An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of English as an Additional Language
Coláiste an Chraoibhin
Fermoy, County Cork
Roll number: 70990M
Date of inspection: 21 and 22 May 2008
Report on Provision for English as an Additional Language (EAL)
This report has been written following an evaluation of provision for students learning English as an additional language (EAL) in Coláiste an Chraoibhin, Fermoy. 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 two 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Colaiste an Chraoibhin is a co-educational school. It offers a broad and varied curriculum to support its students. Programmes available include the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the Transition Year Programme (TY), the Leaving Certificate (Established), the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme (LCA). In addition, the school provides a number of Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. The school operates an open and inclusive admissions policy and practice. The school is to be highly praised for its open and inclusive ethos. In addition, the manner in which the school seeks to ensure appropriate educational opportunities for all students regardless of background or ability is most impressive.
Four qualified post-primary teachers form the core EAL teaching team. This team provides EAL lessons for a stand-alone EAL class group for students with very low levels of proficiency in the English language. In addition, members of the team, along with a number of other teachers are involved in delivering support, through withdrawal classes, for EAL students. The focus on creating a small core EAL teaching team is to be commended. This will aid the acquisition and sharing of expertise within the team. Communication will also be facilitated. It is recommended that a small, core EAL teaching team should be maintained as the school’s modes of provision continue to develop in the future.
Teachers in the core EAL teaching team have, or are in the process of attaining, degrees in modern languages and English. In addition, training in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) has been accessed by members of the team. The focus on language-teaching skills which senior management and staff have displayed in the allocation of teachers to EAL is to be commended. It should be noted, however, 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 enable 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. Senior management and the EAL teaching team were most receptive to these ideas during the course of the evaluation.
The school has an allocation of two whole-time teacher equivalents, which is forty-four hours, for EAL support. The school is using this allocation in a number of ways: to create a stand-alone class for EAL students which is referred to as the Transition English Language (TEL) class; to provide timetabled EAL lessons for students withdrawn from particular mainstream subject classes; and to support team teaching in the TEL class. School management is aware of the resources available to support EAL students, along with the fact that additional allocations may be sought where students enrol after the beginning of the school year, as is outlined in the Department of Education and Science (DES) circular letter 0053/2007.
The TEL class was created at the beginning of the last school year as a means of supporting students with a very low level of proficiency in English. There are currently nine EAL lessons provided for the TEL class per week. These lessons are each of fifty-five minutes duration. In addition, students receive instruction in a number of mainstream subjects. There is also a tutorial class once per week which addresses pastoral care issues. The school views the TEL class as a necessary structure in order to hasten EAL students’ ability to access the curriculum in junior cycle and in senior cycle. It is, however, conscious of the impact this strategy has on the ability of students in the TEL class to integrate with the school community. The school has sought to address this challenge through a number of approaches which are dealt with later in this report. There are a number of points during the school year when students in the TEL class are assessed with regard to the level of their English language proficiency. Following these assessments a decision is made about whether they are ready to be transferred to mainstream classes.
In addition to the TEL, a number of students are also withdrawn from mainstream classes for EAL support. This support is organised on the basis of small groups or individual tuition and involves both support for students’ development in EAL and for their achievement in mainstream subjects. These lessons are often organised at the same time as Irish lessons from which the students involved are exempt. The school is encouraged to maintain awareness of the advantages of group work over individual tuition in the area of EAL support. In some cases, EAL students are withdrawn for support with other students through use of the school’s allocation of resource hours. In a number of instances EAL students have been identified as having learning difficulties. However, the school is aware of the need to differentiate between EAL needs and cognitive difficulties and it is important that this distinction be maintained. The assigning of EAL students to any type of class grouping arising from the confusion of learning needs with English language needs should be avoided.
