An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Evaluation of English as an Additional Language (EAL)

 

REPORT

 

Carrigaline Community School

Carrigaline, County Cork

Roll number: 91388S

 

Date of inspection: 4 December 2008

 

 

 

 

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 Carrigaline Community School. 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 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

  

 

Whole-school support and provision for EAL

 

Carrigaline Community School is a co-educational school. It offers a broad and varied curriculum including the Junior Certificate, the Transition Year programme (TY), the Leaving Certificate (Established), the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA). There is an open admissions practice. The school is to be praised for its open admissions practice and for striving towards fulfilling the aspiration outlined in its mission statement of creating an ‘inclusive environment’. The school’s approach to this principle and towards promoting ‘personal and academic excellence’ is particularly evident in the dynamic approach it has taken towards providing support for EAL students.

 

Three qualified post-primary teachers form the core EAL teaching team. Two of the teachers are involved in both EAL support and mainstream subjects, while one is solely assigned to EAL classes. As well as the core EAL teaching team, another teacher is involved in EAL support through a paired-reading programme, organised in conjunction with the learning-support department, and through team-teaching in mainstream class groups. Beyond this, an international student liaison officer has been appointed and is viewed as a very important part of the EAL department. The size of the EAL core team is appropriate, facilitating communication within the team and between the team and the wider teaching staff. The size of the team will also facilitate the gaining and sharing of expertise in the area of EAL. A key aim on the part of senior management in organising the EAL department has been to ‘enhance capacity’ and to achieve a ‘baseline’ of skills that will stay in the school, providing expertise in EAL support. Great praise is due to senior management for developing a coherent vision around the further development of the school’s EAL service. School management is aware of the resources available to support EAL students.

 

The three teachers directly involved in teaching EAL support lessons have training in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). A number of the teachers have also participated in a range of professional development opportunities in the area of English language teaching in the recent past. All of this is positive. It should be noted that, while a TEFL background provides insights into communicative and social language acquisition, the emphasis in EAL is also placed on the language of instruction. The language of instruction refers to the range of language skills that enables students to access the curriculum, to make progress within it and to take the relevant certificate examinations. Reading and writing skills, for example, are of particular significance to EAL students. It is greatly to the credit of the EAL department that these ideas were acknowledged in their practice and had been advanced through their own independent research.

 

The school has an allocation of three whole-time teacher equivalents, which is sixty-six hours, for EAL support. Of this allocation twenty-eight hours and forty minutes is utilised for specific English language support. A further twelve hours is to be used for the purposes of certificate examination preparation, withdrawal and team-teaching. This support is to be assigned following a departmental review after the Christmas break. Beyond this, a number of hours are allocated for a paired-reading programme, team-teaching, learning support for EAL students, some TY activities involving EAL students and for the creation of a number of smaller class groups in Mathematics and English. This latter arrangement is undertaken in order to aid the inclusion of EAL students while also allowing greater opportunities for teachers in these subjects to differentiate with regard to their particular English language needs. A number of hours are also allocated to the guidance department and to a number of assistant year heads in order to cater for the specific needs of EAL students. All of this is worthwhile. It is recommended that the school create an electronic register which would make an explicit link between the hours which have been assigned to the area of English language support and the manner in which they are being used to support the relevant students. Such a register could also serve as a means of facilitating links between students’ EAL teachers and their mainstream subject teachers. While acknowledging the usefulness of the other initiatives currently undertaken to aid the integration of EAL students, it is suggested that some rebalancing should occur whereby a greater number of hours could be assigned to specific EAL instruction time. Such an approach should ideally seek to provide a contact point with EAL support on each day of the week.

 

The model of support used in the context of EAL is mainly that of small-group withdrawal. In the main, this involves EAL students being withdrawn at times when other students are participating in Irish lessons. The organisation of support on the basis of small groups is good practice. The school has moved towards formulating withdrawal groups based on students’ common ages, rather than on their English language proficiency. This approach is worthwhile.

