Recently I attended a roundtable discussion at the Scottish Parliament on “Getting it right for the immigrant child” hosted by the Scottish Child Law Centre. There were some wonderful speakers including Amal Azzudin one of the “Glasgow Girls”. Amal and her family came to Glasgow from Somalia and she and her friends lead a campaign against the deportation against the deportation of refused asylum seekers. The Glasgow Girls were central in ending the detention of children in Scotland (previously whole families would be held in detention centres before being sent back to their home) and ending the dawn raids on asylum seekers. For more about the Glasgow Girls go to https://vimeo.com/47646327
Amal spoke passionately about the difference that her bilingual support (now called English as an Additional Language) teacher -Mr Girvan. It was Mr Girvan who supported the newly arrived asylum seeker children, helping them to develop their English and adjust to their new homes. Across Scotland we have met some fantastic EAL teachers- they are often the first point of contact with school for families who are new to Scotland and work with the whole family to support the child’s learning and adjusting to the Scottish education system. EAL teachers are also really important in providing training and support for teachers with children who are learning English- helping teachers to understand the child’s experience, set appropriate work and be sensitive about areas that children may struggle with. For example children learning English may struggle with maths problems that have a lot of writing- they are capable of doing the maths problem but find it difficult to understand what is being asked of them through all the words.
Sadly EAL services are being affected by the cuts that all local authorities are making in funding- in some areas staff are leaving and not being replaced and recently in Glasgow 15 EAL teachers were made redundant. This is at a time when the numbers of children needing EAL support are increasing and the cuts will have a direct impact on them. Glasgow has one of the largest EAL departments with over 50 teachers, with several schools having a dedicated EAL teacher. This has enabled the EAL teachers to look beyond supporting the child to how they can help the family to support their child in their learning. There are learning clubs, helping parents understand how their children are being taught and giving them ideas of games and activities they can do with their children to help support their education. Loosing 15 teachers will impact on the EAL services ability to continue with these activities and the wonderful work that schools have been doing to get families new to Scotland to become involved in the school and their children’s education.
Amal said that Mr Girvan was her hero and helped her to settle into life in Scotland. We know that there are heroes working in EAL across Scotland and are concerned that these services are being reduced and the impact that it will have on new families who don’t have access to the support that welcomed Amal when she arrived in Glasgow.