This is an update to yesterday’s article Did someone mention education funding?
I received another call today from the woman I had spoken to earlier in the week, let’s call her Ms J, who is helping us sort out the issue. Another long conversation, which I will try to summarise.
Basically, it appears we may have not been assessed correctly in June 2011. How did that happen? My GUESS is a couple of things. Firstly, like Miss O 1 not being able to do ESL as her English VCE subject based on “computer says no” (i.e. computer says Nigeria is an English speaking country, end of story), the assessors probably did the same thing. The two younger ones weren’t assessed at all, and it seems the people looking at Miss O 2′s English skills now believe that both the younger ones should have been assessed and NOT put in mainstream schools, but sent for intensive English classes. I am assuming the older two probably should have been as well. Secondly, lack of funding would have been an issue. More specific testing takes more time, more resources. That requires funding.
The access to the intensive English classes is only available for a period of time after arrival, technically the kids have now missed out and even if they hadn’t it would mean removing Miss O 2 from school for six months and placing her in classes in another (distant) suburb. The logistics of this would be impossible, as we would not be able to get here there and collect her as well as go to work ourselves. She is way too young to travel that distance by herself.
Ms J has been wonderful and is doing the best she can to find support avenues. Miss J is also organising for the high school to be brought into the loop in relation to the older children and has made some suggestions about actions we may be able to take to help Miss O 1 through her Year 12 exams.
Ms J also told me the schools our kids are at do not have a high ESL population, therefore they do not have the specialist assessment skills. We are lucky Miss O 2′s teacher this year has raised the issue so we can get whatever assistance there is available.
The children may have been better off had they spoken no English at all, because there would have been a clear pathway to take on arrival. It seems because they came from an officially English-speaking country, assumptions may have been made. As I have no teaching training and certainly no training re assessing language development in ESL situations, I was ill-equipped to determine there really was an issue. I was depending on the schools to make such assessments. Then we are not in an area with a high number of ESL students, therefore the skills weren’t necessarily in the school either. I understand that – not much point in employing a great ESL teacher if the demand for such skills is low in the particular environment.
Ms J gave me some indicative lead times to become socially competent and academically competent at English, but this is “starting from scratch” which of course our kids aren’t really. Ms J wasn’t 100% sure she was quoting the correct numbers of years (ESL isn’t her speciality either), but as an indication it takes between 3 to 5 years to become socially competent and 5 to 7 years to become academically competent in English. This is good information as it helps Mr O and I to understand that neither the kids nor he are going to become Wordsworth overnight.
Where we will go from here I am not exactly sure yet, but at least I now understand that it seems we “fell through the cracks” in June 2011. There is no point in crying over spilt milk, we can’t undo the situation. All we can do is try to improve things from here on in.
Mr O Jnr 2 was doing his Lexia tonight and I can see the sounds are an issue. He has difficulty distinguishing between “sh” and “ch” and the “cl” sound is completely foreign to him. Clearly, if a person can’t recognise the sounds, very difficult to understand the words! It will be could to see how fast the Lexia program will help him.
I just can’t help this feeling we lost nearly two years. So sad.
- English Language Learners funding change could hit Calgary schools hard (metronews.ca)
- Teaching ESL with an Accent (dustinfrenchforum.wordpress.com)