 

A different system operates upon the initial arrival of students who have very limited proficiency in the English language. Here, students attend only EAL lessons during the morning and then go home. This system operates for only a limited period of time. These students are then placed in mainstream classes and EAL support is then provided using the model described in the previous paragraph. The school reports that this process is undertaken with the formal agreement of students’ parents. This is positive and the emphasis placed upon an initial period of intense support with a view to achieving movement to mainstream lessons as rapidly as possible is worthwhile. A strategy worthy of investigation, with both those students in withdrawal groups and also in the case of those students who are participating in the initial morning classes, is that of ‘reverse integration’. In the latter case, this would entail an arrangement whereby an Irish student could occasionally be brought to participate in these lessons. The student could be drawn from the mainstream class into which the EAL student is to be placed following intensive EAL support. This would serve to ease the transition from the intensive EAL class to the mainstream class for the EAL student. A further advantage to such an approach would be the positive educational benefits for the Irish student selected. This student could gain a greater appreciation of different cultural backgrounds as well as an understanding of the challenges facing the EAL student.

 

As well as the aforementioned models of support, team-teaching is used in some mainstream classes to support EAL students and, in one instance, an EAL support teacher takes a number of second-year students, twice per week, for support in studying the subject, English. The use of team-teaching is to be praised, as it facilitates the inclusion of EAL students in mainstream lessons, while supporting differentiated approaches which will acknowledge their particular English language needs. The further expansion of this approach so that an EAL teacher could be involved would be worthwhile. This would enable the modelling of good practice in the area of EAL on the part of the EAL teacher, while also further advancing the awareness of the EAL department of the particular English language challenges in different subject areas.

 

As previously stated, the school has an open admissions practice. A newcomer policy has begun to be developed and this includes an admissions practice to facilitate these students’ entry to the school. The document also refers to the overall admissions policy and the applicability of its terms in this circumstance. The principal or deputy principal is involved in the initial interview with the student and parents when they first arrive. The international student liaison officer is also involved in the initial enrolment of the student. The Irish education system is explained to the student and their parents during the initial enrolment process. This is worthwhile.

 

It is suggested that an interview template as a ‘guide’ for the initial admissions interview could be created. Such a template could be developed from the NCCA publication, Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School (pages 31-32). Indeed, a form serving such a purpose is already used at a later point in EAL classes. Subsequent to the initial interview, the EAL co-ordinator takes EAL students on a tour of the school. The English language proficiency of newly arrived EAL students is assessed, once they have been assigned to an EAL support class, using the initial assessment interview developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT). This interview is available in the IILT publication A resource book for language support in post-primary schools (2007) which can be accessed on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie. It is suggested that the EAL co-ordinator could also be involved at some point in the initial interview process and that this IILT material could be sensitively administered at this point. The provision of an EAL textbook and copybook could also be worth exploring as part of the enrolment process. It is further suggested that a question regarding whether a student has ever been in receipt of English language support could profitably be added to the school’s enrolment form for students in sixth class. Such a question would provide information with regard to students’ English language development which might otherwise be missed and thereby lead to misinterpretations of a student’s cognitive ability. A number of minor points for adjustment in the school’s overall admissions policy were outlined during the course of the evaluation, particularly with regard to the employment of objective criteria at all points in the policy.

 

The placement of EAL students upon their initial arrival has been challenging. The school has sought to avoid placing these students in year groups which are scheduled to participate in the certificate examinations. Students’ ages, English language proficiency and level of maturity are all considered before assigning them to particular class groups. The EAL core team particularly highlighted difficulties in assigning students to appropriate programmes due to their limited proficiency in English, along with concerns regarding students’ ability to perform to their potential in the certificate examinations. This concern is especially applicable to students who arrive at a later stage in their post-primary education. In some cases, as a means of alleviating the pressure of the examinations and to allow for greater focus, EAL students in senior cycle study a more restricted curriculum. This is done on a formal basis and with the formal consent of their parents. In other year groups, EAL students have access to the full curriculum. This is positive. The school is aware of EAL students’ entitlement to use dictionaries in certain certificate examinations (see under Reasonable Accommodations at http://www.examinations.ie/schools) and of the availability of a number of non-curricular languages as part of the examinations.

 

Space in the school library has been assigned for EAL classes. Most EAL classes take place in the library, while some others occur in different parts of the school. The creation of a centre for EAL classes is commendable. The further development of this strategy so that a baseroom is assigned for EAL is to be encouraged, although this has not been possible up to this point due to the space restrictions under which the school is currently operating.

