepare for, the school organises ab initio modern language classes for fifth and sixth years and this is highly commended. Also, it was evident that the guidance counsellor actively encourages EAL students to sit examinations in their home languages, where these are available as non-curricular LC language examinations through the State Examinations Commission. This is good practice. Hence, the school has put a number of supports in place to help EAL students access their curricular options and this is commended.

 

In 2007/08, a base room was available for EAL support. In 2008/09, that room was assigned a different purpose so an arrangement was arrived at whereby the EAL teacher would spend part of her timetabled hours in the base room for learning support and part of her timetabled hours moving between other rooms. The net result of that arrangement is that while the EAL teacher can borrow some aids generally used for learning support, she cannot store her stock of EAL-specific learning aids in one base room and cannot freely display posters or samples of students’ work on classroom walls. During the focus group meeting with EAL students, one participant contrasted the learning experience she had had in 07/08 with 08/09, identifying a base room as a vital support for EAL learners. It is recommended that a base room for EAL support again be provided by school management.

 

The EAL teacher generally uses self-accumulated concrete artefacts or self-prepared flashcards and handouts to introduce new vocabulary or concepts to students. Also, in co-ordination with some subject teachers, she draws on photocopied extracts from textbooks being used by students in those subjects to pre-teach or consolidate subject-specific vocabulary that students are having difficulty with. The further development of two aspects of EAL resource provision would greatly help EAL students. First, given that school-owned laptops and data projectors are available for borrowing by all teachers, it is encouraged that increasing use of the internet be made to help contextualise new vocabulary and concepts in EAL support classes. Secondly, it is suggested that websites such as www.naldic.org.uk, www.emaonline.org.uk and the Trinity Immigration Initiative’s English language support element (www.elsp.ie) be explored, to further expand the range of EAL teaching resources available in the school.

 

The current refurbishment and restocking of the school library has the potential to be a strong support to the school’s EAL learners in the years ahead. As part of that refurbishment, it is encouraged that the school’s existing stock of high-interest, low-reading age readers be located in the library and that some Readalong packs and graphic novels be added to the library collection, as a support to EAL learners as well as to Irish students with literacy difficulties. EAL students are encouraged to join the public library by the EAL teacher and the international student liaison teacher. In addition to reading books in English, EAL students should also be encouraged to read in their home languages. Links to publishers of books in international languages and to dual language books can be found on www.literacytrust.org.uk. Saving international newspaper websites such as www.world-newspapers.com and www.onlinenewspapers.com on computers used by the school’s second-level students could be another way of enabling EAL students to read for a purpose in their own home languages.

 

Continuous professional development (CPD) for the EAL teacher is encouraged by school management. The EAL teacher is a member of ELSTA (English Language Support Teachers Association) and has attended conferences organised by it since joining the staff of Presentation Secondary School. The school pays for the fees associated with that membership and with attendance at those conferences. Furthermore, the EAL teacher was facilitated to attend Second Level Support Service (SLSS) training for EAL teachers provided after the evaluation. As for the CPD of the general teaching staff in this area, EAL-related materials are posted on a notice board in the staffroom and all teachers have received copies of the Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School: Guidelines for Schools (NCCA). To facilitate further sharing of resources and methods in relation to the key principles and practices of working with EAL learners, it is suggested that the EAL teacher be asked to give formal inputs on such topics during staff planning/development days. Also, it is suggested that an exploration of Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School: Guidelines for Schools could be adopted as the focus for a staff day, where different staff members could be asked to identify the relevant key points they found in the different chapters of the document. Finally, subject departments may find it helpful to invite the EAL teacher to join them for specific meetings, to help them review their subject department plans from an EAL perspective, and to add to or amend them where necessary.

