Increasing English lessons for Newcomer Students would help integration in schools

While at the Order of Business yesterday, I made some points regarding teaching resources available for newcomer students in this country, after hearing about the latest report from the ASTI.

“We have had debates on integration and the Minister of State came to the House for an interesting preliminary debate on integration. However, it is time we moved away from speeches, from essentially theorising about what integration is and from discussing the experiences of other countries and so on, and considered practical measures which could be taken by the Government to ensure a higher degree of integration in respect of students and young people, particularly in our education system.

A timely statement was made by the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland. It pointed out that at the very heart of any integration policy must be language support in schools. It correctly criticised the Department for failing to properly resource the teaching of English to young students in schools to help counter racism which, of course, is a much more complex question. However, nothing is more important than language and the teaching of language. It pointed out that newcomer students get two hours of English lessons per week. Notwithstanding that they get two hours of English lessons per week, they must spend the rest of the day struggling to understand what teachers are saying in science class and elsewhere. This statement came from teachers involved in schools and who know what they are talking about.It is entirely inadequate that the teachers who provide these lessons get only one day’s training. We do not have adequate provision of English language teaching in our schools. Far more work needs to be done in that regard and we need more resources. Let us have another debate on integration but not at a theoretical level discussing the experiences of other countries, interesting and all as that is. It should focus on how we can practically support the teaching of English to newcomer students in our schools. “