Where do you find good advice about new arrivals?

So if the law is clear that beginners in English need to be in mainstream classrooms in mainstream schools, what do we actually do with them?

The first thing to recognise is that there is no one size fits all solution. An eleven year old who can’t read in any language has very different needs to an eleven year old whose mathematical and scientific knowledge exceeds that of most their peers. Nonetheless, all new arrivals need an effective induction that covers school routines and school language. The induction will include an effective buddy system. Every new arrival needs at least two (so they can share the work load) properly trained and rewarded buddies who contribute to the regular monitoring of progress. Sharing a language with the new arrival helps, but knowing how to help matters more. If it is a pupil in Key Stage 2, 3 or 4 who can’t read in his/her mother tongue or English, then extra help in learning to read is an urgent must. Our Fast Track Literacy programme is one of many starting places.

There is lots of useful advice around about good practice with new arrivals. Ofsted have some useful case studies, primary and secondary. The National Strategies developed the widely used New Arrivals Excellence Programme . The programme includes extensive training materials and identifies a number of key pedagogical principles:

  • English as an additional language learners at any level of fluency have a right of access to the National Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage
  • Language development arises from an oral and cognitive interplay between language and subject: decontextualised language activities are rarely productive
  • Pupils acquire English from socialising and collaborating with peers as well as learning from explicit teaching
  • Talk and collaboration are essential elements in effective teaching and learning and in developing secure literacy skills
  • The aim of good teaching for Early Years Foundation Stage learners is to scaffold the

learner’s progress to independence

  • Bilingualism is an asset, and the first language has a continuing and significant role in identity, learning and the acquisition of additional languages
  • Cognitive challenge can and should be kept appropriately high through the provision of linguistic and contextual support
  • Language acquisition goes hand in hand with cognitive and academic development, with an inclusive curriculum as the context.

It is also worth looking at Judith Longstreth’s excellent quick guide to the assessment of new arrivals in the NALDIC Quarterly. The best book ever written about new arrivals is probably Pauline Gibbons’ Learning to Learn in a Second Language. It is full of effective strategies and clear explanations of just why they work.

We come across a lot of great ideas in our work with schools. One really wonderful and very simple idea I came across recently was from Imogen Newell at Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech. Thomas Clarkson has invested in BAT phones: billingual assistant telephones. So Lithuanian parents, for example, are given a mobile number on which they can leave messages in Lithuanian, secure in the knowledge that the Lithuanian bilingual assistant will get back to them. It works the other way round too. If Mantas forgets his PE kit, the next week his parents get a text in Lithuanian reminding them about PE kit the day before the lesson. BAT phones are simple, cheap and can transform communication with parents of new arrivals and the new arrivals’ experience.

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