Portsmouth has always had some of the best results in the country in terms of progress and attainment outcomes for pupils with English as an additional language (EAL). In part, this is due to the work of Portsmouth City Council’s Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) which offers both school and pupil level support.
At school level, EMAS advisers work closely with senior leaders to identify the needs of Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) pupils and those with EAL. They offer a comprehensive range of CPD and support for staff, centrally and in schools, and train in excess of 500 teachers, TAs and ITT students each year.
EMAS produces extensive guidance for schools on relevant themes, including a citywide assessment framework for pupils with EAL, and keeps staff up to date with current issues and resources through their monthly bulletin. Advisers also offer individual mentoring opportunities to staff and whole school improvement support through learning walks, data analysis, work scrutiny, lesson observations, curriculum audits and development planning. Advisers also support the achievement of minority ethnic groups in the city, such as our work with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities.
At pupil level, EMAS employs a large team of Bilingual Learning Assistants (BLAs) who support the twenty or more languages of the pupils most in need in the city. Focusing strongly on improving outcomes, over 650 pupils are supported each week in schools and nurseries. The BLAs also work as interpreters for families in a range of formal and informal meetings and are sometimes called upon to contribute their expertise when considering provision. In addition, every year, over 50 KS4 students are helped to gain a community language GCSE, with the BLAs carrying out the oral component of the exam for schools, and countless KS1 and 2 pupils receive help to access their SATs tests.
Advisers also support at pupil level with assessments and specialist identification of additional needs in pupils with EAL and work directly with unaccompanied refugees and asylum seekers in conjunction with the Virtual School for Looked After Children.
Further pupil support is available through the creation of bilingual resources for use in class and display materials which focus on religious, national and cultural themes. All resources are continually added to and updated and sent to schools in the autumn term each year. EMAS also has a library of dictionaries, bilingual books, clothes, artefacts and teacher resources for classroom use or study and holds the city’s SACRE resources.
Assessments offered by EMAS
What are the different assessments that we offer?
EMAS staff can support you with two different assessments. Firstly, an initial assessment which is carried out when a new pupil arrives, or as soon as possible afterwards, and, secondly, if there are any concerns about progress or thoughts that the child may also have an additional need, we can carry out a more extensive, follow-up SEN/EAL disambiguation assessment.
What is the purpose of the initial assessment?
An initial assessment is designed to give all school staff a good introduction to the young person’s educational background and abilities in both English and first language. It may also provide some details about the young person’s life, if he or she (or their parents) are happy to share these. Assessments also share strategies to support the pupil during their next few weeks and months of English language acquisition.
Most importantly, the assessment provides a baseline from which to measure and monitor progress, as well as giving teachers some support while they are getting to know the pupil for themselves. It has been deliberately designed to be shared with all of the members of staff who will be working with the pupil and is generally written so that it fits on to one side of A4 for ease of reference.
However, as there are so many new arrivals in the city (generally over 200 each year), rather than coming into schools to carry these out ourselves, we will support you to do these yourself. Typically, we will assess a new pupil with you observing, then co-produce the next one or two with you or observe you carrying one out until you are comfortable with the process. BLAs will support you with a child’s skills in their first language and support communication with parents.
What is the purpose of the SEN/EAL assessment?
Where there are concerns about a pupil’s progress or an additional need is suspected, the advisers will carry out an additional assessment, using the ‘Cognitive Assessment for Multilingual Learners’ (CAML) toolkit and/or other resources and toolkits, depending on the pupil’s age.
The outcomes of this assessment can strongly suggest specific areas of need associated with SEN but will never identify or diagnose need.
CAML screening was developed around fifteen years ago in response to the challenges teachers found in getting acknowledgment of SEN in students with EAL, as often any difficulties were dismissed as being a language issue rather than a particular need. It is extremely useful as part of a wider SEN investigation as the tasks are not dependent on the young person’s ability to understand English. We also use an interpreter wherever possible, but the tasks do not assess English language levels.
The tasks focus on skills such as auditory memory, visual memory, short term memory, working memory, literacy practices, phonological awareness and sequencing. Several of the tasks are carried out in L1 as well as English, so we can see what the young person is capable of without the barrier of speaking and understanding a foreign language.
The tasks are measurable and after the screening are compared to what would be typical of a pupil with EAL but without SEN at this age or at this point in their educational journey.
Prejudicial language and behaviour toolkit
Working with representatives of Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight councils, EMAS have produced a prejudicial language and behaviour toolkit for schools. This pan-Hampshire resource can be used when monitoring and reporting prejudicial comments and/or incidents, as well as to support school self-evaluation in this area.
Anti-racism training has been developed with Portsmouth Education Partnership colleagues and is available to schools.
Support for schools
Support from EMAS is available to schools through a service level agreement (SLA). Membership gives a school resources, updates and advice for an annual fee. Members can then buy in services on an ad-hoc basis. Schools can also buy a general support package, based on a proportion of a school’s EAL funding from central government and which gives access to all of EMAS’ services, or an enhanced adviser package. Almost every school in Portsmouth currently has an SLA with EMAS.