A further feature of the school’s approach to organising EAL support is the adoption of team-teaching in the TEL class. This is being done in conjunction with an initiative organised by County Cork VEC. The use of team-teaching is a most worthwhile aid to differentiation and inclusion. It is suggested that the further expansion of this strategy will be worth exploring as EAL students move into mainstream classes from the TEL class. In particular, the deployment of one of the core EAL teaching team in this role in some mainstream classes could serve as a useful means of demonstrating and disseminating good practice across the teaching body.
The school has adopted a flexible model for EAL support which is appropriate to its current context. This is commendable. The school is conscious of the fact that, as students in the TEL class move into mainstream classes, care should be taken that a suitably flexible approach to EAL support is maintained in order to cope with the new challenges that these students will face. This is positive and is supported by circular 53/2007, which encourages a flexible approach, while calling on school authorities to deploy their EAL allocation having regard to the English language proficiency levels of individual students involved and in line with their evolving needs.
The EAL programme planned for the TEL class contains an admissions policy and procedure for EAL students. Arriving newcomer students are met with by the principal and deputy principal. A meeting is also organised with the EAL co-ordinator. These meetings are held in order to ensure the student and parents feel welcome to the school, to aid them in filling out the enrolment form, to access necessary legal documents for children of non-EU residents, and to explain the concept of the TEL class to them. In addition, an initial assessment test with regard to English language proficiency is carried out. An information pack is also given to the student and their parents, including school information and a document dealing with the Irish education system, in the student’s own language, where possible. This document has been accessed by the school through the Reception and Integration Agency at www.ria.gov.ie. Other resources of this type can be accessed in the Translated Documents section of the Department of Education and Science (DES) website at www.education.ie. Translation of school documentation, connected to enrolment and other areas of school life, is dealt with in a later section of this report. The planning which has gone into the admissions policy for EAL students which is included as part of the EAL programme for the TEL class exemplifies the commitment of senior management and staff to ensuring a positive educational experience for EAL students. During the evaluation it was noted that some minor inconsistencies between the school’s overall admissions policy and the admissions policy set out for EAL students have arisen. These are of a very limited nature and it is suggested that the overall admissions policy should now refer to the necessary adjustments to admissions practice for EAL students. A further development which should be considered is the creation of a template to aid management and staff in guiding admissions interviews with EAL students and their parents. See the recommendations of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment’s (NCCA) Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School: Guidelines for Schools for advice in this regard (pages 31-32). The school is anticipating that a new group of EAL students will feature in the next year or two. This will comprise EAL students arriving from primary schools in the area who are proficient in social English. The school’s awareness of this development is positive. Senior management and staff are encouraged to maintain cognisance of the potential needs of such students with regard to the language of instruction as the demands of the post-primary curriculum expand through junior cycle and senior cycle.
In the initial assessment of EAL students, material developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) is utilised by the learning-support department, along with the EAL co-ordinator. In addition, students are given a number of key words and are asked to write a short passage. The test may also be conducted orally. A new assessment tool has been adopted in the past few months to further aid this process. On the basis of this assessment, students are assigned to mainstream classes or to the TEL class. Information from students’ primary schools is also utilised in this process. Once they have been assigned to classes, the English Language Proficiency Benchmarks drawn up by IILT are used to inform ongoing assessment of EAL students. EAL teachers and mainstream teachers of the TEL class participate in this process. Ultimately, decisions about students’ movement to mainstream classes are based on two meetings of teachers of the TEL class at different stages of the year.
Guidance with regard to subject and programme choice is provided by the guidance counsellor and the principal. Students also bring information documents on this topic home with them. Work is ongoing regarding the possibility of translating these documents into students’ home languages. The provision of a guidance lesson each week for the TEL class serves to further inform students’ subject and programme choices. The possibility of many of the students participating in an examination in their home language as part of the certificate examinations has also been considered. Nevertheless, management, the EAL teaching team and mainstream subject teachers highlighted the difficulties they face in assigning EAL students to particular programmes or age-appropriate class groups when they are to be immersed in mainstream classes. This is a particular concern with regard to students who might otherwise be considered ready to participate in the certificate examinations. While movement of older students into the mainstream through the TY programme had been considered, the school highlighted the fact that this was not always possible as it did not coincide with the wishes of students or their parents. The school was anxious to accommodate the desires of students and parents as much as possible.
