Schools and teachers, in my belief, act as “in loco parentis”, which means that they take over all the responsibility of the child as a parent. Under The Children Act (1989) and The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), teachers have a duty of care towards their pupils. Although, this does not bind them to have parental responsibility, teachers are expected to promote the welfare and wellbeing of children in their care as any responsible parent would do. In doing so, a teacher ought to be aware of the holistic needs of every child. This does not only include academic needs but physical, mental, social and emotional aspect as well. Ideally, the aim to meet these requirements should be reflected through the schools polices and the adaptability towards different approaches throughout the school.
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Before analysing my subject in detail, I would like to explore my subject in context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs starting from physiological as the basic requirement building gradually to the psychological elements of concerns. (Maslow, A. 1987) Many schools, according to the demand of the children, provide extended school provisions such as breakfast clubs to meet basic physiological needs. Moreover, as statutory framework for EYFS (2012) emphasises on the provision of healthy meals, snacks and drinks as necessary and fresh drinking water being available and accessible at all times. The psychological aspect covers mainly the mental, emotional and social needs. These are generally met according to the criteria set by different schools i.e. their policies and approaches. Its effectiveness however, depends on the implementation of these approaches throughout the school, within the classroom and towards an individual child. As it is not possible to cover all these aspects of concern, my focus in this essay would be on social needs of an EAL child in a classroom. In order to evaluate my subject, I will be using examples from my previous school experiences in school B. Being larger than an average primary school; every year a reasonable number of children join school B with no exposure to English. Looking into the school policies and approaches; I will explore its relation to the classroom environment and its impact on that particular child. My aim will be to produce an evaluation based on evidence and critical analysis of effectiveness of school’s policies with supporting evidence throughout.
As school B’s policies (appendix 1) strongly advocate the idea of individuality and being inclusive, hence providing a social friendly environment for its pupils. Their mission statement, ‘every piece of puzzle is needed to complete the whole picture’ and ‘celebrating success together’ is a true representation of their policies. (School website, online) Many of these policies are highly influenced by government documents such as, Working Together to Safeguard Children (DfES 2006) and Bradford Safeguarding Children Board Procedures (2007) as mentioned in their policies (appendix 2). In addition, various national initiatives have been taken into consideration along with these policies, which has moulded the ideology of the school B. A very recent example of which is the Every Child Matters (DfES 2003) initiative which focuses on the basic individual needs of children. Although, ECM is not a legal requirement for schools anymore, its principles are still deeply embedded in the school in the form of a program ‘Every Child Counts’.
The key areas that ECM covered were generally about safety, integrating locally, regionally and nationally and to be able to make a positive contribution in society. Other than that, Pugh, G. (2006) highlighted that there was a stronger focus on parenting and families as a part of an ECM factor that enabled many schools to develop connection between the school and the community. Considering these elements, school B established strong terms with the parents by encouraging their participation in school activities. This was done by inviting them in school assemblies and other celebrations throughout the year. Having this ‘open door’ policy, parents/carers and local agencies were welcomed to visit the school at all times. This interaction not only helped school to identify individual needs but also helped parents/carers to develop a healthy relationship between the school, teachers and the pupils. I believe that this relationship plays a vital role in the children’s development as a whole. Pollard (2005), on the other hand, perceives an even deeper meaning to this relationship.
This perspective on parents/carers is one that views them as partners with teachers in their children’s development, with parents/carers and teachers in regular contact. (Pollard, A. 2005)
Apart from that, the social and emotional aspect of learning known as SEAL is one of the most emphasised programs in school B. This program is a whole school approach to promote effective learning and positive behaviour by supporting social and emotional skills of individuals (DfES 2005). The competences of SEAL has not only shaped the general ethos and environment of the school, but is also deeply embedded in the teaching of these skills within the classroom. This is done by implicating its elements into the curriculum especially through PSHCE, where these needs are addressed in a more assertive manner. Although, PSHCE is not statutory, it is still a very integral part of the curriculum, which reflects the ideology of school B towards social and emotional wellbeing of every child.
As school B signifies the importance of inclusion, the general feel of the school is very welcoming to the EAL pupil and parents. School’s motto, greetings and instructions throughout the school are translated into different languages to create a socially friendly environment. To meet the needs of EAL pupils academically, school B has assigned a language support team which not only provide these children with extra guidance throughout the curriculum but also equip them with the a basic tool of language to socialize.
