News

Schools work hard to support children who speak English as additional language

By Charmayne Allison

Local schools have jumped into action to help culturally and linguistically diverse families who are struggling with remote learning during COVID-19 lockdowns.

A staggering 70 per cent of Wilmot Road Primary School students speak English as an additional language (EAL).

About 50 per cent of students at St George's Rd Primary School also fall into this category.

St George's Rd principal Kerrianne Souter said remote learning had stripped teachers of many of the benefits of face-to-face learning for EAL students.

“Face-to-face teaching enables teaching staff to monitor more directly how students are managing their learning tasks,” Ms Souter said.

“It allows them to make on-the-spot adaptations to ensure learning is just right for students.

“Learning in an additional language requires a lot of concentration and effort until students have a good grasp of English.

“Lots of repetition, visual supports, longer application time, working in small support groups really benefits a student learning a new language.”

Children from new arrival families attend the Shepparton English Language Centre for 12 months before transitioning to mainstream schools.

Many parents learn English at the same time as their children, making it difficult for them to provide support throughout remote learning.

Wilmot Rd and St George's Rd have family liaison officers and multicultural education aides, who have offered immense help to families during this time.

“We've been using them as much as possible,” Ms Souter said.

The St George's Rd principal said throughout both remote learning periods, the school had been using a "wrap-around approach" with individualised support.

"We've endeavoured to provide work pitched at the right level for each student, and offered specialised support and literacy intervention where needed,” Ms Souter said.

"We've also made sure we're delivering a holistic program, including art, performing arts, health and physical education and languages other than English.”

The school has also facilitated one-on-one and class check-ins with students, as well as providing technical support.

Wilmot Rd principal Sharon Thompson said the second round of remote learning had been less stressful, as every student now had a device and internet access.

“The first time, we didn't have an online platform operating at the school,” she said.

“So we just spent our time ringing every single family in the school to check if they had a device and an internet connection, and to give them work packs.

“This time around has been easier.”

Ms Thompson said the school was doing all it could to equip parents to support their children at this time.

“They don't have to be able to teach, that's our role,” she said.

“All they need to do is help their children get online so they can hear their teachers’ instructions.

“And if parents have any questions at all, we're just a phone call away to support them with whatever they need.”

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