Material to support the EAL teaching team is stored in the baseroom of the TEL class. This baseroom was recently assigned to the class and has been effectively harnessed by the EAL teaching team as a support to students’ literacy, with a print-rich environment in evidence. This incorporated various displays of language terms, keywords, items in students’ home languages and the labelling of some objects in English. This was most positive and it is suggested that, as a development of this work, a more specific focus on the language of the curriculum should be adopted in the future. The usefulness of a print-rich environment with a curriculum-based focus should be noted in both the support and mainstream contexts. The support displayed by senior management through the assigning of a baseroom is to be strongly commended, particularly in the context of the space restrictions under which the school is currently operating. It is recommended that this baseroom be retained if at all practicable.
The school has been very supportive in providing resources for the EAL teaching team. All students beginning in the TEL class are provided with a copybook and a textbook. Learner dictionaries and bilingual dictionaries have also been provided. In addition, a range of other TEFL books, teacher resources and CDs have, commendably, been accessed by the teaching team. The important distinction between TEFL and EAL, which was outlined earlier in this report, should, however, be noted in this context as well. Teachers highlighted their desire for a greater range of specific materials to support their work in EAL. In this regard, the teachers are advised to review websites such as www.naldic.org.uk and www.emaonline.org.uk and the English language support element of www.tcd.ie.
There are a number of computer rooms and the TEL class is scheduled for computer classes twice per week. An idea mentioned during the course of the evaluation was the use of students’ own experiences as a basis for their work with various computer programmes during the course of these classes. This would be most worthwhile. In addition, the TEL class has one EAL lesson in the computer room every week, using the many useful interactive materials available on the internet. In one EAL lesson observed, ICT facilitated a differentiated approach to class work, with students enabled to engage in self-directed learning to a greater degree than might otherwise have been possible. ICT should be viewed as a useful resource to facilitate all forms of EAL support in the school.
The school library is commendably used as a tool to encourage the development of students’ literacy in the TEL class. A paired-reading programme with TY students has been organised. This is praiseworthy on two levels. Not only will this programme serve to enhance EAL students’ motivation and engagement with reading in English, it will also serve to advance the integration of the TEL class into the wider school community. A weekly tutorial class is also used to encourage reading in the library. The school has investigated the possibility of accessing books for students in their home languages. All of this is most worthwhile. Further useful resources which could be investigated are the websites www.world-newspapers.com and www.onlinenewspapers.com. The former website provides English language newspapers based in students’ home countries, while the latter provides newspapers in students’ home languages.
Members of the EAL teaching team have displayed significant commitment in pursuing continuing professional development (CPD), with the active support of school management. The EAL teachers have participated in a variety of courses on English language teaching, including in-service training provided by IILT. The EAL team is encouraged to join the English Language Support Teachers’ Association (www.elsta.ie) and to review those guideline documents and websites referred to in this report which they have not previously encountered. Finally, throughout the evaluation, school management and staff reported a need for EAL-specific CPD for mainstream and EAL teachers. They were keen to work toward best practice for EAL learners and would welcome teaching guidelines and in-service.
A number of policies have been developed which have a bearing on provision for EAL students. These include the admissions policy in the EAL programme for the TEL class (as previously discussed), an anti-bullying policy, an inclusion policy and a special educational needs (SEN) policy. The work and commitment which have gone into the creation of these policies are to be commended. In the case of the special educational needs policy, it is suggested that an explicit statement differentiating the needs of EAL students from those of students with learning difficulties should be included and the good practice which is already being enacted through regular communication between the EAL co-ordinator and the special educational needs co-ordinator should be incorporated into the policy.
