Two year cap on teaching of English must be removed - Crowe
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has called for an end to the two year cap on English language teaching support for newcomer children. Deputy Crowe also outlined a number of other proposals in the area, including reform of the teacher training programme to include English as a Second Language (ESL) and ending the temporary status of language support teachers.
The Dublin South-West TD said: "I obviously welcome the provision of 200 extra language support teachers announced in the 2007 Estimates. The system of English language provision must be reformed in conjunction with this increase. Ireland is now a multicultural society and this has thrown up new challenges in our education system.
"Sinn Féin warmly embraces this new diverse Ireland and is anxious to ensure that no child gets left behind. At the moment there are up to 60 per cent of foreign national students at secondary level who are estimated to have severe language difficulties, with some schools having over forty different nationalities.
"Adequate English language provision must be provided to children who require assistance. Currently students who come to an Irish school from a non-English speaking background are entitled to a maximum of two years of English language tuition. This system should be reformed as some students may only require six months tuition while others could require more than the two years. Students should be assessed on a case by case basis and the two year cap should be removed.
"I am also calling on the Minister for Education to review the standard three year training programme for teachers as it includes no English as a Second Language (ESL) training. While in other countries teachers get specialist degrees in ESL, in this state teachers are given one-day's training which is wholly inadequate.
"In addition language support teachers are still hired on a temporary basis only, providing no real incentive to obtain proper training. Increasing the number of language support teachers alone is not the solution; it needs to be complemented with a range of reforms.
"The Government also needs to take note that approximately 40 per cent of foreign national parents have little or no English, preventing them from fully participating in their children's education. The Government should devise a strategy in this area to increase parental involvement in their child's education. At present the educational needs of such children and parents are not being adequately met. The present system needs reform to ensure it is fair for both native and newcomer children alike."