 

The EAL department has collated a wide range of resources to support teaching and learning in EAL. These resources are listed in one of the EAL subject folders which the department has organised. The resources include some TEFL books, but also curricular materials. This is positive, highlighting the distinction between TEFL and EAL which was referred to earlier in this report. The school has been supportive of the EAL department in acquiring resources. It is suggested that the purchase of some dual-language books for the library could be considered. Teachers highlighted their desire for a greater range of specific materials to support their work in EAL. In this regard, websites such as www.naldic.org.uk and www.emaonline.org.uk may be of interest. The use of ICT to support learning in EAL and in mainstream lessons was observed during the evaluation and access to the school’s ICT rooms can be gained through a booking form. ICT is also provided in the library where many EAL lessons are undertaken. This is worthwhile and the further adoption of ICT to support the development of EAL students’ English literacy skills is encouraged.

 

The EAL department regularly reports formally to senior management with regard to the needs and progress of the department and its students. There is also communication with mainstream teachers both informally and formally. The EAL department also has a range of subject-specific textbooks to aid in providing support for the development of students’ skills in the language of instruction. These links between EAL teachers, senior management and the wider staff are to be strongly praised and should continue to be developed.

 

Members of the EAL department have shown a very high degree of commitment with regard to pursuing continuing professional development (CPD). Teachers have participated in a variety of courses, including in-service training provided by IILT. The EAL department is aware of the English Language Support Teachers’ Association (ELSTA) and is encouraged to further develop its links with this organisation. This may be facilitated through the school’s laudable policy of providing funding for teachers’ membership of relevant subject associations. Beyond this, links have been pursued with a local group which provides intercultural training for service providers working with newcomer students. The commitment on the part of the EAL department which is displayed in these activities is to be strongly commended. Of particular note is the fact that the EAL department provides input regarding EAL to the whole-staff group. Beyond this, EAL teachers have provided sessions on the topic at the school’s very valuable ‘teaching and learning’ days. This is to be strongly praised. The EAL department has noted the possibility of organising an intercultural training day for the whole staff. The idea is worthwhile and such a development is strongly encouraged. Throughout the evaluation, school management and staff reported a need for EAL-specific CPD for mainstream and EAL teachers. This was highlighted in a staff questionnaire distributed by the principal prior to the evaluation.

 

 

Planning and co-ordination

 

There is a strong culture of reflection and planning in the school. A wide range of policy documents have been developed and these include a bullying policy, a special educational needs policy, and, as has been previously set out, an admissions policy. In addition, a draft pastoral care policy and a guidance department plan have been advanced and a policy document dealing with ‘Newcomer Students’ is being developed. The work and commitment which have gone into the development of these policies are to be commended.

 

The school’s special educational needs policy includes an explicit link between the special educational needs department and the EAL department. This is worthwhile and is also reflected in the EAL subject plan. It is suggested that an explicit statement differentiating the needs of EAL students from those of students with learning difficulties should be included in the special educational needs policy. A further statement highlighting the limitations of standardised tests in accurately reflecting EAL students’ needs may also be worthy of inclusion. The anti-bullying policy notes the contribution Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) can make in this area. The CSPE subject department is involved in organising a ‘Respect for All’ week and this is a very worthwhile initiative. Consideration could also be given to some review of other existing policies through the lens of intercultural education. Examples of such an approach are included in the draft pastoral-care policy folder presented during the course of the evaluation. Policy documents are generally available only in the English language. Issues around translation are dealt with at a later point in this report. Alongside the current policies which have been, or are being, developed, initial moves towards the creation of a whole-school literacy policy have begun. This is worthwhile and the potential crossovers between EAL, special educational needs and exceptionally able students should not be overlooked in pursuing this endeavour.

 

A task group has been formed to delineate a policy on newcomer students. The EAL department has a number of representatives in this group. The ‘Draft Policy on International/Newcomer Children’ deals with a number of different areas. These include the admissions process, the parents’ association, cultural events, links with primary schools and the provision of English language support. This is worthwhile. It is suggested that the policy should include statements regarding the specific needs of EAL students, including how links between the EAL department and mainstream teachers are managed. It is recommended that the policy should also incorporate a whole-school approach to the use of students’ home languages. Further ideas in this area are included in the teaching and learning section of this report. It is suggested that, ultimately, this policy could reside as one pillar in an overall ‘inclusion’ policy which could also incorporate areas such as educational disadvantage and special educational needs.