 

 

Planning and co-ordination

 

A number of whole-school policies have been developed that have a bearing on provision for EAL students, including policies on admissions and participation, pastoral care, interculturalism and inclusiveness, a code of behaviour and a whole-school guidance plan. Planning within some subject departments incorporates intercultural units of work. The ratification and implementation of the whole-school literacy policy that the school is currently developing will assist all students, including EAL learners. The board of management and the Whole School Student Support Committee have identified a whole-school EAL policy as a planning priority for 2008/09 and some preliminary work had been undertaken in this regard before the commencement of the evaluation.

 

With regard to the school’s planning structures for EAL provision at the time of the evaluation, the principal, sometimes in conjunction with the learning-support teacher, was determining how language support hours would be deployed in the school through some small classes and some withdrawal groups and was compiling the school’s applications for language support for all EAL learners for return to the Department. The EAL teacher was planning for her withdrawal classes and was meeting the principal at a timetabled weekly meeting to discuss the needs of particular EAL students. Also, the EAL teacher and the learning-support teacher were meeting on a fairly regular basis. Furthermore, planning for aspects of EAL provision was also being undertaken by the guidance counsellor, the HSCL co-ordinator, and the international student liaison teacher, with some informal interchanges. It is recommended that formal, co-ordinated team planning by the staff members referred to in this paragraph be initiated, to develop, monitor, and review a whole-school EAL policy. The recording of formal minutes of such meetings would benefit the developmental process. Also, based on the models of the first-year induction and anti-bullying questionnaires that are already being administered to students within the school, it is suggested that a questionnaire surveying the interests, areas of satisfaction and of concern of EAL students be prepared, to aid the planning and ongoing evaluation of a whole-school EAL policy.

 

The EAL teacher presented representative plans for working with particular withdrawal groups during the evaluation. The plans referred to the knowledge that EAL students should acquire on a staged basis, to a number of effective pedagogical methods, and provided evidence of self-reflection on the teacher’s part, leading to some action planning to tackle perceived weaknesses in students’ English language competences. Moreover the EAL teacher’s planning has also been informed by test results obtained using the English language proficiency benchmarks developed by IILT.

 

In the JCSP and FETAC Level 4 smaller class groups where some language support hours had been deployed to support certain EAL learners, no evidence was provided of any review of the programme plans being delivered from an EAL perspective. This is an area for development in the school’s JCSP and FETAC Level 4 programmes, which will necessitate co-ordinated review and planning by the relevant programme co-ordinator(s), representative teachers working with students in those programmes, and the EAL teacher.

 

In relation to planning for EAL students in mainstream classes, there was evidence of strong liaison between the EAL teacher and some subject teachers. Where subject teachers had compiled lists of subject-specific instructional terms and asked the EAL teacher to help reinforce those terms in thematic and contextual ways with EAL students in particular year groups, this was very good practice. Also, a small number of subject department plans referred to intercultural units of work/projects and had been amended to include some special provisions for the needs of EAL students. It is recommended that all subject department plans be reviewed and updated in relation to the function of EAL students’ home languages in subject learning, the use of bilingual dictionaries in mainstream classrooms, and the explicit teaching of the language of instruction by all mainstream subject teachers. (These issues are discussed in greater detail in the next section of the report). A shared folder could be established on the school’s ICT network, compiling information and resources to help this whole-school review of subject department plans.

 

 

Teaching and learning

 

Seven lessons were observed during the course of the evaluation, three in the EAL support context and four mainstream subject lessons where EAL students were present. In all lessons evaluated, there was evidence of planning and the learning outcomes were shared with students at the outset. Most lessons were well-structured. In the case of a few lessons, reducing the number of learning outcomes to be achieved and/or planning adequate time allocations for group work and subsequent student feedback on the task completed would have improved the structure of the lesson. Effective strategies used in classroom management included seating plans, reference to clearly-stated and displayed class rules, a positive class group behaviour rating sheet, and teacher movement around the room to monitor students’ participation in class work. Good interpersonal relations between teachers and students were evident, discipline was maintained in all classes, and almost all students observed were engaged in their learning.

