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:
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.