This article describes the recent report on the successful five year project at Walker Street Primary School in Aberdeen.
As a former teacher of German and French now supporting EAL pupils I am convinced that learning through complete or partial immersion might halt the decline in the uptake of modern languages in our schools.
It is interesting also the effect on pupils’ self esteem and competence in English which also resulted from acquiring a new language in the natural way.
The Scotsman reports that it has been claimed that a lack of investment in bilingual school staff could force a “mass exodus” of Polish families – leaving a huge hole in the labour market and crippling the Scottish economy.
Polish children are allegedly asking their parents to take them home as there is no-one to teach them properly at school. Economists have already warned that migrant workers could leave because of the plunging value of the pound against the Euro and the Polish zloty. Now business leaders claim Polish pupils are feeling isolated and foreign workers do not want to sacrifice their children’s education. Polish groups and MSPs are calling for further assistance to be given to help workers’ children to learn English.
This is a reprint of an article from 2008. This example of best practice should be happening more often in our schools as there are so many benefits for pupils, schools and parents.
Last year when her daughter was in Primary 5 the EAL teacher helped to arrange for a Polish mum to support our Art Specialist on a weekly basis. This was a great help to both the teacher and the pupils and the mum really enjoyed the experience. She is a qualified teacher and although she speaks very little English was able to communicate with the children through their artwork.
This year the same lady asked if she could help out again. She is now attending college so does not have as much time as previously.
I asked if she could come into my Primary 1 class to read stories in Polish once a fortnight. I have a Polish pupil in my class who often finds it difficult to focus during story time. We purchased bilingual story books and the mum read the Polish version and I was able to echo in English. When she heard the story in Polish, my P1 pupil was really excited and the rest of the class were fascinated. Now that they are a regular event the other children also enjoy these sessions and are beginning to predict what I am going to say based on what has been read and they are able to pick out some Polish words if they are repeated a lot within the story.
The bilingual books also go home with my pupil and she reads them with her parents who can both speak English.
We are working on Personal Account writing at the moment and I asked the pupils to draw a day out they had enjoyed. I asked the P6 Polish pupil to pop down to explain this task to her mum and my pupil. The mum then sat and supported her with her drawing and discussed the details of her picture encouraging her to add more detail when appropriate.
This collaboration has been of mutual benefit to everyone involved.