At Thames Primary Academy we celebrate our multicultural diversity. Some of our children come from homes where English is spoken as a second language. There are more than a million learners of English as an Additional Language (EAL) in UK schools. This has risen by 20% since 2009, making it one of the most significant changes to the school population in recent years.
WHAT IF ENGLISH ISN’T OUR FIRST LANGUAGE?
If English isn’t your family’s first language, you may worry how your child will cope in an English-speaking school.
Schools are used to helping families where English is an additional language. A recent survey found that one in seven primary school pupils learns English as an additional language.
There is lots of evidence that bilingual children can do well at school. However, they – and you as parents – will need extra help, especially in the early days.
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD?
Your interest and involvement in your child’s learning are the best ways you can help.
If you don’t speak English the school should be able to provide an interpreter for parent-teacher meetings so you can find out what’s going on.
Tell your child’s teacher about their previous education. What kind of school did they go to? Which subjects does your child find easy or difficult? What did they like/dislike about their last school?
At home, talk to your child about what happens at school. Encourage them to teach you their new English skills – you could keep a notebook together with words in your first language, the English translation and how to say the words.
Your child is likely to pick up English very quickly – especially if they’re primary school age. Studies show that being bilingual means your child is more likely to learn well and do well at school – it can be an advantage.
WHAT HELP IS AVAILABLE?
Current policy is to integrate new children into the classroom as quickly as possible, even if they have little English. In some schools, complete beginners are placed in special classes for English tuition for some periods, or full-time for the first few weeks.
After this, children are supported in the classroom. Many schools employ bilingual teaching assistants, especially if several children speak the same first language.
Everyone involved – parents, teachers and pupils – should be aware that knowing little English does not mean a lack of potential to learn. Your child may be put in a lower set because of their lack of English, but this could prevent them from achieving what they’re capable of. It’s worth talking to the teacher about moving them up into another set if you think they would benefit.