As part of the school’s planning process, an ‘international students policy’ and a whole-school literacy policy are being developed. The creation of an ‘international students policy’ offers a good opportunity to combine the EAL programme for the TEL class and other policies related to EAL students in one, overarching document. At the time of the evaluation it was planned that the group responsible for the policy would present to the whole-staff body regarding its progress. The recent National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) publication Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School would then be presented to teachers. It was planned that each subject department is to be asked to develop its own procedures for provision for newcomer students as part of its subject plan. In addition, a whole-school literacy policy is currently being developed. This is best exemplified through the display of various phrases and keywords around the school building. The school is encouraged to remain cognisant of the potential crossovers between the ‘international students policy’ and the whole-school literacy policy, particularly in the area of EAL. The continued development of subject departments’ awareness of their role in supporting the development of EAL students’ English literacy is to be strongly encouraged. In particular, it is recommended that the development of banks of writing frames for display and to support extended writing activities in mainstream subjects should be advanced.
The core EAL teaching team has shown itself to be professional and committed to its task. In addition, the team has been diligent in the sharing of good practice. The EAL teaching team meets regularly to discuss the progress of EAL students. Mainstream teachers who are involved in delivering mainstream subjects in the TEL class also contribute to these meetings. Minutes are kept of formal meetings of the group and four such meetings have taken place this year. Items discussed at such meetings include the organisation of the TEL class programme for the year, celebration events, the integration of EAL students and the transfer of EAL students to mainstream classes. All of this is most positive and such formal gatherings are further augmented by numerous informal meetings throughout the school year.
A post-holder has been appointed to act as the EAL co-ordinator. The co-ordinator has responsibility for planning the programme for EAL students (with particular reference to the TEL class), organising the assessment of students’ proficiency in the English language, planning meetings and liaising with other EAL teachers and teachers of the TEL class. The EAL co-ordinator has shown considerable dedication and skill in organising provision for EAL students. There is good communication between the co-ordinator and the principal. The current involvement of the EAL co-ordinator in planning the EAL timetable and provision for EAL across the full continuum of EAL support should be maintained. This is particularly important as the model of provision continues to develop in the future. An area which should be considered in the future is liaison between the co-ordinator and primary schools. While such liaison is currently undertaken by the learning-support team, the involvement of the language-support co-ordinator in this process could also be considered.
A particular challenge for the co-ordinator and all those involved in teaching the TEL class and other EAL students, is that of communication with the wider teaching staff. The EAL teaching team report that this is currently largely informal in nature. The plan for a presentation on the ‘international students policy’ is very positive. The EAL co-ordinator also provides inputs to staff meetings regarding EAL and this is worthwhile. A potential area for development is the provision of a standard report sheet on EAL students in advance of their transfer to mainstream classes. This could provide mainstream teachers with information regarding the strengths and needs of each EAL student, thus allowing time for adjustments, if necessary, in planning for classes. In turn, this sheet could allow for the feedback of information to EAL teachers providing support for these students. Mainstream teachers could identify problem areas experienced by students both in language skills and in subject-specific matters. This would enable EAL teachers to plan targeted support for students. Beyond this, the information could be used by the EAL teaching team to provide helpful pointers for the whole staff on dealing with common areas of difficulty. As a further aid in students’ transfer to mainstream classes, the EAL teaching team could usefully develop a ‘panic file’ to be occasionally and appropriately used by EAL students when they first move from the TEL class to mainstream classes. Further information regarding the creation and utilisation of a ‘panic file’ can be found in English as an Additional Language: Meeting the Challenge in the Classroom by Liz Haslam, Yvonne Wilkin, and Edith Kellet . It is important that the purpose of the file and the limitations of its use should be explained to mainstream teachers and that the file should be planned to aid students in achieving particular learning goals.
