Schools join forces to support students who are learning English as an additional language
With fewer students migrating to Australia due to COVID-19, intensive English schools and centres across Victoria are temporarily seeing reduced student enrolments.
To support students who are learning English as an additional language, Victorian government schools can now take part in the English as an Additional Language (EAL) Teaching and Curriculum Support Initiative (ETAC21).
Through the program, Victorian government schools can enhance their 2021 EAL programs by hosting an experienced EAL teacher or Multicultural Education Aide (MEA) from an English language school or centre for a term.
The EAL curriculum was introduced towards the end of 2019 for trial implementation in 2020, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Victorian Curriculum F-10 English as an Additional Language (EAL) is now the mandated curriculum for EAL students in all Victorian government schools.
Blackburn English Language School (BELS) and Mount Waverley Primary School (MWPS) are two schools that have collaborated through the curriculum support initiative.
Supporting EAL students at Mount Waverley Primary School
EAL specialist Tabassum Haidar, who usually teaches at Blackburn English Language School (BELS), has been working with Sue Kannegiesser, the literacy support and EAL coordinator at Mount Waverley Primary School (MWPS), to deliver the program.
Together, they play a vital role in helping EAL students at MWPS catch up with the learning they may have missed due to the pandemic, while supporting the school to implement the EAL curriculum this year.
Even though MWPS isn’t a dedicated ‘intensive English’ school, more than half of their students are EAL students.
Sue said EAL students were one of the most disadvantaged groups when it came to the absence of face-to-face English language support last year.
‘Many students only speak their home language at home, so we started running hands-on classes online so that students could practice their English oral language with a teacher,’ Sue said.
‘The students often had difficulties in accessing and submitting work digitally, and we focused on providing differentiated tasks based on what the EAL students were doing with their class.’
Sharing knowledge and resources to implement the EAL curriculum
The challenges faced by the EAL cohort last year further strengthens the school’s goal to establish an inclusive, whole-school approach focused on optimising outcomes for EAL students.
'Tabassum’s expertise has been invaluable in supporting teachers to use more EAL teaching strategies in the classroom,’ Sue said.
‘With Tabassum’s support, we delivered an EAL professional learning for all staff in Term 1, based on areas we identified around the types of EAL strategies that teachers can employ in their classrooms … ways to support, model and train our teachers in differentiating tasks and scaffolding lessons.
‘Tabassum has such a beautiful manner with the students and is a great model for all of us. I’ve seen how she teaches and noticed the little gestures that support communication with EAL students such as providing additional wait time. These are all things we can add to our teaching tool kit.’
For Tabassum, the most enjoyable part of her experience has been seeing the EAL students transition from an English language school into a mainstream school.
‘I’ve been able to observe how they’re settling in and managing in the mainstream classroom. This has allowed me to learn more about what newly arrived students at English language schools and centres need more support in,’ Tabassum said.
‘I can also ask my mainstream colleagues about what levels of support they need when it comes to teaching EAL students using the EAL curriculum and I am able to use my experience to help them fill those gaps.’
The benefits of collaboration
Sue has enjoyed building a partnership between MWPS and BELS.
‘Not only will Tabassum know what her new EAL students will be grappling with when they transition to a mainstream school, but hopefully we can maintain communication so we can learn more about the students coming to our school when they graduate from the English language school,’ she said.
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