Our Approach to Improving Outcomes for Romanian Pupils

Amanda Hazeldine is Assistant Head for Inclusion at Hifields Junior and Infants School in Birmingham. In this post she describes her school’s approach to supporting newly arrived Romanian children and their families, and the measures in place to support teachers in meeting the needs of this demographic group.

Amanda Hazeldine Headshot

Amanda Hazeldine

In the two years that I have been assistant head responsible for inclusion at Highfield Junior and Infant school the number of Romanian children joining our school has increased steadily. Many of the children arrive with no English and little previous schooling. Through analysis of data and book monitoring, it became evident that Romanian pupils were not performing as well academically as other pupil groups in our school, nor were they making progress in line with other pupils. Therefore, this year we placed a high priority on addressing this performance gap, and have made it a target on our School Development Plan. As well as focusing on addressing the academic aspect to our Romanian children’s school experience, it was important for us to improve support for our Romanian families and support the wellbeing of our newly arrived pupils. We identified five areas for development, and put in place strategies address each of the areas described below.

Attendance and parental engagement. This has been achieved through employing a Romanian speaking member of staff to support with home visits, attendance at workshops, and for close monitoring of individual children. The assistant is always in the playground before and after school to meet and greet parents and answer any questions that they may have. He has formed excellent relationships with the community. In addition, our inclusion team have led learning and English language workshops. The workshops have focused on providing guidance to parents on supporting their children with English at home, phonics and numeracy.

Improvements to the induction process. When they join the school, EAL pupils are allocated a buddy who speaks the same language as them. These buddies show the children and families around the school and meet with the child every week for circle time activities. This weekly meeting gives children the opportunity to discuss how they are settling in, to raise any concerns, and to report on things that are going well. Once a term, there is a celebration event such as a picnic or craft afternoon. Feedback from parents and children has been very positive about this process. A small number of pupils who have not been to school before can find settling into a class more difficult than other children. In these cases, children are supported in class by a member of the inclusion team or they are supported by a learning mentor.

Intensive English classes on arrival. Pupils work with a Romanian speaking teaching assistant daily for one hour for a period of six weeks to develop their English. We have developed our own scheme which places a high emphasis on practical and speaking and listening activities. Pupils start by learning simple greetings and phrases that enable them to make their needs known in the classroom. We then move on to topics such as colours and items of clothing. We give each pupil a picture keyring, which they use in the classroom so they can ask for things that they may need. The teaching assistant ensures that teachers know what the children are working on, and he provides follow-up activities for consolidation of their English learning in the classroom. After the six weeks, they continue with intervention sessions once or twice a week, depending on their progress.

Emphasis is placed on practical activities to develop English

Improved assessments and tracking. We use a detailed assessment to determine baseline proficiency as soon as children arrive at school. The learning assessment focusses on phonics, understanding of number, and writing. The language assessment demonstrates how well children are able to name objects and understand instructions or find objects in a picture. We also use an audit continuum tool recommended by Pupil and School support. This assessment is then used to group the children for their intensive English classes. We analyse data from the continuum and our DataApp four times per year, which allows us to identify children who are not making expected progress in their curriculum learning or in English language, and to put interventions in place to help address these.

Support for teachers with planning. Obviously, pupils make the best progress when they are fully engaged in classroom activities. We found that some teachers, particularly in key stage two, were not very confident with regards to teaching children with no prior schooling so we developed a progressive sequence of learning for reading and writing for newly arrived children. Senior Leaders have provided teacher support with planning and have completed regular learning walks with a focus on this group of pupils. Literacy is based on the books that other children are studying and visual techniques are often used.

We believe that outcomes for our Romanian pupils have improved greatly by focusing on improvements in the areas above.

Has your school developed a programme for new arrivals like Hifields has? We’d love to hear about it. If you have a story to share, check out our ‘Write for Us‘ page and get in touch – Ed.


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