 

Measures to support inclusion and to encourage students to work collaboratively were observed in both mainstream and support contexts. Strengths noted included the distribution of EAL students throughout the classroom; pair and group work involving a mix of students; the use of active learning methods to provide a context for both curricular and language learning; the display of flags and phrases pertaining to the countries of origin and the different languages of the EAL student cohort on some classroom walls; and the affirmation of students’ work and efforts.  Some good examples of teachers acting as effective language models for EAL students were observed during the evaluation, specifically in their use of clear expression, gesture, the maintenance of “line of sight,” appropriate speech pace, and repetition and rephrasing. Such communicative clarity greatly aided the inclusion and participation of EAL students in these lessons and is highly commended. All teachers should be especially mindful of the need to speak clearly and at an appropriate pace.

 

A range of visual resources was used in all four mainstream subject lessons observed, including the whiteboard, a laptop and data projector, handouts, maps, teacher diagrams, and metre sticks. Moreover, the display of posters and materials relevant to curricular areas and the display of relevant samples of students’ work in some of those mainstream classrooms provided useful reference and conversation points, as well as affirming students’ work. EAL students are made aware of their entitlement to use bilingual dictionaries in certain State Examination Commission examinations. However, bilingual dictionaries were not used by EAL students in any of the subject lessons observed. While accepting that the lessons observed were only a snapshot of the experiences of students, it is recommended that EAL students be required to place their dictionaries on their desks at the beginning of lessons and be actively encouraged to use them in all subject areas approved for this arrangement. (See under Reasonable Accommodations at http://www.examinations.ie/schools). Also, it is encouraged that greater use of ICT to mediate new language and concepts to all students should be developed by subject departments. The resources used in the EAL support lessons were handouts, writing frames, dictionaries, and the whiteboard. The provision of a base room for EAL teaching would support much greater use of visual and ICT resources in those lessons.

 

Commendably, the teaching approaches observed in all support lessons and in most subject lessons promoted active learning. Those approaches included asking students to contextualise new words in sentences of their own creation, reviewing student’s prior learning and experiences before introducing new learning, role plays, occasional field trips, pair and group work, teacher modelling of new processes, and team teaching.

 

Three areas for development were noted in the general teaching of EAL students during the evaluation. First, the “language of instruction” of subjects needed to be taught more explicitly in most lessons evaluated. It is vital that the need for a greater focus on the language of instruction be communicated to the whole staff, and ways of supporting the explicit teaching of subject-specific terminology be discussed and established in a whole-school context.  More consistent pre-teaching and consolidation of key words and concepts by the various subject departments could be facilitated by an in-school CPD session delivered by teachers already using this approach with JCSP students. Secondly, even greater encouragement needs to be given by subject teachers to EAL students’ use of their home languages to access the curriculum. Given that English is the target language in EAL support lessons, students should be encouraged to communicate solely in English in those lessons. However, subject lessons in mainstream classes present a different context.  Here the EAL student must focus on the understanding of concepts and on the acquisition of subject-specific knowledge in areas where previous learning has taken place in the home language.  For this reason, where a number of students share a home language, their purposeful use of that common language to facilitate peer tutoring is beneficial and should be encouraged.  Teachers can then ensure that this approach is complemented and completed by the teaching and learning of the required vocabulary in English. Thirdly, while whole-staff input on differentiation has already been organised by school management, this is an area where subject departments need to further develop their expertise.

