More training required for education and health professionals to support bilingual children with additional needs
EAL experts and specialists from the field of additional needs came together yesterday to call for a greater recognition of the training needs for education and health professionals concerning bilingual children who may or may not have additional needs. Their comments came during a conference organised by NALDIC, the national subject association for EAL, in partnership with the National Centre for Language and Literacy in response to demand from teachers for support with this issue.
The conference, the second organised by NALDIC on this topic, heard from specialists from across the spectrum about the need for more training and professional development for practitioners in education and health. In the plenary debate chaired by Professor Viv Edwards, Director of NCLL, Dr Tony Cline from University College, London noted that current moves to base more initial and continuing teacher education in schools created an opportunity for organisations such as NALDIC to develop teachers' specialist knowledge in this area at the point when it becomes most important to them - for example when they are faced for the first time with a bilingual learner with Aspergers Syndrome, or a newly arrived pupil whose language development is causing them concern. Dr Cline pointed out that teachers' interest in EAL and additional needs is often ignited at precisely these points creating 'a huge motivation for deepening their professional knowledge of this issue'. Anne Margaret Smith, a specialist in language learning and specific learning differences, urged conference goers to support a petition by the British Dyslexia Association to make dyslexia a mandatory element of initial teacher training. Dr Sean Pert, a specialist speech and language therapist working with bilingual children with specific language impairments, argued for the greater understanding of bilingualism amongst health professionals and speech and language therapists. Dr Theo Marinis, Director of Research at the Department of Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, outlined a European research project which was developing sentence repetition tasks in a number of languages to assess the language abilities of bilingual learners.
Workshop presenters included: Carolyn Blackburn from the Early Childhood Research group at Birmingham City University,Alex Barrett and Emma Jackson from the Central London Community Healthcare, Amy Thompson, NALDIC's chair and a specialist in dual language approaches within mainstream education and Peta Ullmann of the Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service in Essex.
Training for EAL and additional needs - Tell us what you think
Should more training be available to education and health professionals to support bilingual children with additional needs?