November 7th 2017
St Barnabas Primary School, Oxford
This term’s meeting marked a year since we inaugurated the Oxfordshire RIG. Since that first meeting the RIG has gone from strength to strength. We have held meetings in four different schools and one university, bringing together teachers, consultants, researchers and students with the common aim of sharing expertise, knowledge and practice relating to the education of EAL learners. We have been delighted with the enthusiasm of Oxfordshire educators for the RIG and fully intend to continue to develop it to address the aspirations of the community.
Nearly 30 teachers braved dismal autumn weather to join us at St Barnabas Primary School in Oxford. We were particularly pleased to see a number of colleagues from independent schools join us this time. This prompted the starts of a productive discussion about setting up a Special Interest Group for independent schools to provide a forum for sharing expertise related to the particular needs of EAL learners in that sector.
Our first talk was by Naomi Flynn of the University of Reading.
Naomi shared some of the findings of her recent survey about teachers’ impressions of EAL-related policy and practice. She noted in particular the general uncertainty of what EAL policy is and where teachers can go to find out about it. This uncertainty results in very different interpretations of local/school policy and how individual teachers view and operationalise their related practice. The session prompted some super discussion among colleagues and some thoughtful talking points were raised.
Naomi was followed by Jane Spiro of Oxford Brookes University and Jacki Holderness, Governor at Europa School UK.
Jane treated us to a glimpse of her new book, with co-author Eowyn Crisfield, showcasing five schools that have embraced multilingualism to re-vitalise languages in their communities. One of the focus schools in the book is Europa School in Culham, just down the road from Oxford. Jackie gave an account of how the establishment of this school was a response by parents to the loss of its predecessor, the European School Culham.
The will and hard work of parents and teachers who did not wish to see the door closed on multilingualism in the region ensured that a thriving multilingual school took up where it left off. Jackie described the great success of the school that, over a few short years, has developed into an all-through, three stream bilingual school (English-French, English-German, and English-Spanish) that welcomes children from bilingual and monolingual families alike.
Hamish Chalmers of Oxford Brookes University finished off the meeting with a session using Hampshire EMTAS’s excellent EAL conversation cards. Colleagues found them to be an excellent way to consider issues relating to the education of EAL learners. The evidence-based question and answer format allows teachers, even those with little experience, to hold productive conversations about the children in their schools and about effective ways to meet their needs.
We look forward to reconvening in the spring at St. Ebbe’s Primary School, Oxford.
Date: Week of 28th February 2018.