Thursday, 25 August 2011

Glasgow Babel

NEARLY 8000 children from countries across the world have enrolled in Glasgow schools in the past five years, according to new figures.

The figures are revealed as the local authority considers proposals to shut a pioneering language support unit in the city.

Official statistics from Glasgow City Council show the highest number of new pupils are Polish followed by Slovakians, Pakistanis, Indians and Nigerians.

Significant numbers have also arrived from Somalia, Malaysia, Romania, Iraq and the Congo.

The number of new arrivals – a total of 7405 since 2005 – are recorded in a review of the way pupils who speak little or no English are supported in Glasgow schools.

The local authority is currently considering the closure of a pioneering support unit located in Shawlands Academy, on the south side of the city.

Officials argue closing the unit will have no impact on educational quality because staff will be retained and used to support pupils in their own schools – possibly in smaller specialist units.

However, critics believe a single dedicated unit is the best way to educate pupils who have little or no English – termed EAL (English as an Additional Language).

The review includes the results of a consultation exercise on the future of the unit which found the vast majority of respondents opposed its closure.

Of the responses received, 40 opposed the proposals and just one agreed with them.

Despite this, in a report to the council’s children and families policy development committee, Maureen McKenna backed the proposed changes.

She pointed to evidence from a 1986 report by the Commission for Racial Equality which said placing EAL pupils in separate units amounted to indirect discrimination.

“From as early as 1998, educationalists ... were putting forward the position that EAL learners should not be placed into separate units,” she added.

“Immersion, where the learner is placed in an English language rich environment, has been shown to be by far the most effective way for a second language to be acquired.”

Ms McKenna goes on to accept that some of the needs of EAL learners are not currently being met. To try to combat this, she said the council had been training mainstream teachers, including probationers, to meet their needs.

She concludes: “The research shows there is little evidence for a separate base where newly-arrived children should go to acquire English before being returned to their local secondary school.”

Jean McFadden, the council’s executive member for education, said: “The council has witnessed a shift in the make-up of young people with EAL coming to Glasgow over the last few years.

“This is largely due to the reduction in asylum seeker families arriving in the city and the increase in the number of Eastern European families.

“The proposals being discussed would result in a more flexible service more in tune with the current needs of Glasgow’s young people.

“We remain committed to supporting the needs of all children and young people with EAL despite the financial challenges facing all councils.”

Glasgow has more than 130 EAL teachers. Around a 100 are based in schools providing direct support to mainstream teachers and learners, the report states.
Source: The Herald

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