UWE offers support to teachers of bilingual children

Issue date: 18 January 2011

Experts from the University of the West of England are offering a free training day for teachers who work with bilingual children some of whom may have speech, language and communication difficulties.

The professional development day, on 26 January, is part of a UWE project bringing together specialists in linguistics, speech and language therapy and primary education. The project, called Vocabuild, is aimed at helping the vocabulary development of bilingual children, children with English as an additional language and children with Speech and Language Communication Needs (SLCN).

As part of the project, the team has carried out a training needs analysis of teachers in primary schools and complementary schools (which offer teaching in and support for the children's first languages), and speech and language therapists (SLTs) in this region, to find out the support they need to help young bilingual children as they develop their knowledge and use of vocabulary.

This is the second of two development days and is aimed at primary school teachers, school-home support workers, teachers in complementary schools and speech and language therapists in the South West of England, focusing on their immediate training and capacity development needs.

The day will cover topics such as:
•How to assess and intervene with bilingual children with speech, language and communication needs
•The impact of the acquisition of English speech sounds in multilingual people
•The role of complementary schools
•Good practice in supporting bilingual children in schools

The project is also aimed at developing strong partnerships between the different participating groups and hopes to come up with recommendations to help bilingual children at schools throughout the UK.

In 2004, 10% of the maintained primary school population in England was classified as having English as an additional language (EAL) and 18% was classified as belonging to an ethnic minority (Df ES; Literacy Trust, 2005). Since 1997, the number of EAL pupils has increased by 35%. Many teachers and speech and language therapists have developed excellent ways to help children develop their language skills, but good practice needs to be shared across practitioners. The events are aimed at providing opportunities for experts from different fields and professional practice contexts to meet and exchange views about the best ways forward.

The project team is led by Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller of UWE's Department of English, Linguistics and Communication. Members of the team are Dr Jane Andrews from UWE's Department of Education; Geraldine Bates, a speech and language therapist at the Bristol NHS Trust (research assistant on the project); Sue Hughes (UWE's Dept of Education) and Professor Sue Roulstone, Director of the Speech and Language Therapy Unit at Frenchay Hospital.

Feedback from the previous event was extremely positive. One participant said, “It confirmed a lot of hunches I had about the importance of vocabulary and long thought that we need more collaboration between teachers and SLTs.”

Other comments included, “Useful to meet with a range of specialists from other schools. Speakers clear and informative,” and “Lots of food for thought.”

As part of the project, UWE has done an online survey about key issues in vocabulary development of bilingual children and children with SLCN. The survey gathered the views of a wide range of professionals in Education, Health and Social Care including teachers, Speech and Language Therapists, EMAS workers, bilingual co-worker, Inclusion Support Workers, Special Needs Co-ordinators and other practitioners in the field. The survey results will be published in the journal Speech and Language Therapy in Practice.

One of the key recommendations of the survey was that vocabulary is one of the areas that bilingual children need to develop considerably in order to be successful at school. Teachers and Speech and Language Therapists urgently need new tools, materials and techniques for teaching and assessing vocabulary. More co-operation between linguists, educationalists, teachers and speech and language therapists is needed to develop these.

For more information visit the Vocabuild project

FFI: Jane Kelly or Mary Price, Press Officers


Tel: 0117 32 82208

E-mail: Jane.Kelly@uwe.ac.ukor Mary.Price@uwe.ac.uk

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