Thursday, March 27, 2014

English taught as a foreign language at a school in Leeds

British school teaches English as a foreign language to all pupils because there are more than 50 nationalities at the community secondary

A comprehensive school where native English speakers are in a minority is to start teaching English as a foreign language to all of its pupils.

Teachers at City of Leeds School, a multi-ethnic secondary plan to teach English as a second language even to its British-born pupils in a radical attempt to improve standards at the 314-pupil secondary judged to 'require improvement' by Ofsted.

Head teacher Georgiana Sale said the school was having to “rethink the way we do things” because less than a quarter of pupils have English as their first language and the majority of the children were new to the country within the past four years.

She said it had been decided to include pupils who have English as a first language in this programme because in the “vast majority” of cases their level of formal English was not good enough to allow them to achieve top grades at GCSE.

Last year, just over a quarter of its pupils achieve the national benchmark of five good GCSEs, including English and maths – one of the lowest scores of any state school in Yorkshire.

However Ms Sale it was unfair to expect the school to reach national averages in English when so many pupils were new to the language. She said it did achieve national targets in both science and maths despite the language barrier being faced by students.

Pupils of Pakistani heritage make up the largest group at City of Leeds School, where 55 different nationalities are represented by the student body, and there are also large numbers of children from Czech, Roma and Traveller backgrounds.

There are also pupils from nations across Africa, Europe, China, and parts of the Middle East and Africa.

She told the Yorkshire Post: “Many of our pupils are not only new to English but they are not even literate in their own language. In some cases we are the first people to put a pen in their hand.”

Ms Sale said that ensuring children could all speak, read and write English was crucial. “Around half of our children are new to the country within four years.

“It is generally thought it takes five years to properly learn a language and that is when you have total immersion it. A lot of our children don’t have that because it is not being spoken at home.

“Imagine being given a few years and then being expected to get a good grade in GCSE geography but having to sit the exam in French – that is what we are dealing with.”

The school is developing the lessons plans itself and the programme is thought to be the first of its kind in the country.

Leeds Metropolitan University and Sheffield University are helping the school to train staff. The lessons would be done in stages not ages, with pupils split into groups based on their ability.

The plan is to introduce them later this year with 50 minutes a week spent teaching very pupil English as an additional language.

Ms Sale said that for pupils with English as a first language the extra lessons would be seen as a way improving the spelling and grammar.

She added: “The demands on the formality of language and the standards of spelling and grammar in GCSE exams are getting higher and higher. The level of language written and talked by the vast majority of our native English speakers would not be high enough to get A grades.”

“I am taking this approach because I have high numbers of children with English as an additional language and secondly Michael Gove has put a lot more emphasis on the quality of written English with specific marks in examinations attributed to spelling, punctuation and grammar.

“I have a complete range of language ability – everything from 15-year-olds who don’t speak a word to those born in the UK whose English is not of sufficient calibre to get them an A and A* grade.

“It won’t be taught like you or I learned French. It’s going to be differentiated according to what they need and a lot of my children need to be taught English as a language.

“We have children from every African country, every European country, and just about anywhere ending in –stan.

“There interesting thing is it has mainly been done for adults but hasn’t been tackled head-on for children. They are given an induction course and then left to pick up the language naturally but that isn’t good enough for me. Leeds is a happening place and I want my kids to join the boom and not be held back by their English.”

“Mr Gove said he wants exams to be written with good spelling, grammar etc and I am very ambitious for all my pupils. Parents want their children to do well and get the top grade. We are hopefully going to become an academy and this initiative is part of that bid.”

In November the Education Secretary, insisted that English courses should encourage students to read “high-quality texts across a range of genres and periods”, making sure they can “read, write and think critically”.

The DfE published new syllabuses in the core GCSE subjects – English literature, English language and mathematics.

The reformed language course places a greater emphasis on using Standard English and employing correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, while the maths GCSE requires pupils to learn formulae by heart – scrapping the existing system in which they are presented with key facts in the exam paper.

New courses will be taught in schools from 2015, with the first exams being sat in 2017. The content of other GCSE subjects will be released in the new year.

Mr Gove said: “I have prioritised English and mathematics because they are both fundamental to facilitating learning in other subjects.

“[International] evidence demonstrates that 15-year-olds in nine other countries are, on average, at least half a year ahead of students in England in both reading and mathematics. Reform of these key subjects is, therefore, a matter of pressing urgency.”


Texas Middle School Principal Loses Job Over Language Issue—Part Of A Much Larger Problem

Texas Middle School Principal Amy Lacey had her heart in the right place, and she had courage - but she was fighting against a tidal wave, a part of a much bigger problem:

The Hempstead school board won't renew the contract of a principal who instructed her students not to speak Spanish, in a rapidly-evolving district where more than half of the students, like many Texas schools, are now Hispanic.

Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey was placed on paid administrative leave in December after reportedly announcing, via intercom, that students were not to speak Spanish on the school's campus. The Hispanic population of the rural area, roughly 50 miles northwest of Houston, is growing quickly, and Latino advocates say that it's important to allow Spanish in public schools.

I don't know all the ins and outs of this case, and the article is certainly not telling us. Maybe Principal Lacey's solution was not the best solution, but it may have been an act of desperation in a school overwhelmed by Spanish-speaking students. One solution may have been to have an English-only policy in the classroom, and let them speak what they want in their free time. Nowadays, though, even that could get you in trouble.

I know of a private school in Mexico which was so determined that its gradeschool students learn English that its rule was that the students had to speak English even on the playground.

Of course in this case, Hispanic Chauvinist Activists were out in full force:

"When you start banning aspects of ethnicity or cultural identity," says Augustin Pinedo, director of the League of United Latin American Citizens Region 18, "it sends the message that the child is not wanted: 'We don't want your color. We don't want your kind.' They then tend to drop out early."

The LULAC organization used to promote assimilation by Hispanic immigrants. Those days are long gone.

Such fast growth is pervasive in Texas, says Steve Murdock, a professor at Rice University and director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas. Half of all Texas public-school students are now Hispanic, he notes. "When you look at issues related to education in Texas, to a great extent, you're looking at the education of Hispanic children."

How long until Texas turns blue?

Similar growth patterns, he says, hold true for the rest of the United States: "It's not just Texas."

The whole country is being Hispanicized. It's not just Texas and it's not just the Southwest.

Civil rights advocates say Lacey's suspension may have set off a campaign to intimidate Hispanics, including the district's superintendent, Delma Flores-Smith. They are calling for the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate possible civil rights violations. An FBI spokesman would not confirm an investigation.

Look at the harassing, bullying mentality - all because a school principal tried to get students speaking the national language of this country.

Flores-Smith reports that she's seen strangers watching her house and taking photos. She says vandals have trashed her yard, and someone has rifled through her garbage. She is worried about her safety.

Last month, school employees found that vandals had damaged the brakes of three Hempstead Independent School District buses and had left behind the bedraggled remains of a dead cat.

So what connection do these things have with Principal Lacey's school language policy? No clear connection whatsoever.

A bus with visibly severed brake lines didn't leave the bus barn that morning. But two other buses, whose air-brake lines had been subtly nicked, carried children to school before the damage was discovered. Police investigated but didn't identify any suspects.
So it's irresponsible to link it to the school language policy.

"A lot of this sounds like Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s," Pinedo said during Monday night's school board meeting, where the decision was made not to renew Lacey's contract.

Oh yes, the old saw of linking immigration issues with "Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s." Haven't we heard enough of that?

Pinedo acknowledged that there's no hard evidence that the incidents are related or that they're hate crimes.

Even this agitator admits it. Of course, it doesn't stop his agitation.  "But when the lives of children are put in danger, that's the bottom line," he said. "We don't know what the reasons are. Rather than guess, we're asking the FBI to step in."

He said LULAC and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund have asked the Department of Justice to investigate possible civil rights violations.

"The whole world is watching," said Tony Diaz, head of the Houston-based radio show Nuestra Palabra and founder of the advocacy group Librotraficantes. "Banning Spanish is a national issue."  Having English as our official language should be a national issue.

"We got a lot of calls about activity in Hempstead," said Cynthia Coles, who represented the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice. "We came to support this board, this superintendent."

They also note that there's no evidence that speaking Spanish hampers learning English, and note that in most of the rest of the world, it's common to speak two or more languages.
She's bringing up other issues here, which are not directly relevant to the situation.

At the school district's board meeting in January, Pinedo read a list of American Founding Fathers who spoke multiple languages. They included Benjamin Franklin (French) and Thomas Jefferson (French, Italian, Spanish and Latin).

Neither Franklin nor Jefferson, however, were pushing foreign languages to take the place of English in the Thirteen Colonies/independent United States.

...Lacey said the terms of her leave don't allow her to comment.
So she can't defend herself.

Outside the board meeting, Kloecker [a former school board member] said that the problem was Flores-Smith, not issues of culture or race.

"We've been a predominantly Hispanic district for several years now," she said. "But we never had a problem until she came." Flores-Smith started the job in August.

After the vote, Flores-Smith expressed satisfaction. "I'm hoping everything will die down now," she said. "We need to get back to peaceful living. And education."


SC: Nazi-type teacher tries to take salt away from student

A York high school student was arrested after cursing and threatening a teacher who tried to stop him from putting salt on his lunch, citing a federal regulation.

The incident happened March 12 at York One Academy, the district’s alternative school. A York police report states the 19-year-old student tried to sprinkle salt on his lunch but was stopped by a teacher who told him that was against federal guidelines. The student became angry and cursed the teacher and made threats towards her, according to the report.

“Nobody can tell me what to put on my (expletive) food,” the student said, according to the report. “You know what happens to people who mess with me.”

A school resource officer arrested the student and charged him with disturbing school.


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