The EAL programme planned for the TEL class is based on a thematic approach covering areas such as family, school, weather and recreation. This focus on language used in a social context is worthwhile. It is recommended that planning should be further developed so that students learn language with clearly defined applications both in social settings and particularly in an instructional context, to aid their ability to access the mainstream curriculum. This might be achieved through an adjustment of some of the themes chosen towards a curriculum-based focus. A focus in planning on learning goals based on the language proficiency benchmarks developed by IILT may be of service in this regard. The plan for the TEL class highlights the aspiration that subject teachers of the class would plan their lessons around the theme for the week which is simultaneously being pursued in EAL lessons. This is most positive and should be maintained as a consideration for all teachers of the TEL class. Such a strategy facilitates the repetition and reinforcement of key vocabulary while also providing contextualisation for aspects of language being studied. The exhortation contained in the plan that students would be given both oral and written assignments for homework is most positive. It is commendable that the importance of students’ regular engagement with written work in English, in order to maximise their ability to access the curriculum, is recognised. In support lessons organised on a withdrawal basis teachers were diligent in their planning and, in one instance, lesson planning was strongly focused on providing language support for students’ ability to access a particular subject. In another instance a specific focus on the particular language needs of students would have been of benefit as an additional element in planning.
The programme also contains a brief overview of EAL in the school, aims and objectives of the TEL class, an inventory of resources, information on assessment practices, celebration events and teaching and learning methodologies. In addition, induction material for teachers new to the TEL class has been developed. This very necessary work is to be praised. It is recommended that a specific statement regarding the development of students’ proficiency in the language of instruction and facilitating access to the curriculum should be added to the aims and objectives of the programme.
Eight lessons were observed during the course of the evaluation, five in the EAL support context and three mainstream lessons where EAL students were present. Planning was evident in all lessons. Pacing was appropriately managed in all instances and lessons were well structured. In one lesson, specific reference was made to the learning intention at the beginning of the lesson and this was worthwhile. Such an assessment for learning approach would be of benefit to EAL students in all lessons. Another example of good practice was the setting out of keywords on the whiteboard prior to the commencement of the lesson. The pre-teaching of these words as another means of outlining what is to be learned during the lesson should also be considered. There were examples of teachers acting as effective language models for EAL students through the use of clear expression, repetition and rephrasing. This good practice could be added to in some instances through the encouragement of EAL students to further extend short or one-word answers. All teachers are encouraged to view themselves as important language models for EAL students, feeding into their ability to access the curriculum. Finally, where a specific element of a mainstream teacher’s planning was devoted to EAL students, this was commendable. The anticipated development of subject department plans to incorporate sections for supporting EAL students should be viewed as an opportunity for teachers to further develop their individual planning in this area.
Teachers were universally affirming and supportive of students in both EAL and mainstream contexts. Good relationships between students and teachers were evident. Students were well cared for in lessons. Particular mention is made of the TEL class in this context where a happy co-operative atmosphere was very evident. In all cases classes were well managed. The maintenance of a clear ‘line of sight’ to facilitate communication with EAL students was another feature of good practice in many classes.
Resources used in the lessons observed included websites, learner dictionaries, visual resources, the whiteboard and classroom ‘props’. In the TEL baseroom the display of visual posters was most beneficial, with teachers able to contextualise learning through their use. The utilisation of a visual ‘storyboard’ to consolidate learning was another positive element in a support context. The adoption of visual resources was also a feature in mainstream lessons and teachers are encouraged to continue to focus on this element of their practice as a specific support for EAL students. In the mainstream setting the use of diagrams was observed, along with concrete tasks which facilitated students’ English language acquisition. Both of these strategies served to support EAL students’ engagement with new concepts and language. Where EAL students had been required to bring their bilingual dictionaries into mainstream classes, this was good practice. Given students’ entitlement to use such dictionaries in certain certificate examinations, it is advised that this requirement be established across all subject departments. (See under Reasonable Accommodations at http://www.examinations.ie/schools).