 

The EAL teacher assesses students receiving EAL withdrawal support using a variety of measures including teacher-designed spelling, vocabulary in context, free writing, and grammar tasks based on units of work completed in the EAL support class; the English language proficiency benchmarks developed by IILT; and in-class observation of students’ oral skills. Those students are provided with information about their performance and progress in the EAL class orally during class time and formally by their report cards and by the EAL teacher at parent-teacher meetings. This is good practice. Looking toward the future, the English as an Additional Language: Post-Primary Assessment Kit should be adopted as the standard assessment mechanism in EAL support lessons. It can, of course, by complemented by additional assessment measures as deemed appropriate by the EAL teacher, such as self-designed tests and the development of portfolios where students compile work samples from different subjects to trace the development of their writing skills. For students allocated language-support hours and placed into JCSP or FETAC Level 4 classes, their progress in English will also need to be tested and monitored using this Assessment Test Kit and should be appropriately communicated to the students and their parents. If results arising from assessments of EAL students’ language proficiency were to be copied from existing paper files/reports and compiled electronically, then that would be a significant support to programme planning for EAL cohorts and to the preparation of future applications for language support by management.

 

EAL students sit assessments in mainstream subjects along with their classmates. Two areas for development were noted in the assessment of EAL students by subject teachers. First, a review of student copies identified a need for more consistent provision of formative feedback affirming specific strengths in student work and giving more specific ideas for improvement.  As part of that feedback, subject teachers should respond to the most frequent linguistic errors that surface in students’ work when correcting students’ assignments, given that all teachers are language role models for students and have a responsibility to teach the language of instruction of their subjects.  It is encouraged that the issue of providing written formative feedback on student work be discussed at a whole-staff level, in the context of support for all students with low levels of English language literacy in the school. Resources such as the NCCA’s “Assessment for Learning” web pages, the JCSP publication Between the Lines, and the SLSS can be consulted in this regard. Secondly, a review of student copies and folders revealed a need for teachers to adopt a more diagnostic approach to assessment. For example, the diagnostic use of assessment could inform programme planning by prompting a teacher to review the sequence in which topics might be taught to a particular group of students, depending on their prior knowledge and skills in that particular subject.

 

Most EAL students were challenged and motivated by their lessons and their learning was generally good. Most EAL students answered teachers’ questions, asked their own questions to clarify points, were able to listen to other students, to express their opinions, and to offer comparisons with their own cultures. While most EAL students were well-organised and purposeful in their work, irregular attendance by some was impacting on their self-organisation and achievement.

 

 

Support for EAL students

 

The pastoral care structures that support all students include a class tutor, academic monitor, and year head system; care team meetings; a guidance counselling service; the Religious Education, Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), and special education departments; and the HSCL co-ordinator. Other initiatives that support all students include a two-day structured orientation programme for incoming first years and a “Big Sisters” mentoring programme. A school completion programme (SCP) also supports the school’s students. Through the SCP, in-school paired reading and counselling sessions and out-of-school SCP cluster summer camps have been organised. Moreover, through the SCP students have been encouraged to develop links with the GAF Youth Café, to use its computer facilities and to use its referral service to ongoing community projects related to specific students’ needs.

 

The lengths to which the school has gone to care for individual EAL students are particularly impressive and powerfully reflect the school’s mission statement. For example, it was reported that the appeal applications of two asylum-seeking students were successfully supported by letters written on their behalf by members of staff and by some of their classmates. The school has worked with outside agencies such as SPARK (Support Project for Adolescent Refugee Kids) and with the Health Service Executive (HSE) in relation to the pastoral care of particular students, as necessary. Further evidence of the school’s strong care commitment to EAL students was the establishment of a post of responsibility for an international student liaison teacher in 2003. The guiding principle of the post-holder’s work is to ensure that international students become an integral part of the school community and to ensure that they access all services (both pastoral and EAL teaching support) available in the school. At the beginning of the school year, the international student liaison teacher engages in information gathering and information dissemination through formal meetings with groups of new international students and organises informal buddies to help those new students settle into school life. Throughout the school year, the post-holder informally observes and interacts with international students during supervision and teaching activities, works with the EAL teacher to address issues arising for specific students, and posts information on international students on a dedicated notice board in the staff room. Moreover, the post-holder organises annual events aimed at facilitating the integration of international students and is available to meet their parents at parent-teacher meetings. One recommendation is offered for further enhancing the care of EAL students in the school. It is recommended that the formal two-day orientation programme for incoming first years, the current informal buddy arrangements organised by the international student liaison teacher, the information gathering and information dissemination work done by the EAL and international student liaison teacher every September, the 2007 draft standard induction procedure for EAL students developed by the guidance counsellor and deputy principal, and the Big Sisters mentoring arrangements all be reviewed in relation to each other (and streamlined where possible), by the steering group to be charged with drafting a whole-school EAL policy, to ensure cohesion, transparency and maximum effectiveness of the school’s induction supports for international students.

