By: Simon Collins

Two out of five of Auckland schools and three out of five early childhood centres have been marked “could do better” for their non-English-speaking children.

An Education Review Office report on 38 schools and 74 early childhood services across Auckland has found “an overall need for early learning services and schools to improve their response to culturally and linguistically diverse learners and to support their acquisition of the English language”.

It recommends increasing opportunities for all Auckland teachers to train in teaching English to speakers of other languages (Esol), and extending Esol funding for older children beyond the current maximum of five years.

“Most services and schools knew who these learners were and had, to some extent, taken steps to respond to their language and culture,” the report says.

“However, only 37 per cent of [early childhood] services and 58 per cent of schools intentionally promoted learning by using a home language or cultural lens to support the learners’ acquisition of English and to promote engagement with the learner, their parents and communities.”

Auckland has one of the highest ratios of immigrants of any city in the world, with 39 per cent of its population born overseas.

Yet the report says Auckland teachers are not taking up enough Ministry of Education-funded training scholarships for teaching English for speakers of other languages (Tessol).

There was only one Tessol scholarship awarded for every 360 Esol students between 2013 and 2017 in Auckland, compared with one for every 257 Esol students in the rest of the country.

In the “less responsive” schools and preschools, the report says: “Apart from Esol teachers, most teachers were generally unaware of available Esol resources and had no specific professional learning and development for teaching culturally and linguistically diverse learners.”

The diverse faces of Year 6 students from Room 11 at Mt Roskill Primary School in 2016. Photo / File

In contrast, it cites Mt Roskill Primary School, which has 350 Esol students out of a roll of 750, as an exemplar.

“Staff saw the school as an Esol school and this led to a shift in the mindset and role of teachers. Every teacher is a language teacher and every learner is a language learner,” it says.

Mt Roskill principal Mike O’Reilly said 85 per cent of his students “are at least bilingual and go home to a language other than English or a mix of languages”.

He said the school gave all its teachers training over two years to support Esol students in their mainstream classes, rather than leaving them to specialist Esol teachers.

“What actually works with kids is that the teacher takes responsibility for all the children in their class,” he said.

He said the large number of Esol students gave the school about $240,000 a year in Esol funding, which was used to employ three fulltime Esol specialists to support the classroom teachers and to fund classroom teachers doing Esol training.

He said the school worked closely with the students’ families and communities from the moment a new student arrived.

“Some families don’t know anyone else in the country, so it’s quite challenging,” he said.

“The key people that are coming often are Chinese and South Asians, various Indian groups. We have people in the office who cover off those languages.

“Then, if we have refugees coming in, our refugee co-ordinator will work with those families and we’ll get the ministry involved. There are some African languages where we don’t have anyone and we’ll spread our net far and wide to find the best person.”

School newsletters and information are published using an app that enables parents to use Google Translate to read in their own languages, and the school asks Mt Roskill Grammar students or other people in each ethnic community to interpret at meetings.

“For our 750 kids we have more than 90 per cent who come to parent interviews, and 80 per cent can’t speak English,” O’Reilly said.

Freemans Bay School is also cited as an exemplar for employing 15 teacher aides speaking its students’ languages.

Freemans Bay principal Sandra Jenkins said the school received $180,000 a year in Esol funding for its 150 Esol students, but also used revenue from international students and from providing professional development to other schools.

She said the priority was building relationships with the students’ families and supporting all their languages.

“We have a trans-language playground,” she said. “Students are absolutely encouraged to speak their home languages, and they will support each other in translating and support.”

Education Ministry deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the ministry was considering the report’s recommendations.

She said the ministry provided 175 Tessol scholarships every year and planned to employ 50 bilingual support workers this year to support immigrant students.

Source: NZ Herald

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