Many of the methodologies observed provided good support to EAL students including team-teaching, the effective use of ICT, differentiation, the use of physical gesture and concrete materials to contextualise learning and the provision of worksheets as a scaffold for students’ learning. The use of pair and group work are to be particularly encouraged as they provide EAL students with opportunities for interaction with peers who may act as language models. The use of peer tutoring was also noted. This was very worthwhile, allowing students to observe the modelling of language behaviours by their peers, while providing reinforcement and increased self-esteem for the students chosen as tutors. The continued development of peer-tutoring strategies is to be encouraged. In the EAL support lessons observed, good opportunities were offered to students to expand their vocabulary and to develop their oral language. Students’ vocabulary was extended in a variety of contexts and teachers frequently encouraged students’ use of properly structured sentences through modelling and repetition. The occasional use of Directed Activities Related to Texts (DARTS) was also observed in mainstream classes, with student labelling of diagrams noted, along with the use of a cloze test. This is worthwhile and other DARTS which could be harnessed (among others) include graphic organisers, text-marking, cross-genre transfer, table completion and writing frames. Writing frames in particular are to be recommended as they may serve to extend students’ written work beyond the more limited exercise encountered in a cloze test. An initial support in this endeavour may be found in the resources area of the Junior Certificate School Programme website at www.jcspliteracy.ie.
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. Here, 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 the teaching and learning of the required vocabulary in English. It is recommended that mainstream subject plans should incorporate these points as part of the proposed new section dealing with newcomers.
There was evidence of student learning in all lessons. This was seen through students’ responses when questioned, their engagement in classwork and their ability to complete elements of tasks which they had been set. However, in a number of instances, students were challenged when confronted by the language of instruction. Here there was evidence in mainstream classes of difficulties in completing some exercises for homework and of a lack of familiarity with particular elements of subject terminology. This limited engagement with the language of instruction was also apparent in the support context. Developments in this area should form a key focus for future teaching and learning in EAL support lessons. The need to focus more 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. The current work being undertaken by subject departments in identifying keywords will assist mainstream teachers to foreground the teaching of specific vocabulary to all students, including EAL learners, promoting a greater awareness and knowledge of the language of instruction, and will assist EAL teachers to reinforce students’ learning. Additional ideas on methodologies to support EAL students can be found on the IILT website, on the NCCA websites (including its new ACTION website), and at www.ltscotland.org.uk under Learning and Teaching in 2+ Languages.
Homework was consistently assigned in EAL support lessons. In one instance, the assigning of extended written pieces in a variety of genres was suggested as a further development of this practice. Students’ folders are maintained diligently. The continued development of a portfolio system for EAL students should be a particular consideration with regard to assessment. There was evidence of the correction of students’ work in all support classes. It is suggested that the use of DARTS activities to support differentiated assessment of students’ understanding and differentiated homework activities might be usefully considered in some mainstream classes. Students’ homework could also be supported through links with EAL teachers regarding the keywords to be utilised in particular subjects. Where retention of work by EAL students was reported as a difficulty by mainstream teachers, the retention of copybooks or folders with particularly important work, by teachers, may be worthy of consideration.
The pastoral-care system has a number of components including class tutors, year heads, a home-school-community-liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, two guidance counsellors, learning-support teachers and subject teachers. New EAL students are informally guided towards other students to aid their induction. The movement of students from the TEL class to mainstream classes is also given careful consideration. It is recommended that consideration be given to developing a formal buddy system for new EAL students when they arrive as part of their overall induction programme. This could reflect the type of buddy system currently in operation for new first-year students. The involvement of EAL students who have already settled in the school community would be beneficial, potentially allowing for greater ease of communication, but also enhancing the self-esteem of the buddy as well as the new arrival. Both the EAL co-ordinator and the relevant year head are conscious of maintaining contact with the progress of EAL students who have recently been immersed in mainstream classes. This is positive.
