Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

MA TESOL students help local schools embrace EAL training

Monday, 03 February 2014

The recently established ‘Beyond English as an Additional Language (EAL)' project is going from strength to strength and having an impact in classrooms and communities far quicker than anyone could have hoped. Dr Jane Spiro, Reader in Education and National Teaching Fellow at Oxford Brookes initiated the project in collaboration with a consultant from the Netherlands, Eowyn Crisfield, with the aim of integrating a more holistic approach to EAL teaching and learning across the whole school. The first pilot of this project is taking place at New MarstonPrimary School. It aims to move schools from a culture where only English is used, to embracing the first languages of the children at the school and appreciating more fully the challenge of learning in a second language. The project builds on the support for EAL children already in place at New Marston, including pairing of children with shared first languages, 1: 1 support for EAL children on arrival, and introductions between parents with the same language. It involves 8 training days for teachers, with ‘insider’ support from Oxford Brookes MA student and New Marston teacher Shahinaz El-Ahgoury. An exciting initiative emerging from this collaboration, was a session for parents, organised with the help of teachers, governors and Brookes MA TESOL students, and translated into 10 languages. The event aimed to share with parents ways of developing both mother tongue and English language concurrently. This event was a big success, with parents of children speaking Spanish, Turkish, Polish, Arabic, Nepali, Italian and Greek participating. Following this success Dr Sara Hannam, governor lead for literacy at the school and International Partnership Development Manager in the Faculty of Business at Oxford Brookes, organised an International Storytelling day to promote the diversity of New Marston language communities and to offer a chance to talk about celebrations alongside Christmas. Volunteers comprising parents and friends of New Marston and students from both Oxford Brookes and OxfordUniversity told stories in their first language. A huge range of languages were spoken including Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Arabic, Greek, French, Urdu, Polish and Nepalese. New Marston teachers and governors will be building this multiple language storytelling into the school day, and Brookes MA TESOL students are being engaged as EAL supporters and storytellers, along with other volunteers from the parent and wider community. The impact of the training days with teachers is moving quickly and it is hoped that it will be cascaded out to other primary and secondary schools in 2014. " Our annual Christmas Fair is a very popular event, not only for the families that attend the school but for our whole school community. We are very lucky at New Marston to have a rich diversity of languages spoken and we make sure that our community events reflect this.” Zara d’Archambaud, Head, New Marston Primary School "To see so many of our international students enjoying stories in their own languages within their school setting was fantastic to watch and really brought to life the importance of providing spaces for those languages to be visible and cherished across the school community and beyond ” Dr Sara Hannam, governor lead for literacy at new Marston Primary School and International Partnership Development Manager at the Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University " The international storytelling day gave us several exciting insights: children were fascinated by the storytelling whether or not it was in a language they understood.  Also teachers have reported that children becoming more confident using their mother tongue, seem to become more confident using English too.  It was also inspiring to see the parents given prime position in their first languages. This event has quickly established a virtuous circle in which children and adults are learning from one another, developing their enjoyment both of storytelling and story listening.  We hope it is the start of many such events, both inside and outside the mainstream school day.” Dr Jane Spiro, Reader in Education and National Teaching Fellow, OxfordBrookesUniversity