The EAL/D Education Strategy

The EAL/D Education Strategy aims to build the capacity of schools to achieve the best possible outcomes for students learning English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D). This episode explores different aspects of the EAL/D Education Strategy including the role of EAL/D Education Leaders working across school principal networks.

Podcast episode 1: The EAL/D Education Strategy [Duration 18:22]

Kate Harris

Welcome to the EAL/D Conversations podcast. My name is Kate Harris, and I am the EAL/D Education Advisor for K to 6 with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today I am joined by Elizabeth Campbell, who is the EAL/D Education Coordinator with the New South Wales Department of Education, and Donna Hawatt who is our Metropolitan South and West operational directorate EAL/D Education Leader. So welcome to both of you.

Today we're going to be looking at the EAL/D Education Strategy, and this is something new that was introduced this year. Elizabeth, can you tell us a little bit about it, please?

Elizabeth Campbell

Yes. Thanks, Kate. The EAL/D Education Strategy is a very exciting time for EAL/D education across the state. The strategy intends to support school leaders to meet their obligations under the Multicultural Education policy, and to do this to meet the learning and wellbeing needs of EAL/D students across the state, including those from refugee backgrounds. Now, in New South Wales government schools, we have about 200,000 EAL/D students currently in our classes, and that makes up about 25% of all students across the state. By bringing on this strategy for EAL/D education, it's going to provide a really strong support mechanism for these students across the state. The strategy itself builds on the previous strategies of the Refugee Support Leaders and the Teacher Mentors in rural and regional New South Wales. Now both of these very successful programs have provided a strong foundation for us to roll out the EAL/D Education Leaders. So what we did at the beginning of this year is that we recruited 28 TESOL qualified and experienced EAL/D teachers, and those teachers were placed in based schools across the state in 23 principal networks- both in metropolitan Sydney and rural and regional schools. So it's an exciting time in EAL/D education, and those leaders have made a very good start for this strategy.

Kate Harris

Sounds like an excellent initiative, Elizabeth. So you mentioned that we've got 28 EAL/D education leaders and that they are located across various areas within New South Wales. But what is their role? What do they do with schools?

Elizabeth Campbell

Okay, so they're placed in schools at a deputy level, and their role is to work across a number of schools in their principal network and across some principal networks as well, and they have a few key roles that they need to do. First of all, they need to collaborate with school leaders and school leadership teams and to liaise with EAL/D specialists as well within those schools, to identify the EAL/D needs at the school and to work shoulder to shoulder with school leadership teams to implement effective practices and to work towards improving EAL/D students learning well-being outcomes. Of course, the leaders work very closely with multicultural education in state office to ensure that we have a consistent message about what is best practice for EAL/D students across the state. They also… because they have got a high level of skill and expertise, they have the role of providing expert advice to school leaders and to teachers about strategies that build collaborative communities of practice. We also want them to work in a collaborative way with Directors, Educational Leadership and other school executive staff to make sure that EAL/D student needs are advocated on a high level as well. They also have the role of developing and delivering high quality professional learning that supports teachers of EAL/D students across the state. And we we're hoping that they will also be key to supporting the transition of the EAL/D students at different points in the cycle of teaching and learning as well. So, yeah, they play a very important and pivotal role in making sure that best practice is advocated for across the state.

Kate Harris

It sounds like it's quite a multifaceted role that they have and a very important one as well. And Donna, you've been in one of these roles since the beginning of the year and Elizabeth mentioned a bit about what the roles about, but can you tell me what you see your main role as, and the types of supports that you provide and offer to schools?