There is very good provision for pastoral care and support for the TEL class. A tutorial lesson is scheduled once a week which is of fifty-five minutes duration, while there is similar provision for guidance on the class’s timetable. The guidance team have developed a clear programme of work to be covered in these guidance lessons and this is run in conjunction with the pastoral care programme. EAL students who are moving into mainstream classes are met with individually by a guidance counsellor regarding their previous educational experience and their own aspirations. The guidance team remains conscious of maintaining a link, not only with courses students might join in Ireland, but also with opportunities in their home countries. All of this is positive. The website http://www.euroguidance.net/index.htm can be a useful resource in this regard. It is suggested that the very good procedures developed by the guidance team should be incorporated in the forthcoming ‘international students policy’.
Communication between the SEN department and the EAL co-ordinator is good. Difficulties in assessing EAL students who might have special educational needs were highlighted by the special educational needs co-ordinator during the evaluation. Helpful information on a range of assessments, including non-verbal tests, can be found appended to the Department of Education (DES) circular 99/2007. Beyond this, the building up of a student profile and the provision of targeted learning support within the available resources are the appropriate measures in the case of EAL students with apparent learning difficulties.
A range of activities has been organised to support inclusion and to celebrate cultural diversity. An annual celebration day for Irish and other cultures is organised. So too are educational trips for the TEL class in conjunction with TY students. A number of laminated posters are evident in the school with translations of English words into other languages of the school community. As has been previously mentioned, TY students have participated in a paired-reading programme with EAL students and have learned Polish prior to a visit to Poland in the last school year. The Young Social Innovators Programme (YSI) in the school has featured aspects of intercultural education in the past and the school is encouraged to investigate whether a module around this theme could be organised in the future. This could serve as a means of further strengthening the sense of inclusion felt by students in the TEL class as part of the wider school community. During an interview with EAL students, they were positive about the various intercultural events which the school has organised. Efforts consistently undertaken to support the intercultural nature of the school community are to be strongly praised.
The TEL class elects two representatives as members of the student council. This is positive. At present, however, the attendance of these representatives at student council meetings has been limited, despite reminders being provided with regard to meeting times. It is suggested that, as a means of ensuring attendance and to enhance effective communication between the council and the TEL class, a representative of the council should be appointed as a liaison with the TEL class representatives.
Currently there are no representatives of the parents of EAL students on the parents’ association committee, although this has occurred in the past. The school invites parents of all students to attend meetings of the parents’ association. Parents of EAL students sometimes attend meetings of the association. The school has noted that many parents of EAL students have work commitments which make it difficult for them to attend both parent-teacher and parents’ association meetings. The school has organised English lessons for parents of EAL students in the last academic year and is investigating means of organising these again through the Home School Community Liaison scheme and a local community organisation. This is commendable. The board of management is supportive of the school’s inclusion policy and, in the recent past, the board has included a parent of an EAL student.
The school is currently working with a local community organisation to try to access translations of a range of school policies. The Home School Community Liaison Co-ordinator (HSCL) is also working in co-operation with the EAL co-ordinator to organise a set of school documents for translation. This is commendable. The board of management and senior management highlighted translation services as a key area for development during the course of the evaluation. Students highlighted language difficulties which arose during parent-teacher meetings. The core EAL teaching team also outlined difficulties experienced during parent-teacher meetings due to communication difficulties. A particular issue of concern to the school is the difficulty experienced in accessing translations of psychological reports for EAL students with special educational needs and consequent difficulties in accessing resources for these students.
EAL students are encouraged to take part in extracurricular and co-curricular activities. The school views extracurricular and co-curricular activities as an important tool to encourage integration. EAL students commented on the willingness of teachers to help them and to give up their own free time towards this aim. The school’s efforts to involve EAL students in various activities are strongly commended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
A meeting was held with members of the EAL teaching team and the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, June 2009