 

The school’s guidance counselling service offers concrete, responsive support to all students including EAL students. The guidance counsellor informs EAL students of their relevant State Examination Commission reasonable accommodation and non-curricular language examination options. Moreover, the guidance counsellor is very familiar with the requirements and progression routes to further and higher education for EAL students who are EU or non-EU citizens and briefs the students accordingly. To support the parents of EAL students in understanding the Irish educational progression system, the guidance counsellor provides them with a one-page visual organiser. Through an annual in-house role model career fair jointly organised by the guidance and LCVP departments, the school invites past students (including EAL students) to return to the school and to provide advice to current students in the process of identifying their life goals and career plans. Great success has been achieved in enabling students (including EAL students) to proceed to further education, as a result of the guidance counsellor’s direct lobbying/ negotiation with different agencies. The progression of all students (including EAL students) is tracked and informs planning to meet the needs of current EAL students. The school’s guidance service is highly commended for the well-informed and dedicated support it provides to EAL students in educational, personal, and vocational areas. Finally, the informal but important role played by other staff in supporting EAL students’ guidance needs is also commended.

 

The learning support and EAL teachers meet both formally and informally on a fairly regular basis.  At the request of the EAL teacher and/or other subject teachers, the learning-support teacher assesses EAL students suspected of having educational needs in addition to English language needs. The school reported past difficulties in accessing psychological assessments for EAL students through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). The school hopes that access to reduced cost translation services through the Galway Migrant Service will help facilitate future psychological assessments of EAL students by NEPS.

 

A variety of whole-school initiatives to promote inclusion have been implemented by the school. In the past, a national costume day and dance movement therapy and intercultural drama activities were organised to promote school attendance, achievement, and integration. Also, a very ambitious “Celebration of Cultural Identity – Arts Festival” was held in March 2006, where all students were involved in a variety of workshops to help them embrace the intercultural identity of their school. As part of that festival, students collaborated to create a totem pole celebrating different cultures. Along with the welcome signs in different languages featured on the front door of the school, the display of that totem pole in a central lobby physically communicates the school’s respect for diversity. Fundraising activities for causes in different countries are organised annually. The development of some teachers’ intercultural awareness has also been fostered by links between the school and a Presentation school in Pakistan and/or by electronic dialogue and teacher exchange visits with second-level schools in Denmark and Germany through a Comenius project. Finally, curricular projects on intercultural themes are instigated by teachers from time to time, such as a 2005 JCSP project where a group of students with special educational needs interviewed a group of EAL students to produce a collective book called “A School of Many Cultures.” These initiatives are warmly commended and the emphasis on interculturalism is especially laudable.

 

The school’s student and parent organisations are inclusive. It was reported that the number of nationalities and ethnicities in class and year groups makes it more difficult for individual EAL students to receive enough votes to be elected onto the student council. Hence, in 2007/08, staff decided to co-opt two EAL students onto the council, to ensure the discussion of issues relevant to EAL students. From these students, a deputy head girl was elected. In September 2008, staff again co-opted three EAL students onto the council. As for the role the parents of EAL students play in school life, a number of them have attended parents’ association meetings but none have sought officer positions on the association to date.

