Recently Foundation House sat down with Wendy Kahlil, Senior Social Worker at Collingwood English Language School and Mairead Hannan, Assistant Principal at CELS Broadmeadows head of whole-school Wellbeing, to discuss the impacts of Covid 19 and remote learning, and the considerations they felt were important to share as this most recently arrived cohort of students make their transition to mainstream schools.
As has been the case for all schools, CELS have worked through many challenges and experienced both positive and negative impacts of the periods of remote learning for their students and families.
While English language teaching and learning online meant lots of adaptation, there are other ways learning for many newly arrived students was impacted:
- Reduced opportunity for learning about how school works in Australia and adjusting to the environment.
- It was more difficult to teach ‘Learning to learn’ skills such as help seeking and other classroom routines and protocols during remote learning.
- Real-world opportunities for social and emotional learning, problem solving, peer relationships and resilience may have also been missed.
All of this will mean that staff in mainstream schools may need to review what they have in place for students who are coming from language schools and centres to ensure that they can be supported as they continue to develop these important skills. Strategies may include:
- Contacting the language school to discuss students or families you are concerned about
- Formalising buddy programs to help students navigate school and build social connections.
- Building staff capacity to use trauma informed practices.
- Implementing social and emotional learning programs which are accessible to students still learning English with the support of EAL teachers and/or MEAs.
For families in all schools, the impacts have also been far-reaching, however there are some different things to consider when working with newly- arrived families who came to Australia in the weeks or months prior to Covid lockdowns.
Wendy and Mairead discussed the impacts on families’ involvement with settlement services, saying that for many families, settlement has been frozen or stalled in the first year, which is such a vital time for making connections and establishing yourself in your new community. Some of the other factors to consider include the fear and anxiety around Covid itself and the lockdowns, which have been a trigger for some, particularly refugee families who may have come from circumstances where they have been in similar situations. Border closures is also a source of concern with many families wanting to reunite and unable to do so or worried about the circumstances of those who remain overseas.
To support students and families as they make their transition to mainstream schools this term, some of the following ideas might be useful to schools and teachers:
- Wellbeing staff or school leadership might assist families to contact relevant services where links have not been established. Asking whether they have a case manager is a good starting point.
- One of the positives to come out of the remote periods at CELS was that they had a lot of success with assisting parents to use Compass so that communication was constant and effective. They did this through lots of one-to-one conversations and by making it more useful to parents by posting in languages other than English so that the communication was accessible.
- Hosting a parent information session for newly arrived parents, or a series of sessions with interpreters present. This builds connection with the school and staff, as well as building networks between families. It also allows the school to build a good foundation for students by sharing information about how to access Compass, how families can support homework or the importance of reading at home (in first language too) and how to access resources.
- Wendy and Mairead also wanted to communicate how important it is that families can be supported with uniform, books or devices so that students make a positive start as soon as possible and that removing these barriers can make a very big difference. State Schools’ Relief is available for uniform and shoes.