 

There is an EAL co-ordinator. The co-ordinator has provided input regarding the timetabling of EAL and this practice should be maintained. The team has regular meetings and minutes are recorded. A comprehensive subject plan has been developed. This incorporates a variety of sections including a research component, reports of departmental meetings and in-service training attended, communications with senior management, record-keeping and assessment procedures and curriculum planning. A particularly striking feature of the subject plan is its consistent focus on the improvement of services for EAL students.

 

The teaching and learning element of the plan incorporates a theme-based approach to EAL. The EAL team highlighted a need for greater guidance in the area of curriculum planning. The EAL department is aware of the IILT publication A resource book for language support in post-primary schools (2007) which contains worthwhile guidance regarding the organisation of the English language support programme (p.37). It was very positive to note that planning for the EAL programme incorporated an integrated approach to the development of students’ various English literacy skills. The need for cross-curricular links is noted in the plan and this area was highlighted by the EAL department as being particularly challenging. Nevertheless, the department has considerably advanced their links with mainstream subject departments through the development of individual plans for EAL students with input from mainstream teachers and through the involvement of mainstream teachers in the assessment process. It is recommended that, as a means of further improving the assessment process, the English Language Proficiency Benchmarks developed by IILT should be incorporated into the department’s practice. Beyond this, the benchmarks could be used as a means of informing the curriculum planning process, along with schemes of work, through the employment of ‘will be able to’ statements based on the Benchmarks. The involvement of a selected group of mainstream teachers in applying the Benchmarks as an assessment tool in mainstream settings could also be explored. The soon to be published English as an Additional Language Post-Primary Assessment Kit should also be of great service in advancing this element of the department’s already extensive assessment practice. Further delineation of the department’s practice in the area of assessment is contained in the next section of this report.

 

The EAL department is deserving of particular praise for its awareness of the need to focus on the language of instruction. It has moved towards explicit instruction in a number of genres connected to various mainstream subjects. This development should be continued, widening the range of written genres encountered by EAL students in support of their ability to engage with the mainstream curriculum. There were clear links with a number of subject departments regarding the English language needs of EAL students in these subjects and the expansion of this approach, both on the part of the EAL department and of the wider staff body, is to be strongly encouraged. It is suggested that the role of subject teachers in supporting EAL students should be placed at the centre of the ‘Draft Policy on International/Newcomer Children’ currently under development.

 

A number of mainstream subject department plans incorporated specific planning for the needs of EAL students. The good work already achieved in this area should be continued to include guidance on the use of DARTS (Directed Activities Related to Texts), and, particularly, writing frames, as a support for EAL students in mainstream classes. EAL should form a component in all subject department plans.

 

In all lessons visited there was evidence of considerable planning having been undertaken to cater for the needs of EAL students. Teachers are to be praised for their diligence and professionalism in this regard.

 

 

Teaching and learning

 

Eight lessons were observed during the course of the evaluation, four in the EAL support context and four mainstream lessons where EAL students were present. The standard of teaching and learning in all lessons was very good. In all cases, teachers provided clear language models for students. It is important that teachers should be aware of their potential influence on students in this regard. Very good practice was seen in one lesson, where teacher planning incorporated a seating arrangement for EAL students which would ensure a clear line of sight between the students and the teacher when the teacher was talking.

 

In one instance, the sequence of the lesson was set out on the whiteboard. This was positive. This utilisation of an assessment for learning strategy was most worthwhile, and similar strategies such as summarising what had been achieved during a lesson or planning for peer assessment were also observed during the evaluation. The stating of a learning intention at the beginning of lessons is to be encouraged, as are other assessment for learning strategies that will support the learning of all students. Interactions between teachers and students were universally positive and affirming. Classroom management was of a very high standard in all cases and lessons were conducted in a warm and inclusive atmosphere. The use of team-teaching in one lesson was particularly worthwhile, facilitating differentiated approaches to students’ needs.