 

Strategies such as the invitation of a relative or friend or student translators to facilitate communication with parents of EAL students have been developed by the school. Families identified as at risk of marginalisation as a result of past educational underachievement (both Irish and international) are supported by the HSCL co-ordinator. Moreover, through the medium of the HSCL’s Local Education Committee and in consultation with the Galway City Partnership and the Galway Migrant Service, the school’s HSCL helped influence the activation of two recent initiatives to support the parents of EAL students.  From November 2008 onward, the Galway Migrant Service planned to create school information packs for EAL students and their parents and to put in place a translation service in a number of Galway city schools to facilitate improved home-school communication for the parents of EAL students. School management, the HSCL co-ordinator, and the various collaborating bodies are highly commended for these initiatives. As was advised in section one, the school should consider having some of its key documents translated into other languages by the Galway Migrant Service. As part of that work, a keyword list of subject names and of frequently-used teacher comments could also be sought in different languages, to be used in parent-teacher meetings and school reports, as necessary.

 

All students are included and encouraged to participate in the school’s co and extracurricular activities. In particular, EAL students participate in team sports such as basketball and volleyball; in the local parish choir; and in the song, dance, and drama lunchtime clubs that are set up by the student council, usually culminating in an intercultural Christmas concert.

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The school operates an open and inclusive admissions policy.
  • The EAL teacher brings very relevant background experience and training to her work and has a clear understanding that the emphasis in EAL should not only be on equipping students for communicative and social uses of language, but also to teach them the language of instruction.
  • The school has put a number of supports in place to help EAL students access the greatest range of subjects possible within its resources and this is commended.
  • A number of whole-school policies have been developed that have a bearing on provision for EAL students.
  • In all lessons evaluated, there was evidence of planning and the learning outcomes were shared with students at the outset. Good interpersonal relations between teachers and students were evident, discipline was maintained in all classes, and almost all students observed were engaged in their learning.
  • Many of the resources and methodologies used by teachers in the classes observed provided good support to EAL students.
  • While a range of structures supports the welfare of all students, the lengths to which the school has gone to care for individual EAL students are particularly impressive and powerfully reflect the school’s mission statement.
  • The school’s guidance service is highly commended for the well-informed and dedicated support it provides to EAL students in educational, personal, and vocational areas.
  • A variety of whole-school initiatives to promote inclusion have been implemented by the school.
  • The school’s student and parent organisations are inclusive.
  • Strategies have been developed by the school to communicate with the parents of EAL students and it is hoped that the school’s involvement with the Galway Migrant Service will add to those strategies.
  • EAL students are actively encouraged to participate in co and extra-curricular activities in the school.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations should be implemented over the coming years:

 

  • Elements of whole school support and provision for EAL including reviewing aspects of the school’s use of its language support allocation, planning for the enlargement of the EAL teaching team, the provision of a base room for EAL support, and the use of EAL assessment data in class placement decisions need to be addressed.
  • Planning that has been initiated in relation to a whole-school EAL policy and a whole-school literacy policy needs to be finalised.
  • Subject department plans should be reviewed and updated from an EAL perspective and planning should be engaged in for EAL students placed in JCSP and FETAC Level 4 classes.
  • To further enhance the teaching and learning of EAL students in mainstream classes, the language of instruction needs to be taught more explicitly,  greater encouragement should be given to EAL students’ use of their home languages to access the curriculum, and differentiation strategies should be harnessed to a greater degree.
  • The learning of all students, including EAL students, should be further supported by the provision of more consistent written formative feedback on students’ work and by a greater diagnostic use of assessment.
  • The formal two-day orientation programme for incoming first years, the current informal buddy arrangements organised by the international student liaison teacher, the information gathering and information dissemination work done by the EAL and international student liaison teacher every September, the 2007 draft standard induction procedure for EAL students developed by the guidance counsellor and deputy principal, and the Big Sisters mentoring arrangements should all be reviewed in relation to each other (and streamlined where possible), by the steering group to be charged with drafting a whole-school EAL policy, to ensure cohesion, transparency and maximum effectiveness of the school’s induction supports for international students.

 

 

A meeting was held with members of the EAL teaching team, the principal and deputy principal following the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published, June 2009