Multicultural matters

The union has continued to pursue enhancements for members in multiple aspects of multicultural education and has made significant progress in the areas of Intensive English Centres (IECs), research and pedagogy in English as an Additional Language/Dialect (EAL/D), particularly education for students from a refugee background and the Saturday School of Community Languages.

Federation is pleased to report that following further intervention by the union at the end of last year, the principal of the Saturday School of Community Languages (SSCL) has now been appointed on a substantive basis.

This appointment, which commenced in 2019, will ensure that teachers and executives at the 15 Saturday school centres can continue to deliver the highest quality public education in 24 languages in a context of security and excellence for more than 3000 students.

It’s Complex!

At December council, Federation’s final Centenary project was launched, titled It’s Complex! Working with students of refugee backgrounds and their families in NSW public schools.

Federation commissioned professors Megan Watkins and Greg Noble from Western Sydney University to comprehensively map the educational experiences of students from a refugee background in NSW public schools.

The study involved research into the needs of refugee students and their families in NSW and how teachers in public schools can be best supported to meet these needs.

The report dedicates a chapter to each of the key actors in this area of public education and themes throughout the research include, but are not limited to:

  • increasing complexity of student populations posing challenges for classroom teaching
  • exemplary schools and IECs as resources for others
  • overwhelmingly positive feedback from refugee parents and students as to the support schools and teachers provide
  • counselling needs for students and teachers
  • reported racism by refugee students within schools
  • funding issues
  • transition challenges
  • English language needs
  • first language needs
  • and EAL/D (English as an additional language or dialect) pedagogy.

The 18 recommendations in the report address school processes and procedures; staffing and workload; teacher professional learning; curriculum materials for students; centralised support for teachers; and working with external agencies.

Federation is working with Western Sydney University as they undertake the development of professional learning resources on identified gaps as a result of this research.

Intensive English Centres

Following local action undertaken by Intensive English Centre (IEC) members in Wollongong, all IEC members across the state were called on to collectively debate and discuss the current situation affecting IEC teachers, their students and the provision of intensive English across the state.

The following summarises the key aspects of Federation’s policy, which was debated and passed at December Council, titled Intensive English Centres – Honouring the Past, Securing the Future.

Devolutionary policies, such as Local Schools, Local Decisions have recently sought, in many cases, to undermine the independence, structure and operations of our IECs. Managementand resourcing for IECs and their students has become more dependent upon relationships between IECs and their host high schools, than any adherence to needs-based funding for targeted students or departmental policy.

Intensive English programs for newly arrived migrant and refugee students through IECs continue to provide language, orientation, settlement and welfare programs to prepare students for study in a NSW public high school.

Federation will continue to protect at all costs the specialist Intensive English Centres that service their designated regional enrolment area.

Federation reaffirms its commitment to long-standing and agreed policy in relation to this critical part of public education provision, which includes, but is not limited, to:

  • IECs must be co-located or annexed on a public high school site
  • IECs must continue to operate autonomously on a day-to-day basis from their host high school, including, but not limited to, the employment of staff
  • staffing entitlements, including executive release and the appointment of 1.4 teachers per class must continue to be secured in industrial agreements, be adhered to, and monitored through Federation and the Department Joint Monitoring Review Committee (JMRC) and other relevant joint committees and avenues
  • agreed IEC class sizes — including regular and special needs students at 18 and 10.22 respectively — must be adhered to
  • the entitlement of additional resources to IECs, such as a School Learning Support Officer (SLSO), ethnic (Bilingual support) at 0.5 per IEC class, school administration entitlement based on IEC student enrolment and IEC school counsellors entitlement must be provided to each IEC for the centre’s use, not the host high school
  • agreed 70 per cent to 30 per cent permanent to temporary/casual teacher ratio to allow for flexibility with fluctuating student numbers
  • permanent IEC teachers are to be appointed qualified EAL/D specialists. Federation will investigate the inclusion of second methodologies on a needs basis in addition to EAL/D.

Federation is continuing to work with the Department to ensure all IECs, their teachers and students have access to the funds and resources to which they are entitled and safeguard the smooth and equitable operation of these specialist regional centres.

Amber Flohm Multicultural Officer/Organiser