 

A wide range of resources was used in both mainstream and EAL lessons. These included photocopied resources, the whiteboard, ICT, visual supports and, in one case, a writing frame. The use of a powerpoint presentation, along with various diagrams in one mainstream lesson was most worthwhile, providing support for EAL students while simultaneously presenting a cognitive challenge which would engage students and add to their sense of achievement. Very good practice was seen where a photocopied model for a genre relevant to a specific subject area was distributed to students as a support in their writing activities. The availability of dictionaries and thesauruses in various contexts was also good practice. The potential for a dictionary policy to form an element in the developing policy on newcomer students may be worthy of exploration. This could involve requiring EAL students to bring bilingual dictionaries to class in most mainstream subjects. Further advice on the development of students’ dictionary skills can be found in A resource book for language support in post-primary schools (2007) (p. 82).

 

There were examples of the development of print-rich environments in both mainstream and EAL support contexts. Of particular note were the efforts made by the EAL department to create a stimulating environment in the library area where many EAL lessons take place. The room contains numerous visual displays and students’ homes, home languages and countries are celebrated. The room is affirming of students’ different cultures and gives a sense of a ‘baseroom’ where English literacy is promoted at every opportunity. In mainstream classrooms various strategies were employed, including the use of diagrams, the display of students’ work and keyword displays. It is suggested that the display of graphic organisers and the labelling of key items could further add to the efficacy of these strategies.

 

Teachers contextualised EAL students’ learning through a variety of strategies. These included the accessing of students’ previous knowledge of a topic in one EAL lesson, along with the frequent use of physical gestures on the part of a number of teachers to support explanations and discussion. Beyond this, there were examples of models and other concrete supports being utilised, sometimes with very effective results. Group and pair work were used in numerous classes. This is positive, as such methodologies will engage students in managing their own learning and they offer numerous opportunities for the further expansion of students’ oracy and other literacy skills. With this in mind, it is recommended that, in both mainstream and EAL support settings, the assigning of specific roles associated with the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing should be considered where possible and appropriate.

 

There were examples of teachers seeking to support EAL students in extending their speaking and writing skills in mainstream lessons. In one instance the teacher employed significant ‘wait time’ when asking questions which was very sensitive to one EAL student’s needs. In another case students were expected to draft and redraft work on their projects. This was worthwhile, enhancing the engagement of EAL students with the English literacy task at hand. Good practice was also observed where a teacher repeated an EAL student’s answer sensitively and correctly, thus acting as a good language model. Students’ pronunciation was also corrected sensitively in one EAL lesson and the expansion of this practice, along with the practice of repeating and extending students’ responses where appropriate, would also be a worthwhile development. In one mainstream subject area, the potential for differentiated support and tasks for EAL students could be examined. EAL teachers provided scaffolding and writing frames for students’ written work in a number of instances. This should be viewed as a very important strategy, facilitating the extension of students’ written work in both EAL support and mainstream contexts. Other DARTS activities were also in evidence, including word banks and cloze tests.

 

A strong focus on the use of English was maintained in EAL support lessons. This was appropriate, as consistently high use of the target language is considered best practice in language learning. Consequently, students should be carefully discouraged from using home languages in the EAL context. However, subject lessons in mainstream classes present a different context to that of EAL support. Hence, the EAL students must focus on the understanding of concepts and 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 a common home language to facilitate peer tutoring is beneficial and should be encouraged and supported. Teachers can then ensure that this approach is complemented and completed by teaching and learning of the required vocabulary in English. The adoption of such an approach in one teacher’s planning was very worthwhile and awareness of these points should be extended to all subject areas.

 

Good practice was observed in a number of EAL lessons where a focus on developing students’ proficiency in utilising the language of instruction was observed. In one EAL lesson, this involved developing ‘case studies’ by students based on their own countries. This approach could be further added to through the explicit linking of the genre being explored to relevant subject areas, for the benefit of the students involved. The incorporation of higher-order questions as the lesson evolved was also worthwhile, advancing students’ critical literacy skills in English. The EAL department should maintain a keen awareness of the value of the appropriate use of higher-order questions in EAL lessons. It is suggested that, where the opportunity arises, key sentence structures explored during the lesson should be noted on the whiteboard and could then serve as points from which particular aspects of grammar could be explored in context. This focus on the language of instruction was consistent with the EAL department’s acknowledgement of this area in their subject planning. In another lesson it was suggested that a keyword strategy could be adopted, whereby vocabulary could be pre-taught at the start of the lesson. Such an approach would benefit all students, but particularly those in need of English language support. Very good practice was seen in the same lesson where explicit instruction was given to the class group regarding the structure of a particular subject genre. The need to focus explicitly on the language of instruction should be communicated to the whole staff, and ways of supporting students to acquire relevant terminology for the range of subjects should be discussed and continue to be progressed in a whole-school context. Further ideas on these points can be accessed at www.jcspliteracy.ie and at www.elsp.ie.