Donna Hawatt

Exactly what Elizabeth was saying, you know, she kind of really encapsulated everything that we do. But I think my main role is to really be in the schools. I feel like I'm in the schools building capacity of the staff, so it could be the leaders, the classroom teachers, SLSOs, support teachers, admin officers, really building their capacity to cater for these EAL/D students in, and they include the students with refugee backgrounds and new arrivals as well. The types of support that I offer schools is different, according to the schools that I'm at. So the first thing that I do is I go into schools and find out what they're doing already, more the processes they're already doing and really celebrating that fact that they are doing something that's worthwhile for their students. I have a look with leadership teams and try to include the EAL/D teachers in this, in this planning, we look at the school plan their school data such as check in assessments, yeah that they did this year and last year’s NAPLAN data or the trends that they've got already from NAPLAN data in the past, really isolating those EAL/D students and finding out what things are being done for them to be able to have access to learning that everybody else is getting. Then I kind of use the EAL/D school evaluation framework to then negotiate goals and whether that's reporting to parents or improving outcomes, negotiating the goals for each and every individual school. In one school, for example, we're doing an action research project. So we're doing using the spiral of inquiry process to have a look at how the EAL/D specialist team can enhance the practices to better suit the needs of the students. And then that's not just the students that they're withdrawing or that you know, but all the students.

And if they've got, like 75% of students are EAL/D then it's how can we, as a team of three teachers or four teachers really make our expertise stretch amongst that 75% of the large school that they're working at. Another action research project I'm doing follows a teaching sprint and we're, and this is a high school setting and they're looking at how dialogic pedagogy can improve the student learning, but also student engagement. The teachers did a survey finding out what, um, what techniques the students learn from who they learn from how they learn. And you know these, these kids were really articulate. They were able to say, this is what I need- I need to talk to a friend about something before I answer a question. I need to verbalise so using those, those techniques that the students have said, this is what we want and this is what we need to learn then incorporating those into school programs. And then hopefully, you know, the next stage would be re-evaluating and seeing whether those strategies have actually improved student outcomes and have had an impact on student engagement by again asking the students. In some schools I'm looking at providing PL on the learning progressions. For some schools, it's to actually start the ball rolling into reporting to parents and for others who are already reporting it's about enhancing the EAL/D pedagogy and how to, you know, incorporate this into everyday teaching and learning experiences. Some schools have a very strong EAL/D team, and they're going above and beyond for these students, and they're constantly looking at the EAL/D student data and so what they felt was that they needed some kind of formalisation process.

They need to formalise their processes so that if another teacher came in or a leader left or whoever it was, this is the way it's done at this school. This is the way EAL/D is taught at this school. This is the way these students are catered for at this school. So just formalising that. There's a school that I work with that really feels like their families don't engage meaningfully within the school. They kind of do drop off and pick up and then there's not that interaction with the school. And as as a result, those students feel that school is one thing and home is another, and there's no there's not that meshing between them. We've come up with some processes. We did some school visits and come up some processes that are going to engage those families in meaningful ways. So one of the things that this school is doing is they're offering well a few things. They're offering parenting classes and behaviour management things, you know, looking at what the students are learning and how parents can help with that at home. And they're offering that in different languages as well. And there's different interpreters there, so it's accessible to a lot of different to a lot of families from different backgrounds. But also these kids are coming to school and they're buying sausage rolls and meat pies from the canteen and the parents at home they don't know what that is. So having like cooking classes, for example, where they're making these canteen favourites and they are actually tasting them and finding out what their kids are liking at school. It's not two separate entities. This is what happens your life at school, and this is life at home and merging those more meaningfully.

Kate Harris

It sounds like you've been very busy and that there's lots of diverse things that you do within your role. And one of the things that you mentioned earlier was how you tailor the support to meet the needs of each individual school, and you look at the data, you have those rich conversations with key people within the schools. But you also mentioned that you use the EAL/D School Evaluation Framework to be able to work out what schools need. For someone who hasn't used that document before, would you be able to tell me a little bit more about it?

Donna Hawatt

Sure, Kate. The school evaluation framework is a one page document that you can find on the department website. It's easily accessible, and basically what I tell schools is it sits alongside, or even underneath the school excellence framework, which schools are very, very familiar with, especially having gone through evaluating their last school plan and creating their new school plans. So they are very familiar with the school excellence framework. This kind of sits underneath that. So it has your three domains - You're teaching, learning and leading domains, and within that it has a three levels that excellence framework has. So it has the domains of developing, sustaining and excelling. But also the EAL/D evaluation framework also includes a minimum requirement. So what I do is when I get to schools and I set up a meeting time where we really unpack what this document looks like. We really nut out what are the different aspects or indicators within those within those domains? And what do schools already do well? And what evidence do they have of that? So what things can you, you know, shout from the from you know, the tallest tower, Go look at us. We're doing this and really celebrating that because I feel like some schools, they don't go, we don't do anything. But then when we look at this framework, there's so much that they are doing. But nobody's ever sort of put it in in a process before where they can see where they're at. So looking at what they do and then having a look at where to from here, what can we do better? How can we enhance our practice? So looking at different things, really negotiating goals and, you know, we do some goal setting, and we have this really rich dialogue that happens with the leadership team and maybe the EAL/D team as well.

