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Second language students disadvantaged by cuts to class size

Media Release

Second language students disadvantaged by cuts to class sizes

May 24 2012

The professional organisation representing teachers of English to speakers of other languages in New Zealand, TESOLANZ, is concerned that new government policy to increase class sizes will have a negative impact on both teaching and learning.

TESOLANZ President Dr Hilary Smith says when schools have to cut back on staff, ESOL specialists are often the first to go because they have smaller classes.

She says English language students, i.e.: migrant students, students from refugee backgrounds, and international students are then likely to be inappropriately placed in mainstream classes before they have sufficient English to cope.

Dr Smith says although students who are not coping may receive support from Teacher Aides, some of whom have ESOL training, many do not and so “struggling students” are left without specialist help.

“In primary schools, these students may then fall to (non-teaching) deputy principals or assistant principals who will have to pick up on the roles previously carried out by specialist teachers.”

Dr Smith says in secondary schools, the issues is often resolved be establishing “inappropriate multi-level English language classes where 11 year olds are placed in the same class as Year 13 students (age 17 -19).

“Increases in class sizes also mean that the teachers have less time to provide explicit language support for individual students, who then have difficulty making enough progress to close the gap and achieve at the level of their peers.”

“If we want students to reach national standards then it is important that English language learners get trained specialist teaching to get them up to the level of the other children of the same age.”

“Until all teachers in New Zealand schools have the necessary skills and strategies to teach children who speak English as another language, TESOLANZ believes. students will be held back by being in mainstream classes without specialist support.”


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