 

There was evidence of EAL student learning in all classes. In a number of mainstream subjects EAL students were particularly engaged by project work. In mainstream lessons students interacted well with their peers and freely offered their contributions on the topics being discussed. EAL students worked well in these classes and in one subject area the highlighting of ‘pair teaching’ as a strategy which could aid students’ understanding was very worthwhile. In EAL support contexts, students displayed competence in reading and comprehension, along with facility in the use of dictionaries in one lesson. In all other lessons students were engaged and displayed a clear understanding of the items being examined during the lessons in question.

 

There were very good examples of differentiated strategies being used for assessment in mainstream subjects and in the EAL support context. Among these were included the use of a graphic organiser in students’ project work and, in one subject, the development of an evaluation sheet, with a detailed word bank, centred around students’ assigned tasks. Folders and copybooks were maintained well by students. The development of a vocabulary copy containing some subject-specific vocabulary was noted as good practice. The further development of this practice so that a ‘memory book’ of key terms could be created is to be encouraged. There was very diligent practice with regard to assessment in the case of the EAL department. The department conducts a continuous assessment policy which includes in-class assessment of various aspects of students’ English language proficiency, cloze test assessments, regular assessment of students’ homework and class tests. Teachers’ diligence with regard to these procedures is to be praised. The continued investigation of opportunities whereby student folders might be informed by the IILT European Language Portfolio is to be encouraged. As mentioned previously in this report, the English Language Proficiency Benchmarks developed by IILT should be incorporated into the EAL department’s assessment practice, with some input from mainstream subject teachers.

 

 

Support for EAL students

 

There is a strong pastoral-care system. The system has a number of components including year heads, assistant year heads, class teachers and a pastoral-care team. The pastoral-care team meets weekly and consists of the principal, the chaplain, the guidance counsellors, the learning-support co-ordinator and a learning-support teacher. The chaplain and guidance counsellor liaise between the weekly year-head meetings and the care team. The chaplain also liaises with the EAL co-ordinator on a weekly basis, reporting back to the care team if any relevant issues arise. It is positive that this link is noted in the draft policy on pastoral care. The school has a buddy system which currently operates in first year. The extension of this system to include a formal involvement for students moving for the first time from EAL support to mainstream subject classes should be considered, possibly including as an element the reverse integration suggested at an earlier point in this report. The school and the EAL department are to be complimented on possessing a clear awareness of the need to address the affective needs of EAL students, as well as their language needs.

 

As previously mentioned, a further addition to the pastoral-care system has been the appointment of a post-holder to the role of international student liaison officer. The liaison officer is involved in a range of activities relevant to EAL students, including meeting students on their arrival, maintaining contact with EAL teachers regarding their progress, regular meetings with senior management, meetings with parents, liaison with relevant teachers of modern languages and consultation with the school’s education welfare officer. All of this is positive. During the evaluation, the school noted that the attendance levels for EAL students were somewhat lower than was the norm for the wider student population. Difficulties in communicating with the parents of EAL students regarding attendance were also delineated. The school’s continuing efforts to address the challenge of clear communication with parents of EAL students are acknowledged and outlined later in this report. It is encouraged to maintain a proactive stance towards ensuring high levels of participation by EAL students.

 

Communication between the special educational needs department and the EAL department is good. The special educational needs department, as well as senior management and other teachers, highlighted the difficulties encountered when assessing EAL students for learning difficulties. Accessing information from students’ previous education has proven problematic, as has distinguishing between English language needs and cognitive difficulties. The special educational needs department and the EAL department have co-operated in organising a paired-reading programme for EAL students and other students with literacy difficulties. This is positive.

