Politics Of Brexit Hitting Schools

26/09/2016 16:42

Following the EU referendum, the schools are caught up with the politics of Bexit by the implications of school census, immigration, migration and English as an Additional Language (EAL).

Many schools have started collecting data on pupils' country of birth, nationality and level of English proficiency through the school census in line with the national population census, to fulfil the Department for Education requirement.

"The information will be used to help the DfE better understand how children with, for example, English as an additional language, perform in terms of broader learning" informs DfE.

At present, schools record if a pupil speaks EAL or not, worked out on the basis of the language spoken at home rather than pupil's acquisition of the English language - the information is usually gathered through the admission process where parents are asked "what language is spoken at home" rather than 'what is the child's first language'.

From September, schools will not only need to collect information about pupils 'country of birth' and the 'nationality' but also to assess each EAL pupil's "proficiency level", using a new five-point scale, which ranges from A at the bottom and E at the top (why not to use the National Curriculum levels for such assessment?). This will be passed to the government for analysis.

Each pupil will receive just one grade for their EAL level, combining their reading, written and spoken language proficiency.

Schools do not need to obtain parental or pupil consent to the provision of information.

The schools are not really trained or resourced to carry out this extensive work or to cope with the changes to their assessment system.

Many feel that following Brexit, the government seemingly wants to highlight that there are not enough school places and there is increased demand on the school resources because a lot of foreigners live in the UK, to deflect from the fact that the state schools are not well resourced to start with.

Who knows how else the new school census data would be used.

The additional school census requirement that seems to have more political than education objective, takes us back to 1960s where a problematic view of immigrants was legalised by the Local Government Act of 1966, stating a negative definition "immigration is the great social problem of this century and of the next" (HANSARD: 1966/67:Volume 29 p1308).

Such politicising resulted in Section 11 of the Local Government Act of 1966 to provide funding to the authorities as a response to the perceived impact of immigration on education which remained controversial through its life, partly because of limited educational validity as the funding was coming from the home office, a controlling body, rather than the education department, and partly because of the misuse of the funding because of whatever was built on a problematic base was going to be problematic.

The education supreme, the Department of Education and Science at the time, reinforced what the politicians were saying and argued for English as a Second Language (ESL) "to provide the key to ..... cultural and social assimilation" (Working Paper 13).

The uproar about tagging immigrant children as a ESL group, led to softening the term to English as an Additional Language (EAL) without changing the premise that was argued to provide help and support for pupils who are learning English as an additional language and have gaps in their command of the English language.

This resulted in an EAL culture because the language is power and words create structures.

The EAL led to arrangements like outside classroom language activities during the curriculum time, use of EAL rather than National Curriculum levels to assess English language attainment and identifying EAL pupils as a sort of cultural group (irrespective of their command of the English language), setting a culture of low expectations.

It is very concerning that the politics of immigration and language is hitting our schools once again.