And you know, I I say, look, I'm happy for the leadership team to invite, you know, other people into their meeting. So I've had classroom teachers. I've had sports teachers come in into these meetings and really unpacking this document. I find that the school evaluation framework has been really working well with the ‘what works best’. So the CESE what works best document as well. And you know, really having a look at all of these documents with their school plan and their data to be able to come up with a goal for for their school that's unique to their school, you know, long term goals. So it could be a year could be a three year goal and finding steps to get there breaking that down to this is what we're going to do now in the next three months, six months, one year, etcetera. So, yeah, that's what the school evaluation framework is. And then that's essentially, that's how it works. It's easily accessible, and it's very, very self-explanatory.

Kate Harris

It sounds like the EAL/D school evaluation framework is a really great tool for schools to be able to reflect on their practice and to also guide where to next and using that in conjunction with their school data, with those rich conversations, being able to create really targeted programs for schools in terms of what do they need and thinking about, as you mentioned, those steps forward. It sounds like it will be creating quite a lot of impact within the schools that you're working with. And Elizabeth you mentioned that we've got all these leaders that are working across New South Wales that have expertise in EAL/D. How many schools do we have that are currently utilising this strategy, and how far is this strategy actually reaching?

Elizabeth Campbell

Yes, it's been really fabulous to see the reach that our EAL/D education leaders have had just after two terms of being in the role. So far, we can see that our leaders have made contact with over 600 schools across the state and that they've worked closely to develop school plans for strengthening current practice with over 170 schools across the state, which is a really significant number for only 28 EAL/D education leaders. And part of their role as well is that they've managed to roll out over 140 professional learning courses to support these schools as well. I think it's been really, really quite a magnificent effort so far and the strategy has been very successful. But I did want to pick up on and reinforce something that Donna said while she was explaining what she does in her role.

It's that I wanted to recognise that the EAL/D education leader role is a very complex role and it's not a one size fits all role across the state. Each of our leaders brings a lot of EAL/D experience and TESOL experience as well to their role, and each of the schools that they reach out to to support has a unique set of students and a unique set of needs. And so each of our leaders is able to tailor their support to the particular needs of that school by looking at the engagement with the EAL/D school evaluation framework and that particular schools set of EAL/D data. And our leaders go in not as, um, as somebody who's going to tell a school what they're doing wrong, but to work with school leadership teams to identify what's working well and to identify areas that could be strengthened to improve that level of support for EAL/D students. And I think that so far in these two terms that our 28 leaders have really shown that they have the capacity to have that flexibility, that compassion and that level of expertise to provide that high level advice and that shoulder to shoulder support for school leadership teams. So I'm really pleased with how the strategy is establishing itself so far.

Kate Harris

That's amazing the amount of reach that the EAL/D education leaders have had across the state, and it's really quite heart-warming to hear that there's so many EAL/D students out there that will be benefiting from the support that these leaders are providing within those different schools. So for a school that hasn't accessed one of these EAL/D education leaders before, what would be the process that they go about being able to access that support?

Elizabeth Campbell

So the best way to make a start with that is to log onto the multicultural education webpages, and on those webpages is a link that can give you a list of our EAL/D education leaders and the schools that they're based at. The base school is merely a location, and our leaders can reach out to the community of schools that are close to them. There's some contact information and email information there. Or if anybody who's listening to this podcast wants to contact us in Multicultural education, we can point them in the right direction as well.

Kate Harris

Fantastic. Well, thank you, Elizabeth and thank you, Donna, for joining me. And thanks everyone for joining us. I hope you'll tune in for the next episode of the EAL/D conversations podcast.

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