Support for English Language Learning in ACT public schools

Oct 1, 2011 | Advocacy | 0 comments

The Honourable Andrew Barr
Minister for Education and Training
Legislative Assembly for the ACT
GPO Box 1020
CANBERRA ACT 260124th October 2011Dear Minister Barr,On behalf of the Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages ACT (ATESOL ACT), I write to express our grave concern about the on-going decline in support for English language learning by students from non-English speaking backgrounds in ACT public schools.Students who are assessed as requiring ESL support are a significant proportion of the ACT government school population (approximately 12 per cent) and their numbers are growing. An ‘average’ non-ESL student is considered to be at Level 4 on the 0-5 rating scale that is the ACT’s official measure of English language proficiency. Currently, the funding for ESL learners cuts out when they are rated at Level 1.75. The result at present is that only 52% of the students identified in need of ESL support in ACT government schools attract any ESL funding. This continued lowering of the official English Language Proficiency Ratings that attract ESL funding has been a concern for some time, and was in the subject of recommendations 8, 11 and 12 of the Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Education, Training and Youth Affairs Report: Inquiry Into The Educational Achievement Gap in the ACT (May 2010).We now understand that the Education and Training Directorate (ETD) plans to cut one of the two ESL Executive Officer positions from their Central Office at the end of 2011. These two Officers are responsible for specialist ESL professional development for the entire ETD workforce. They also set up, implement and co-ordinate ESL programs across the public school system for students in preschool to Year 12. As ESL provision now stands in the ACT, these Officers’ practical assistance, advice and in-service programs (on curriculum, teaching strategies and materials, assessment, cross-cultural and community-related issues and a host of related matters) are the main source of on-going specialist ESL knowledge and training for Introductory English Centre teachers, ESL teachers in schools, mainstream classroom teachers, school leaders and administrative staff. The on-going reduction in the provision of ESL tuition for new arrivals, and failure to appoint adequate numbers of appropriately qualified ESL teachers has put these Officers’ services increasingly in demand. Their workload is well beyond the time and resources that might be reasonably expected of two Officers. Halving this support would reduce ESL provision in the ACT to what could fairly be called tokenism.ATESOL ACT therefore calls on you as Minister for Education and Treasurer to reverse this decision and ensure that funding to the ETD enables both these Officer positions to be retained if not increased.Further, we request that you address the problems identified in this letter and by the above-mentioned Inquiry as a matter of urgency. We are seriously concerned at the continued decline in your Government’s commitment to learners of English as a second/other language. We cannot understand why this trend should continue under a government that claims to be committed to access and equity.Yours faithfully,Marina Houston
ATESOL ACTcc. Hon Amanda Bresnan, Chair, Standing Committee on Education, Training and Youth Affairs Report: Inquiry Into The Educational Achievement Gap in the ACT, May 2010.Hon Steve Doszpot, Shadow Minister for Education & TrainingHon Meredith Hunter, Parliamentary Leader of the ACT Greens and Greens Spokesperson for Education and TrainingClick here to read response from Minister Barr