 

The chaplain is involved with care for EAL students through referrals, interaction with these students during the school day and ensuring that they are aware of announcements made regarding religious events. A specific document regarding the chaplain’s role in relation to EAL students is included in the draft pastoral-care policy. This is worthwhile.

 

Personal, educational and vocational guidance is available to EAL students through the auspices of the school’s guidance counsellors. Both the chaplain and the guidance department have availed of training in interculturalism provided by their respective professional networks. A document relating to the guidance department’s role in relation to EAL students has been included in the draft EAL policy. The guidance department plan also notes links with the EAL department. The guidance department is conscious that some students may wish to return to their home country and that their education systems should therefore inform the guidance support afforded. The website www.euroguidance.net was highlighted as an aid in this regard. This is positive. It is suggested that, where students are granted an exemption from the study of Irish, the consequences of such a choice should be explained, as part of a formal process.

 

A wide range of intercultural activities has been organised. These include a photography project, an intercultural morning, intercultural food day and articles in both the TY magazine and in the school magazine. As previously mentioned, an intercultural committee has been established and an audit of the school environment has been discussed. This is to be encouraged and support in this endeavour can be found in the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) publication Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School (pp. 22-33) which is available at www.ncca.ie.

 

Some school documents have been translated into Polish. The school has also utilised the translation skills of a teacher involved in the adult education programme to facilitate interviews with Polish parents and with the admissions process. A number of language teachers on the teaching staff have also helped the integration of a number of students who can speak Spanish and French. Nevertheless, the board of management, senior management and teachers highlighted translation services as a key area for development during the course of the evaluation. A number of useful documents, which have been translated into a number of different languages, can be accessed in the Translated Documents section of the Department of Education and Science (DES) website at www.education.ie. Other useful documents can be accessed through the Reception and Integration Agency at www.ria.gov.ie. The international student liaison officer has been proactive in seeking the involvement of parents of EAL students in the parents’ association and a number have attended meetings, including one parent who is a member of the association’s executive.

 

There is a very successful adult education programme. Carrigaline Community School has been proactive in harnessing its adult education programme to aid the integration of EAL students into the school and the wider community. In the last year the adult education programme has sponsored English classes for EAL students identified by the EAL department. As well as this, the programme offers courses in the English language to parents and other members of the wider community. Polish lessons are also offered to Irish nationals. A course on interculturalism is scheduled to begin in the near future. All of this is most praiseworthy.

 

The principal noted that there was a lower level of involvement in extracurricular activities among EAL students than was the case across the student population as a whole. While EAL students were involved in other aspects of extracurricular activities, the level of involvement in sporting activities was particularly low. There has been some representation of EAL students on the students’ council in the past. Useful advice on involving students’ councils in the advancing of an intercultural school environment can be found in the NCCA’s Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School (p.21).

 

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

§         The school has been proactive in seeking to meet the needs of EAL students.

§         There is a committed and very professional EAL department.

§         There was a good atmosphere in all EAL support and mainstream subject classes.

§         There is an open admissions practice.

§         A flexible model of support is used, including small-group withdrawal and team-teaching.

§         The EAL department is conscious of the need to focus on the language of instruction.

§         An intercultural committee has been established and an audit of the school environment has been discussed. A newcomer policy is currently being developed.

§         An international student liaison officer has been appointed to further aid the integration and care of newcomer students.

§         There is a strong care system and the pastoral-care team makes regular contact with the EAL teachers.

§         The school has provided additional English lessons for students and parents as part of its adult education programme.

§         Particularly good practice was observed where curriculum-based genres were explored in the EAL classroom and where writing models and writing frames were utilised.

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

§         An electronic register, detailing the use of hours for EAL student support, should be created. The possibility of expanding the quantity of English language support available to students should be investigated.

§         The English Language Proficiency Benchmarks should be used as a means of further informing the assessment process.

§         A whole-school policy on the place of students’ home languages should be included in the newcomer policy.

§         The good work already done in some subject department plans should be expanded to explicitly mention DARTS and writing frames as key methodologies to utilise in supporting EAL students. EAL should form a component of all subject department plans.

§         In both mainstream and EAL support settings, the assigning of specific roles in group work associated with the four skills should be considered where possible and appropriate.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published, December 2009