However, the success of these policies depends on the teacher to adapt them according to the needs of children and to develop a well structured approach to address them appropriately. In doing so, the teacher in classroom 1 of school B, emphasises on being inclusive and active participation of every child in the classroom. In order to do that the teacher has adopted various methodologies to meet the social needs of the classroom in general. Basic socializing skills like listening, speaking, empathising and collaborating with other pupils are encouraged at all times within the classroom. By making children talk in pairs during the lesson, making small groups to carry out various tasks and through introducing purposeful games within the lesson, these skills are embedded in their daily routine. In realizing the need to develop social skills amongst pupils, the teacher in classroom 1, encourages discussions and expression of ideas in every form. She organizes activities around the curriculum such as role play and drama. This in turn, encourages children to share different ideas and develop them together in collaboration (Chilver, P 1982). These activities provide a platform for EAL students to express themselves openly, hence enhancing their confidence in classroom participation. On the other hand, this approach enables rest of the class to develop an understanding amongst each other which helps to remove any social barriers between them and EAL pupil. These implications in my opinion, supports children specially EAL pupils to access learning by creating a responsive environment.
Although, schools and teachers are working very hard to provide a purposeful environment for children, its effectiveness depends on how every child benefits from it. As social needs of individuals could differ remarkably from one person to another, they are addressed in a more personalized way in classroom 1. To elaborate my point, I will refer to a case of child A in this classroom, who was new to English and had joined the class in the middle of the year. Being, relatively new to the country and to the language, child X found it increasingly frustrating to participate in class activities. Seeing his discomfort, the teacher appointed a boy from a similar cultural background to accompany him in the classroom and in the playground. This technique, in my point of view, worked effectively in helping child A settle into the classroom. The fact that the child he was paired up with was from the same ethnic background, created a friendlier and more comfortable environment for child A as he was able to communicate with him conveniently. However, this should have been even more useful if the child A was later on paired up with another child with a completely different background. Having this experience could have expanded his understanding of the society, thus developing his social skills.
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Realizing that the language barrier was a hindrance in child A’s progress, he was provided with extra help from the EAL support team. As a part of his daily routine, child A was sent out of the classroom for the language sessions with the support teacher during the English and phonics lessons. As this approach was introduced to enhance his language development, in doing so it excluded him from the learning environment and the overall classroom experience. To my understanding the school policies in this case, did help to recognize the specific requirement of child X and provided him with an exclusive support to meet his needs. On the other hand, it also took away the opportunities to experience an inclusive learning environment which I believe is a basic right of every child. Although, I do take into consideration the point of view that this practice was essential for child X to provide him with the basic understanding of the language. However, similar sort of support could be provided within the classroom by differentiation and one to one guidance.
To provide an inclusive learning environment, other lessons were adapted by providing extra visual aids to encourage child A’s classroom participation. The activities were differentiated throughout the lessons for child A by encouraging the use of ICT to help develop his listening, speaking and reading skills. Provision of an adult support in the classroom, assisted him throughout the lessons to improve his understanding. As the school policy emphasises on adaptation of SEAL, its implications could be seen during the PSHCE lessons in classroom 1. Part of the lesson was incorporated into a whole class activity to encourage social interaction. Even though, execution of the lesson was very effective in addressing the social needs in classroom, in my opinion it did not attend to the requirements of child A.
Looking into school B’s policies mentioned above, it could be seen that many are heavily influenced by the government. Basic school policies such as health and safety and child protection are legal requirements for every school to provide. Other than that the national initiatives such as ECM, in my belief plays a very vital role in identifying individual needs and to address them effectively. As it is seen that the principles of ECM initiative are deeply rooted in school B’s policies and is reflected through the provision of interventions throughout the school. As looking specifically into the social needs of EAL, I discussed earlier about the introduction of language support group within the classroom. The purpose of these interventions is to target the specific needs of every child hence, following the ECM agenda. I believe that a particular need of child X was addressed through the intervention; however, in doing so it failed to address his needs holistically.
It is seen that the interpretation of school policies is well conducted in the classroom B through the class rules, general environment and discipline. Katherine Weare (2000) in her point of view explains the implication of school policies in an affective way.
Social and affective education need to be tackled in a way that suits the nature and ethos of each individual school, and be adapted by individual teachers to fit their own style of working. (Weare K. 2000, pg.36)
A similar, outcome is extracted from the above study which insinuates that meeting the holistic needs of a particular child depends on how the teacher implicates her ideology into practice. In my opinion, school B’s policies did influence the general understanding of the teacher in classroom 1. However, it was the teacher rather than the school policies, who contributed the most towards meeting the holistic needs of child A. By looking into my past experiences through this essay, it has made me realize that more than school policies; it is the teacher’s beliefs that make a difference in a child’s life.
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