‘Teachers need more help to make schools inclusive’

More help and training for teachers working with students from different countries or cultural backgrounds are vital to making schools more inclusive, researchers have said.

The provision of extra English language help for newcomer children ends after two years. Since 2012 the support has to be provided from schools’ overall allocation of learning support for pupils with a range of learning difficulties instead of a ringfenced staffing allocation.

Researchers point out that other than their language needs, migrant children depend on a share of existing supports in schools for disadvantaged students in general. This makes Ireland different from other European countries whose support measures for migrant students were assessed in a 2013 European Commission study.

Census figures show non-Irish living here increased by 124,624 (or 30%), between 2006 and 2011.

Some of the biggest proportional increases were among people from eastern European countries, with Polish nationals roughly doubling to over 120,000, and large rises in numbers living here from Romania, Latvia, and Lithuania. Some 93,000 migrant children made up 8% of the total child population in 2011.

In a paper on second-level supports here, the authors point out that most principals feel staff are not prepared for the inter-cultural classrooms now facing them.

“They were shell-shocked in the beginning... as far as I can see, in college they’re not being taught a thing about foreign national students,” said the principal of a community school in the Department of Education’s DEIS programme to help tackle disadvantage.

Daniel Faas and Beata Sokolowska of Trinity College Dublin and Merike Dermody of the ESRI wrote in the British Journal of Educational Studies that DEIS schools were more likely to report being able to cater for migrant students.

Although their findings are based on analysis of a wider 2009 study, they found that even before restrictions on language support, one in five of 460 principals reported being challenged by having migrants among their student body.

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